While THE AVENGERS has been hailed as a feel-good ball of action-comedy that kicks off the summer with smiles and cheers, in one regard it is a bit unsettling.

You see, it is yet another in a long, long line of movies that has trashed Manhattan real estate in a willy-nilly fashion. For about a hot minute after 9/11, destroying Manhattan in entertainment was considered crass—who needed fakery, when you had the real thing?—however, it soon came into vogue again as a symbol of the unsettled post 9/11 era.

So of course, when you see primo midtown real estate smashed into smithereens during the big Chitauri showdown at the end—even the landmark Grand Central Station—although it’s all for fun, us New Yorkers might feel just a wee bit unsettled. And as an expert report reveals, the damages shown—to property and human life—would dwarf any other recent disaster.

In an exclusive report for THR, KAC, led by Chuck Watson and Sara Jupin, employed computer models used for predicting the destruction of nuclear weapons and concluded that the physical damage of the invasion would be $60 billion-$70 billion, with economic and cleanup costs hitting $90 billion. Add on the loss of thousands of lives, and KAC puts the overall price tag at $160 billion.

For context, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks cost $83 billion, Hurricane Katrina cost $90 billion, and the tsunami in Japan last year washed away $122 billion.

The entire report on the damages is available here. Although we laughed and cheered at THE AVENGERS story as much as everyone else worldwide, we couldn’t help cringing when we saw beloved buildings Hulk smashed to pieces.
It did call to mind DAMAGE CONTROL, the miniseries by the late great Dwayne McDuffie that followed a crew who was tasked with post-superhero battle cleanup. If the Avengers film did anything, it solidified the Marvel Universe in film as the same kind of nutty place with its own rules as the comic book version. And surely the film world will have its own damage control crew. And like Marvel U. Manhattanites, should such cataclysmic rubblizing ever occur, the real New Yorkers will surely cry, then sing “New York, New York” and then reach for a bagel with schmear….or even a shawarma.


  1. I suppose the next alien-invasion flick should show the trashing of Baghdad — and they wouldn’t even require special effects work. They’ve already had their alien invasion for real.

  2. It would make a compelling little short film if someone could find the NY building that has been ‘trashed’ the most often in movies, and string all the trashing clips together.

    Either that or the unlucky Eiffel Tower, which has had more CGI attention than any other landmark.

  3. it always makes me wonder, which would be the more dangerous place to live if we had to live in a comic book universe, the dc universe or the marvel universe? or i guess one can ask the question another way, which would be the safer universe to live in. which universe would you stand a better chance of growing to an old age in?

  4. This report is the usual idiotically over-optimistic quant/risk-metric non-sense.

    The Avengers and Loki fighting in NY would in fact be a huge “Black Swan” event that would likely, immediately impact way beyond the actual nuts and bolts damage done to the city.

    Here’s how it might more likely go down:

    1. Credit markets would seize up (as banks have been destroyed) + Credit default swaps (amounting to much more money than actually exists in the world) would be triggered.

    2. The fed (and other central banks) might try to pump out massive amount of money (in a desperate attempt to save the world economy) but this would likely have little effect, besides creating massive inflation, since there is already way too much money out there, as central banks have been pumping out massive amounts since the 2008 sub-prime ponzi-crash.

    3. The massive “Avengers-Loki depression” would quickly unravel global financial markets (which remain massively over leveraged), since government failed to take any meaningful corrective action in this regard after the sub-prime/ponzi crash – institutions commonly regarded to as “to big to fail” would now all fail. Nobody would be paid for anything of any sort after this point.

    4. As communications networks and power grids begin to fail, the human race quickly enters a new era of omnipresent cannibalism.

  5. [Cabin in the Woods spoilers]

    Its being unsettling was kind of the point, I think. The power structure set up at the end of Avengers, where Nick Fury basically sits at the reigns of a huge corporation that controls the fate of the world, echoes the corporate entity in Cabin in the Woods. The corporation in Cabin is willing to subject unsuspecting kids to horrible things to achieve their ends, and SHIELD in The Avengers has to sacrifice lives and real estate in Manhattan. The fact that what they’re both striving for is the continued survival of mankind doesn’t erase the fact that horrible things had to occur, and that those things are the results of choices people made.

    Might be different for people who haven’t seen Cabin.

  6. I saw it again last night and there are a few specific buildings that aren’t trashed, but just fall straight down, which was hard to watch. I think this movie mythologizes 9/11 — War of the Worlds and Superman Returns were close enough that they could do it more subtly, this seems a full-on fantasy what-if. Echoes of that even in the trailers for Batman and the new Sascha Cohen movie too.

    For the record,though the landmarks are NY, the streets that blew up were really Cleveland ones — turns out NY has too many taxes to actually blow things up. Someone should have told the aliens.

  7. Maybe I’m being picky but I don’t understand how reverting to scenes of casual NY destruction as “a symbol of the unsettled post 9/11 era.”

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that viewers have allowed themselves to think of such destructive scenes as being in the same fantasy-mode that they held in the pre-9/11 era?

  8. Marvel missed an excellent opportunity to have a Damage Control cameo, and even launch a television series.

    Start each episode with a superhero and supervillain causing destruction (like the deaths in Six Feet Under). The rest of the episode is about Damage Control.

    The second season, you introduce the law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway.

    The third season, you spin off GLK$H into its own series.

  9. Here’s another aspect overlooked:

    How many normal citizens in the Marvel Movie universe know about extraterrestrials? There was that incident in New Mexico, but that was probably covered up.

    Suddenly, there’s an alien invasion with little warning, right over New York City. With amazing technology never before seen in public. (SHIELD has some cool stuff, but that quinjet? Skunk Works for sure.) What does that do to human preconceptions? How does that affect belief systems? What sort of panic does that cause?

    How do you convince the general public that the government is prepared to handle more threats like this? (And what happens when the public learns of the Pentagon’s decision to NUKE Manhattan?)

    Of course, the Pentagon can use this as an excuse to nationalize the Iron Man tech, since he was quite effective against the aliens. (Where was War Machine, hmmm?)

    Or the Pentagon (or SHIELD) grabs the alien tech, reverse engineers it, and creates Mandroid battle suits. Which then leads to Armor Wars…

  10. How does that affect belief systems? What sort of panic does that cause?

    @Torsten Adair:

    Great question…

    But obviously we can’t argue w/ those brilliant business models produced by “EXPERT” math scientists using the best computers — all the damage done in the movie would only cost 160 Billion (and not a penny more– and have no other effect on the world, like, say, panic and maybe genocide) Yup. Yup. Fo sure that wouldn’t happen — why for people to even think about stuff like (even as a possible response to suddenly hearing Super-Villians are attacking America) could be bad for marketing financial products (what–wait–WHAT DID I SAY?).. These are top business school “EXPERT” math guys coming up w/ this stuff (rocket scientists) –never wrong – and certainly not the sort of people who go around all the time making up IDIOTIC, SELF-SERVING SPECIOUS NONSENSE (and even if they did, mass-media outlets wouldn’t report it as if it were fact..NAW) Don’t forget: housing prices never go down- ONLY UP! The Japanese Nuke plant couldn’t have blown up-because the risk metrics/Quant/”EXPERTS” backed up the plants design with a formula which specified that particular accident would only happen once every million years (so how could it have happened after 8 years?) I guess it just didn’t. There “EXPERTS” are never wrong about anything!

    I don’t write all this to grandstand (or bore you) but only as an honest response to an article that has really pissed me off. This is dangerous world is made ever more so by people who apparently see it in there interest to convince us there is so little danger. Who’s watching The Watchmen? — obviously not the morons @ Hollywood Reporter.