By Ashley Bergner
Box Office Buzz

If you’d asked me at the beginning of the year what film I thought would become the biggest hit this summer, ironically, I wouldn’t neccessarily have picked “The Avengers.” Although it was the film I was personally most looking forward to, much of the buzz seemed to be surrounding Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Then, a few months out from “The Avengers’” early May release date, something happened. The hype started building, and “The Avengers” started becoming the most talked-about summer movie. Entertainment industry insiders began to predict it would have a big opening weekend, but I’m not sure even they anticipated just how big it was going to be. Not only did “The Avengers” destroy all other films at the box office last weekend, it scored the highest opening weekend ever, to the tune of $207.4 million. That’s not even counting the funds the film has made overseas.

It’s an impressive accomplishment, and I believe it’s a well-deserved one for director Joss Whedon. It’s also a success that is going to shake up Hollywood. I hope the success of “The Avengers” makes a DC Comics superhero mash-up possible (with characters like Batman, Superman, etc.), but I’m also afraid studios are going to start scrambling to replicate “The Avengers’” success and start throwing all kinds of characters together just for the heck of it.

The reason “The Avengers” works so well is that Marvel has been working on, and hinting at, this project for years. They’ve been building up to this movie through other superhero films, teasing us with Nick Fury’s appearance in the first “Iron Man” film, the appearance of Thor’s hammer at the end of the “Iron Man” sequel, etc. Fans have had a long time to speculate and build excitement. Many of the individual superhero films, such as “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” were well received at the box office, and audiences were clearly eager to see these characters again. “The Avengers” also was something completely different from anything we’ve seen before. No one’s ever attempted a mash-up like this, and the novelty helped increase the hype.

I’m pretty sure other Hollywood studios are going to try to capitalize on “The Avengers’” success, and we might see a phenomenon similar to the explosion of vampire/werewolf stories in the wake of the “Twilight” series. However, just throwing random characters together isn’t going to be enough; these projects will have to be well thought out with strong character development, like “The Avengers” was. Hollywood hasn’t quite seemed to learn yet it’s a bad idea to just try to milk a trend for all it’s worth.

While I’ve always been a “Team Marvel” girl myself, one mash-up I would like to see is a DC Comics “Justice League” film, with an Avengers-style round-up of famous DC superheroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern. However, this project might have a tougher time getting off the ground than “The Avengers” did. Several of the past DC superhero projects were considered flops: the recent “Green Lantern” film (2011) wasn’t a box office success, and NBC axed a proposed Wonder Woman TV show not long ago.

While Christopher Nolan’s Batman series has been critically and commercially successful, I’m not sure the dark and introspective tone he’s used for his series would fit in well with a Justice League film that involved other superheroes. It also will be tough to create a project that captures the same excitement “The Avengers” did without making it appear this film is just a copy of “The Avengers,” except with DC superheroes. Still, I think it’s definitely a project worth pursuing, and if Warner Bros.’s 2013 Superman reboot, “Man of Steel,” is a success, it could serve to kick-start this project.

The success of “The Avengers” also is a nice career boost for Joss Whedon. I’ve been a long-time fan of Whedon’s work, and I’m glad he’s finally getting wide recognition for his creativity. Hopefully “The Avengers” means we’ll be seeing Whedon at the helm of other blockbuster movies in the near future.

Disney already has announced a sequel for “The Avengers,” which I think is great news. My only concern is Disney will try to meddle too much with the project. I think Joss Whedon’s directing and script writing, and fantastic blend of action and humor, were a major part of why “The Avengers” was such a success, and it would be dangerous to try to mess with this formula. The temptation will be to just make the sequel bigger and busier, but the studio shouldn’t lose sight of what made the first movie so great: the interactions between the characters. Joss Whedon understands the importance of keeping characters at the heart of a story, and hopefully he’ll be given free rein to brainstorm ideas for the sequel.

I’d like to see the sequel delve even deeper into the characters’ backgrounds. The unlikely friendship between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner; the relationship between Black Widow and Hawkeye and their history together; and Captain America’s struggle to adjust to modern life and all the friends he left behind — those are all plot points I’d like to see the sequel explore. I’ve also heard some fans theorizing Agent Phil Coulson may not really be dead, and maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. simply faked his death in order to give the Avengers the push they needed to unite. If so, how would the Avengers feel about that? Would they feel used? They came together in the first movie because they believed in the cause, but many of them don’t truly trust S.H.I.E.L.D.

So far, Hawkeye and Black Widow are the only Avengers team members without their own film franchises, and I haven’t heard any plans (yet) for solo films involving those two characters. What I’d actually like to see is a joint Hawkeye/Black Widow film — I thought Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson had interesting chemistry, and I’d like to see a film that deals with their back story and how they came to be a part of S.H.I.E.L.D.

So, what do you think? Are there other character mash-ups you’d like to see on film? What do you hope to see in “The Avengers” sequel?

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