Sunday, May 10, 2015

Avengers Assemble!

I cannot tell you how excited for this movie I was. So far, the Marvel Comic Universe films have delighted me in ways the comics quit trying to eons ago. While the comic continue to annoy longtime fans by killing and replacing iconic heroes with Social Justice Warrior versions, you know, because Progress! The movies have resisted this temptation and have long held to just telling great stories that excite, delight, and entertain. When the movies have ventured into politics, its only on issues, like the NSA spying, where the Left and the Right actually unite. So while Marvel comics doesn't want its longtime fans hovering around anymore, Disney does. (Potential spoilers follow).

Still, actors are getting older, contracts are expiring. The end of Iron Man 3 gave the impression that Tony Stark was bowing out. I was surprised to see him suited up and commanding a robot army again, yet his desire to retire from the super hero gig is front and center. It’s pretty clear the events of the first Avengers film are still impacting him, and his ego is still contends with Steve Rogers, though not as badly as in the first movie. Still, this is an Iron Man centric film. His ego and his desire to bow out lead to a series of egregious errors which lead to the awakening of a sentient AI called Ultron. The intent, of course, is that Ultron will serve as a shield to do the fighting that Tony and the others cannot do forever. However, Ultron has his own interpretation of his mission, and that is to help man evolve, by destroying man and setting in motion the age of machines.

Ultron finds help from two humans, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch, and the three of them are a
challenge unlike any the Avengers have faced before. Scarlet Witch’s powers are hard to define, but one of the effects she is on people causes severe hallucinations, which cripples the Avengers, and sends the Hulk on a massive rampage, showing the audience a side of the not so jolly green giant we have not seen before and leading to a massive confrontation between Hulk and the long drooled over Hulk Buster armor. It is, perhaps, the most epic fight scene ever committed to celluloid. It fully satisfies those of us who have wanted to see the Hulk Buster armor in action. But this confrontation starts a chain of events which brings about significant changes to the team.

We learn that Hawkeye is married with children, he sustains an injury that gets him contemplating what is most important in life. Iron Man has to stare his recklessness in the face, realizing it is time he is put out to pasture, Black Widow has to come to terms with elements of her past, and by the way, look closely during the flashback of her being trained. Those of you who have read Wolverine Origins # 9 will be delighted, because, although his face is blurred out, her trainer is a hairy dude with wild hair and mutton chops…. Just like the comics. Which has me asking all kinds of questions like, “is this why is reporting that X-Men: Apocalypse will be the last of the Bryan Singer franchise?” Something is going on because X-Men has the better Quicksilver, by far, Evan Peters nailed it, while Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s version was a much more straight forward performance, Evan Peters chewed the scenery, and it was awesome. Yet (BIG SPOILER) Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s version sacrifices himself to save Hawkeye and a little boy. Evan Peter’s version is said to be returning for X-Men Apocalypse, but nowhere in the X Universe did we see Scarlet Witch, who, in Age of Ultron, eventually ends up enlisting with Captain America.

So now Fox will have Quicksilver, while Marvel Studios will have Scarlet Witch. But then, people have noticed the changes to the origins of these two characters. Magneto (their father) is never mentioned, and they were experimented on by Hydra, but it never outright says that this is the source of their powers. Additionally, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were not raised by their actual father in the comics. In the movie, Quicksilver discusses losing his parents, but my take is that it is left wide open to learn later that these were indeed foster parents, and that his real father looks an awful lot like Ian McKellen. Of course, this is partially wishful thinking, but between this, and Black Widow’s trainer in the flash back looking an awful lot like a younger Wolverine (it was definitely not Hugh Jackman), there is enough in this film that has me excited for the possibilities of future collaborations between Fox and Marvel. We already know that Sony and Marvel inked a deal that will see Peter Parker (yes it’s been confirmed to be Peter not that PC replacement Miles Morales) joining the rank and file as soon as Captain America III: Civil War. Wouldn't it be nice to see Wolverine enlist too? I mean he was an Avenger in the comics at that time, and it was Wolverine that hunted down Nitro to make him pay for getting the whole Civil War started in the first place. Logan plays a key role too.

But back to age of Ultron. The actual movie itself is quick paced, and full of Joss Whedon’s humor and charm. Despite being a darker film than its predecessor, the movie will have you laughing a lot as the heroes move quickly to sweep up the mess left by Stark’s rush to retirement. The movie will bring in new Avengers, and say good bye to some of the classic characters, though we know that Tony Stark will be back, at least, for Civil War. Hulk, however, heaven only knows where he ends up. But truth be told, I hope it’s Canada…

Still the movie moves characters out, and moves new ones in, but the difference between the film’s decisions and the comics could not be more stark (pun intended.) While the movie swaps out Hulk and Iron Man for War Machines, Falcon, Scarlet Witch and Vision, the comic continue to replace the iconic heroes with new versions of the same characters who just are not as interesting as the originals. Miles Morales will never be as cool as Peter Parker, and Sam Wilson was better served as Falcon, his own identity, succeeding on his own terms.

While the Age Of Ultron makes it very clear that change is coming to the MCU, thankfully, so far, it looks to be doing so while avoiding angering the longtime fans. But Age of Ultron has me more excited for the peek at what that future could look like than it does or the film itself.  That future includes the introduction of characters like Black Panther, Spider-Man, and from what I saw, possibly even the X-Men. I saw nothing that ruled that last one out… Especially considering Wolverine Origins # 9. Of course, see this film in 3D. Joss makes excellent use of the technology, and a lot of the slo-mo action sequences only make sense in 3D, so you have the time to really pull in and appreciate the details. My biggest fear, though, is Disney's now bad habit of only releasing the 3D version digitally. I hope this makes it to a 3D Blu Ray release, as the 3D is awesome, and for this film, needed. 

4/5 Stars. 

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