Marvel’s The Avengers opens May 4th 2012, a decade and a day after comic book blockbuster Spider-Man opened. After May 3rd, 2002, the following 10 years had every summer packed with comic book to film adaptations. Where the 70s had grim and realistic films dominate the box office, the 80s had cop-oriented high concept action films, and the 90s had all-star romantic comedies, the 00s had mega-budget films about capes and tights.
More importantly, for those of us movie fanatics born in the 80s, we spent the better part of our 20s with these films. These were the big ones. We’d watch the trailers 100 times the first day. We took our fandom and speculation to San Diego Comic-Con. We participated in the viral marketing. We bought the special-edition 2-disc DVDs. Like it or not, this was our decade. We’re older now. We have more responsibilities. We got a little bitter. But, we still had our golden age, where nothing mattered but getting your ass to Best Buy right at 10am because there’s only 6 Bat-pod Dark Knight DVDs per store.
Some say the comic book movie era began with 2000’s X-Men, or even 1998’s Blade, but it was Spider-Man that began the trend of using well-versed writers and directors who had a deep love for the source material, who would remain faithful to the spirit of the comics. They would start there, take a colossal budget and make a tent-pole epic for all four audience quadrants. Seeing big characters and ideas with a tried and true fan-base, studios explored these concepts and stories in a multitude of ways. Movie studios drew from the best medium of visual action and emotion other than their own. They made films with clear characters that could inspire an Oscar-winning performance just as easily as appear on a Slurpee cup.
So, the fact that the film adaptation of The Avengers–produced by Marvel themselves, with a cast to die for and a respected fan-favorite directing–is opening almost 10 years to the day after the first Spider-Man, made us think that it’s the perfect time to reflect on the previous decade, explore what worked, what didn’t, and think about where it’s all gonna go.
Check back tomorrow for Earth’s Mightiest Decade — Part 2.