This weekend, The Avengers earned a shit ton of money as the geek community collectively jizzed in their pants for 2 hours and 22 minutes in theatres all across the country. While the movie was very good, the reason it was a success had nothing to do with quality.
Instead, The Avengers did what filmmakers should have been doing for years. It found a way to appeal to multiple factions of the nerd community. By picking Joss Whedon to helm the film, they managed to get nerds who don’t give a shit about comic books but worship Whedon into the same theatre as jocks who just wanted to know how much of Scarlett Johansson’s boobs they would get to see (not much).
Throwing in Samuel L. Jackson was a stroke of genius because it gets all the Tarantino nerds into the theatre even though (spoiler alert) he doesn’t say “mother fucker” once.
Whedon acolytes will be upset to learn there is not nearly as much hot girl on girl action as they have come to expect from his properties (perhaps he is saving the much anticipated Black Widow/Scarlet Witch relationship for the sequel). Still, he manages to pack all sorts of angsty character moments into an otherwise slam bang action film so we can all remember that these may be Super-Heroes but they are also people. Except for Thor. He’s an Asgardian. But he still has feelings.
Whedon fans eat that shit up.
Comic book fans, who couldn’t give a shit about character feelings will enjoy fan service moments like the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier and other nerdy shit I didn’t feel like looking up. There were a lot of moments in the film where the comic nerds would cheer about something I didn’t understand and I could only assume I was missing some obscure reference to a storyline from “Avengers #42.”
As the motion picture industry begins to understand the buying power of nerds, they are clearly seeking to find ways to get all of them interested in the same things. ”Star Trek” nerds are not automatically going to buy tickets for Iron Man 3 without some additional motivation. Whether that motivation comes in the form of an Executive Producer credit for J.J. Abrams or a cameo by William Shatner, you can be sure that the industry will find a way to cross the nerd streams (that metaphor was just for you, Ghostbuster nerds.)
The Avengers is clearly the beginning of that wider initiative. Note how Peter Jackson is courting the “Sherlock” nerd base by casting Martin Freeman in his Hobbit films.
The strategy can backfire, however. There is not a lot of hope for Battleship, which seems to be aiming to attract “Transformers” nerds as well as nerds who have an unhealthy fixation with lame games they played when they were eight. Demographically speaking, the former used to beat up the latter in grade school so it is questionable if the two groups would be willing to share a theatre for two hours.
Overall, though, the plan seems to be working. Looking ahead, we can expect to see more powerhouse nerd crossovers like James Cameron’s Twilightanic and George Lucas’ My Little Star Wars: May the Magical Friendship be With You.
It truly is a great time to be a nerd.