It’s been almost a month since the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron and the hype surrounding Joss Whedon’s fantasy superhero sequel has finally died down, but what of The Avengers’ legacy?
I’ve recently adopted a philosophy of cinematic superhero indifference. Since Marvel’s innocent calamity in Spider-Man 3, the final days of Christian Bale’s Dark Knight enterprise and lastly the nigh on endless Avengers onslaught I’ve become a little bored by it all.
Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3. Thor, Thor: The Dark World. Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Collectively these seven titles constitute the foundation for both Avengers Assemble and Avengers: Age of Ultron. That makes nine. NINE. NEIN. If only there was some sort of superhero to avenge all the hidden cinematic gems buried beneath the Marvel behemoth.
Unfortunately that would result in a paradox and I don’t have time for that, especially if it involves more spandex. With Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017) announced as contributions to their individual franchises and The Avengers as a whole, Avengers: Infinity War Pt.1 and Pt. 2 are quietly apt. Blockbuster hits, modest indie titles, and Oscar contending festivities may win the occasional battle but the war will last an eternity, plaguing an infinite amount of minds as the modern age of cinema is descended upon by a red and white banner taking the -ous out of marvelous motion pictures.
The Avengers in their latest outing take no time in re-establishing themselves as the superhero team to contend with. Assembled in Sokovia, a fictional country in Eastern Europe, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye infiltrate a Hydra fortress in order to retrieve Loki’s scepter. With an opening scene that delivers on everything we’ve come to expect from a Marvel film in recent times the audience is left captivated by an all together well-rounded reintroduction of the hugely successful 2012 outing of Avengers Assemble.
Introducing two new characters, Pietro and Wanda, the Avengers have to contend with an enemy more on their level of superhuman ability rather than the usual cannon fodder. Pietro, wielding superhuman speed not too dissimilar to The Flash, makes for some humorous bouts with Captain America and Thor. While Wanda possesses the ability to alter minds and manipulate energy. Unfairly disregarded in some reviews as after thoughts or meaningless additions they qualify as more than most viewers are willing to let on. The idea of letting go. Viewers struggle with the thought of relinquishing their recognised heroes to newcomers, outsiders, and for that reason they fail to see how important these characters are to the story.
Blinded by Iron Man’s stark arrogance, Cap’s enduring patriotism, Thor’s comedic misunderstanding of humanisms, and Banner and Romanoff’s shared infatuation, the real heroes of Age of Ultron haven’t received the recognition they deserve. Pietro, Wanda, and Hawkeye all represent a humanity that is lost amongst the save-the-world rhetoric that got a little old after Independence Day.
When the team return to their headquarters with the scepter Banner and Stark argue about the dangers of extracting and channeling the artifical intelligence found in said scepter into ULTRON, a world defense programme still in development purgatory for its incomprehensible instability. But Stark being Tony proceeds without consulting the rest of the team. Naturally, as films toying with ideas of A.I. tend to do, the plan gets away from them and the team are left battling a supremely misunderstood ultra being with one thing in mind, human extinction.
Baffled by their ignorant naïvety, pondering their usual options only to end up short of anything representing a plan of substance with a likelihood of actual success the team has a mini breakdown. When Wanda sends them all doolally with fears of impending doom Hulk gives the audience what they came for, utter chaos. Everyone knows that these films end with the good guys winning and the losers sidling off into the woods only to return reincarnated as the next clueless villain. So anything in between has a free artistic licence to humour the audience until we finally get there. Enter Hulk smash.
Hulk charges off into populated America smashing and roaring all the way and we love it, we don’t care for a second what the actual storyline is and we’re disappointed when he is finally brought to his senses. Banner is given ample screentime as his green alter ego, if only to establish the side story between himself and Romanoff’s blossoming, yet impractical romance. This side story appeals to the romantic in me, but it’s not why I bought my ticket, nor is Hawkeye’s well kept secret. Yet I found myself caring more about what project Hawkeye is going to undertake next at the family home than how the Avengers are going to beat ULTRON, because at the end of the day he will be beaten, usually against all odds with death a near certainty and in spectacular fashion.
Predictably we’re treated to exactly that and the novelty has worn off. I have less of an issue with DC comic adaptations precisely because they’re grounded with a sense of inherent humanism. I’m a little sceptical of the upcoming Batman vs Superman because it looks a little gimmicky, but I am a huge fan of Zack Snyder so I’ll still go see it. Likewise when Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Avengers: Infinty War Pt. 1 are released you’ll find me seated somewhere in the cinema. I know what I’m paying for and it’s not just the brand. Marvel produces some of the best escapist cinema out there but that’s all it is. Let’s not be deluded and actually think The Avengers constitutes good cinema.
The spandex era will end, and it will die a painful, torturous death unwilling to let go of its once firm grip on the box office. In that sense ULTRON was suitably poignant when he said,
“I know you’re good people. I know you mean well. But you just didn’t think it through. There is only one path to peace… your extinction.”
Okay so this might be a little harsh, admittedly I enjoy the odd superhero flick, odd being the important word in that sentence. Two marvel films a year for the last seven years is a little much. Add DC films and numerous television series to this number and we’re talking a significant amount of brainwashing going on, come on people it’s like Soylent Green all over again.
How many times the superhero story can be told is anyone’s guess but there is no end in sight. Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers everything you’d expect including explosions and fighting and explosions. Worth my Time to see what all the fuss was about but I don’t think I’ll be raving about this one, its predecessor or successor anytime soon.
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