The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises have all offered distinctly different types of superhero thrills this summer: One’s a giant, crowd-pleasing mash-up of all of Marvel’s prior movies; one’s a rebooted origin story anchored by a tender teen romance; and one’s a dark, sprawling drama with Bat-trappings. So many different flavors to choose from … and yet, did you notice they all have weirdly similar third acts? What was that about?
Spoilers follow, obviously.
In The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man, the good guys are in possession of a scientific device, introduced early in the movie in a very conspicuous way, that the bad guys then co-opt to turn against the entire city (which is either New York City or its Gotham stand-in).
Even more specifically, in The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, the device is a clean-energy breakthrough … that can be used to destroy (or help destroy, in the case of Stark Tower) the world, if tweaked fairly easily. Whoops!
And in both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, the good guys haven’t even been using the device (too dangerous!), but still, they kept it around for years instead of dismantling it because … well, just because.
Ultimately, with the city facing a countdown to destruction, both Iron Man and Batman abscond with imminent nuclear threats and fly away as far as they can, a moving act of self-sacrifice that saves the city and foils the villain’s plan. The other heroes in the movie are impressed and sad as the explosion goes off in the distance.
But it turns out, the hero actually survived. Psych! And in the silent codas that ends The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, we find our selfless hero reunited with his lady love.
Now, obviously superhero movies are bound to have a couple things in common. But this many things, in movies that span three different studios? Were the producers all bitten by the exact same radioactive script doctor?
Next year, the summer season will produce three more high-profile superhero movies: Disney’s got Iron Man 3, Warner Bros. has Man of Steel, and Fox is putting out X-Men spinoff The Wolverine. Could the studio executives compare notes this time, just to make sure they’re not all on the same page? Surely there are some new ways to save the world, right?