"That witch put a spell on me! Fortunately, I am mighty..." - Thor
As I write this, I’m recovering after a weekend that was literally so awesome, that it is the bench mark of awesome by which all future awesomeness shall be measured. It culminated in only my second visit to the Wales Comic Con (yes – we have a comic con in Wales) now in its eighth of maybe even ninth year. I finally managed to meet Darth Vader himself, Dave Prowse. Also Wolf Khaler of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Two awesome George Lucas villains in one day.
But before that – there was the single biggest event movie to unspool in front of us in quite a long time, as the mighty Avengers returned to the screen.
I’ll be honest, upfront and admit that I had some preconceptions about this one.
Although a stalwart Marvel Comics fan, I have to put on record, in the interests of full disclosure, that on the whole, I tend to favour DC Comics over Marvel. Always have. As much as I love the Marvel Movie Universe, and I consider Avengers: Assemble to be the pinnacle of the superhero genre, the announcement that next year will see the release of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice was the biggest news in the comics world as far as I was concerned. This meant that whatever Marvel were planning, they’d have to double their efforts to compete – merely because DC were trundling out a juggernaut that featured both Batman and Superman slapping the crap out of each other in a battle that seems based on the fight in The Dark Knight Returns. Nothing could beat that – right?
Well – so one would think.
Avengers – Age of Ultron is the NEW standard of superhero movie. Unexpectedly, I walked out of the screening muttering to Steve that I hoped DC had something up their sleeve that could compete with what we’d just seen. Yes, Age of Ultron (AoU) is actually THAT good. Good to the point that writer/director Joss Whedon seems to have pinpointed exactly what worked best in Avengers: Assemble and to be frank, there was basically nothing in that film that didn’t work, and honed and refined it, expanded it, polished it and made a film that is even better than its predecessor.
Everything works, everything is nigh perfect. The characters, the plot, the interaction, the dialogue, the action sequences – everything.
We join the Avengers as they storm a fortress where Baron Stucker is keeping Loki’s staff – still missing from safe hands. It really doesn’t matter that we catch our heroes in mid flow like this, because it’s a long standing tradition in both the Bond films and the Indiana Jones adventures.
Now – important point. Considering seeing this film in 3D?
This initial action sequence is the ONLY part of the film that benefits from 3D in ANY way whatsoever, and to tell the truth, as soon as the initial attack on the outside of the castle is over, the 3D seems to be unnoticeable. Seriously, it might as well not be there.
I saw this movie twice on the same day. Partly because I’m a total, complete super hero nerd, and partly as an experiment. Over all, Steve (son) and I agreed that we actually enjoyed 2D far more because the picture was sharper and the colours more vibrant without watching it through tinted lenses. That and there wasn’t the ever present 3D “ghosting” in long shots. So, if you want a quick bit of advice that can save you a hard earned buck or two, here it is. See it in 2D.
The Avengers we see this time around are a lot more comfortable around each other than the last time we saw them. Obviously, they’ve been fighting shoulder to shoulder alongside each other on several missions, despite this never once being mentioned on TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
They’re a wisecracking bunch, constantly bantering as they swing into action. Imagine the witty dialogue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on steroids. And this brings me to another point, it’s reported that when the DC universe hits the movie screens, it’ll be played straight without the comedic dialogue, which is I think a bad mistake. The Justice League shouldn’t be a po-faced miserable bunch, they should be confident in their supremacy over any threat, and thus cocky and wisecracking. Check out any of the DC animated features and you’ll see what I mean. Those features nail it.
Obviously, the Avengers’ quest and problems are only just starting with the end of this mission.
In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark had several remote controlled Iron Man robots at his command, if you recall. In the time between that film and now, he has refined this concept into the Iron Legion, and is planning to develop an artificial intelligence to control it, but has so far failed in his attempts.
Tony really should have watched a Frankenstein film, if he had, he’s know that these things always kick into life when a) you least expect it and b) when you’re looking in the other direction.
So it is that his failed Ultron programme sparks to life, having overheard a wishful musing by Stark about peace. Transferring itself into one of the Iron legion drones, badly damaged and disfigured in the earlier mission, it crashes the Avengers celebratory revels, attacking them and announcing its intention to bring peace in its own way. (Yeah, the human race aren’t going to come out of this well at all.)
Now, to flash back to the attack on the castle, Stucker has two “miracles” on his team. Here’s where it might get a tad confusing to anybody not keeping score. The “miracles” are the twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, AKA Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. He’s fast, she can warp reality. Yes, you HAVE seen him before – in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Different actor, different story, but the same character, interpreted differently by two different studios in two different franchises.
In the comic books, they started out as members of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in The Uncanny X-Men, then turned good and joined The Avengers. Incidentally, both Hawkeye and the Black Widow were also villains initially, plaguing Iron Man in his early issues.
So, Pietro and Wanda are now both kind of out of work after Stucker gets his ass kicked and join up with Ultron who has an army of hundreds of drones and can even become the internet if he chooses.
Not only that, but Ultron (as in the comics) also creates an android with its own set of super powers. The Vision can phase through walls or actually any solid object and solidify himself within that object if he chooses, altering his density. He also floats around, presumably because he can make his density lighter. Not something that’s useful in a breeze, I’d imagine.
So, Avengers’ worst day ever – right? Yeah, it gets worse. Wanda is messing with their minds to put them off their game. This causes the often mentioned Iron Man vs Hulk smackdown, (yay – Hulkbuster armour). It takes the Widow back to a sinister and saddening “graduation” which goes a long way to explaining her character, shows Iron Man a sinister portent of what may well be Captain America: Civil War and shows Thor that all is not all rosy on Asgard which sets up Thor’s third solo film, Ragarok.
The film isn’t the dark “Empire Strikes Back” of the Marvel Universe that I had assumed it would be, and that’s for the better. It’s self contained and brings Marvel’s Phase 2 to a very neat finish, hinting at future perils to come, and some additions to the super team. (Remember, we only have a few months to wait until Ant-Man kicks off phase three.)
Be sure to watch the credit crawl for the sting!
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