Disaster Expert: Fictional ‘Avengers’ Mayhem More Expensive than Real-Life Tragedies
In one of the more unique bits of film coverage we've seen, The Hollywood Reporter commissioned Kinetic Analysis Corp., a disaster-cost prediction and assessment firm, to analyze Joss Whedon's The Avengers film and estimate what financial damages would result from the climactic action set in midtown Manhattan. Kinetic's conclusions, which are presented with the company's tongue planted firmly in its cheek, put the dollar count of the devastation at over $160 billion, which is far in excess of the combined amounts to repair damages caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami that struck Japan last year.In the completely fake but amusingly thorough and straight-faced report prepared by Kinetic, researchers Chuck Watson and Sara Jupin were able to study and predict the physical and financial particulars of the Chitauri attack on Manhattan by applying techniques developed for use in instances of nuclear destruction as well as other fictional assaults upon another Earth city.
"Using computer models created by KAC R&D for estimating nuclear weapons effects, as well as techniques developed for use in predicting damage in Japan from attacks by Godzilla, Mothra, and particularly Mechagodzilla, the damages and losses resulting from this weekend's invasion by the Chitauri have been estimated."
The costs of the Chitauri invasion of New York are approximately $60-70 billion in physical damage and another $90 billion in estimated losses of services, businesses and overall cleanup. For a comparison, Kinetic's report said the financial costs of the 9/11 attacks came to $83 billion, the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami came to $122 Billion, and Hurricane Katrina came to over $90 Billion.
Kinetic's report also explores how the Chitauri incident would be classified for insurance purposes: "Most insurance policies have special provisions for acts of war, civil unrest, or terrorism. Given the involvement of individuals considered deities in some cultures (Thor, Loki), there is even the potential to classify the event as an 'Act of God,' although that designation would be subject to strenuous theological and legal debate."
THR's feature and Kinetic's report are obviously meant to be bits of fun but they also demonstrate, I think, the desensitization phenomenon we hear so much about with respect to film violence. Like a lot of people I loved the third act of Avengers but I don't think the stakes -- both as defined by dollars and by loss of life -- occurred to me even once. I've spoken with viewers who are disappointed by the relative bloodlessness of the Joss Whedon film, which is in keeping with the light-hearted, not-quite-cartoony style of the Marvel Studios canon in general. But other viewers are turned off by the simulated reality and overwhelming sense of death and mayhem that pervades Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, so of course your mileage may vary on how you perceive and contemplate things like the recurring destruction of American cities in film (and the appropriateness of imagining the financial costs of such things against real-life tragedies, as the THR comment thread indicates). In any case, that a humor piece has provoked this brief reflection strikes me as a good thing.
If you like this stuff, be sure to read the full Kinetic report by downloading this PDF, which goes into liability issues including whether a bill for the Chitauri invasion will be delivered to Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.