Are "Marvel's The Avengers" truly Earth's mightiest heroes? Marvel and DC fans can argue that question until they're blue in the face, but there's no denying the facts: if nothing else, Captain America and the gang are the wealthiest and best reviewed heroes of 2012.
"Avengers" broke records left and right upon its release, netting the highest-ever opening domestic debut and ultimately becoming the third biggest film of all time. On top of that, "Avengers" was a critical darling, currently sitting pretty with a 92% fresh rating at review aggregator RottenTomatoes.com. It's not just a dream come true for fans, but a dream come true for Marvel — although, as Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is happy to point out, the House of Ideas has always "dreamed pretty big."
"We've had the good fortune of having a lot of dreams come true," Feige told MTV News during a recent interview promoting the home video release of "Avengers," on Blu-ray and DVD next Tuesday (September 25). "I still remember six, seven years ago, thinking about casting Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. 'It's outside the box! It could be like Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow! It could take off!' Clearly, we're there now."
"That being said, you can never honestly expect this kind of success and be any kind of reasonable human being," he added with a laugh. "I was just hoping it would be the biggest Marvel Studios movie of all time. It's got to beat 'Iron Man 2' or we really screwed it all up. And we more than doubled that."
So how exactly did "Avengers" reach such great heights this summer? The possible reasons are virtually endless, but one undeniably key ingredient is director Joss Whedon, who recently signed a contract that keeps him at Marvel through 2015, with the "Avengers" sequel and a "S.H.I.E.L.D." television series being his top priorities.
"We believed that Joss could handle the spectacle, along with the amazing crafts people and technicians we hired, but never letting the characters get lost among the spectacle," said Feige of what Whedon brought to the table as "Avengers" director. "We knew it would be a big movie with big visual effects. But I never wanted these great characters, who we love and have established in other films, to get lost in the spectacle. 'And now they fight aliens!' We wanted the characters to stand out, and that's Joss' signature. I think he did his best job yet with 'Avengers.'"
It goes without saying that those aforementioned established characters were critical to the success of "Avengers" as well. Feige credits previous Marvel films like "Iron Man," "Thor" and "Captain America" for paving the way for a truly unique cinematic experience in "The Avengers."
"This movie needed to work for all of the people who've seen every Marvel movie and is following along, and it needed to work for the many people who hadn't seen any of the movies. But I think even those people knew our other films existed, and that 'Avengers' represented something that had never been done before," said Feige, who added that big-budget blockbusters along the lines of "Transformers," "Avatar" and, yes, even "Avengers," prove that it's no longer possible to "get bigger."
"It can only get newer, fresher and more unique," he offered instead. "The notion that this is a multi-film franchise leading up to this film, even for the other people who didn't see those other films, they knew it represented something that had never been done before, and they find that intriguing."
Cap and friends weren't the only superheroes in theaters this summer, of course. Batman finished his final big-screen adventure under the stewardship of Christopher Nolan, netting over $1 billion worldwide since its release in July. But with the "Dark Knight" trilogy completed and only "Man of Steel" officially on the horizon, DC's film slate is visibly thin compared to Marvel's robust "Phase Two," a plan that includes sequels to "Iron Man" and "Avengers" as well as more obscure fare like "Guardians of the Galaxy." There are rumblings that DC is readying a "Justice League" movie for 2015, one that would veer away from the Marvel Studios formula of establishing characters in their own film franchises before tying them all together for one massive mission. When asked about the differences between Marvel and DC's apparent approach, Feige was diplomatic, saying there's room for both methods.
"There's no rule that say you have to do it one way or the other, though I believe that what was unique about 'Avengers' was not that it was a group of superheroes, but a group of superheroes you knew and loved from other [films] all coming together," he said. "It wasn't like 'X-Men,' which is inherently a team-based film, or 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' which we're working on right now and is also a team-based film from the start. It was all of these people from other stories coming in and merging for one story. That's what was cool to me about 'Super Friends' when I was a kid and that's why I wanted to do 'Avengers' the way we did it."
The question of which company is on top, Marvel or DC, almost doesn't matter at all when so many high-quality superhero flicks are out in the universe, thriving commercially and creatively. It's certainly a far cry from where things stood just a few short years ago, as Feige remembers it.
"I still remember 12 years ago when we were sharing space with a kite company," he said. "People thought comic book movies were dead in the water."
People, it seems, were dead wrong.
"The Avengers" hits Blu-ray and DVD on September 25.
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