Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers Age of Ultron: Real Superheroes

Avengers splash page shot age of ultron
Splash page brought to life
I just watched a movie where lives were at stake, the Earth was threatened by larger than life beings, hellbent on death and destruction and the complex group of individuals with various dark origins and uncontrollable raging powers who were there to stop the villain, still took the time to save lives and inspire each other, the world and the audience to go on and fight the good fight. It's ironic that back in the day, Marvel comics was the "gritty" real world alternative to the godlike and sometimes cheesy pantheon at DC, because if someone 25 years or so ago, read that description of the movie I just saw, they'd probably guess it was the Justice League, and not a screen version of one of the Avengers' darkest tales, Age of Ultron. Of course, that could be because Age of Ultron is a fairly recent comic, but still, you get the point. Everything Warner Bros got wrong with Man of Steel and the apparent tone of the upcoming Dawn of Justice, Age of Ultron addresses head on. It makes me wonder how much of it was intentional.

Black Widow and Hulk Avengers Age of Ultron
I'd watch the hell our of this movie.
Right off the bat, the movie opens with no preamble, in the middle of an epic battle. Each Avenger is showcased one by one in their own moments of general badassery, all while bantering. It's pure comic book fun, complete with a super slow motion splash page moment or two. I'm sure much of what happens in this opening scene and throughout the movie was teased or set up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I don't watch that show and it doesn't matter one bit. It's a thrilling opening that seems to pick up right where the first movie left off in terms of the tone, though it's clear some time has passed. I also haven't seen Iron Man 3 or Thor 2 and didn't feel lost for a second. I'm sure if you've seen everything they've done, then each chapter is that much more rewarding, but it's not at all necessary. 
James Spader as Ultron
Spader nailed it.
But, back to the tone. The banter is a big part of what made the first Avengers so successful for me. On the one hand it's fun. But on the other, the type of banter we get reveals depth to these people. And I say people instead of characters intentionally. But it's not the only thing that reveals their depth. We have moments of real humanity that drive the plot forward for each of them, particularly for Black Widow and Hulk/Banner, a relationship that deserves its own movie. And make no mistake,much of what's revealed is dark and heavy, but it never overwhelms the movie. Instead it serves to make what these human beings do that much more meaningful. If I had to pick only one flaw out of the many in Man of Steel, the biggest one is that we never really get Clark Kent. For all the flashbacks to his childhood, we never really hit on anything that has any baring on him as a human. On the contrary, the minute his human father dies, it's like he decided he's not human at all, and immediately latches on to Jor El the instant he sees his hologram. There's never a moment of doubting whether he's human or alien. He's not one of us and that's all there is to it. And because of that we can never really latch on to anything in the movie.

Vision Avengers
Vision needs to be seen more.
Anyway, Age of Ultron was great, is what I'm saying. If I have one issue with it it's that Vision was underused after all the build up. Especially since Paul Bettany nailed the character in the few scenes he did have. I'm curious where the franchise goes from here. The next big chapter will be Captain America: Civil War, and I'm sure the arguments the heroes had here set up the bigger ones they'll have there. Then comes Avengers: Infinity War, which might be pushing it for me, to be honest. I'm one episode away from finishing the Daredevil series on Netflix and kind of wish Marvel would scale back a bit and tell more of those street level stories instead of trying to get bigger with each one. But who knows. It is a little concerning that Joss Whedon won't be on board for the Infinity War. Let's hope he doesn't take all the humor with him.

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