Seen this superhero movie that people won’t shut up about? Only mild spoilers ahead:
Avengers: Age of Ultron is the eleventh Marvel Cinematic Universe film, so I tried to lower my expectations just in case. Aim for a fun movie and you may get The Most Amazing Film Experience Ever thrown in; aim for an absurdly high experience and you will get neither. But my caution vanished when the film began, and bam, as I expected, we dash into the story on the backs of galloping superheroes. (Some said this was too fast, but not if you had seen the last Marvel stories such as the recent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. story. Remember,#ItsAllConnected.)
I loved these action moments that are pure joy even for newcomers to the Marvel world like me. The gang’s all here: Hawkeye with his Legolas-ing, Black Widow zapping and/or tripping, Iron Man quipping and zipping, Thor thundering, Captain America super-soldiering, and the incredible Hulk smashing! In the castle one henchman cries: “It’s the Avengers!” The boss demands: “Try to hold them off!” And the henchman falters: “But… it’s the Avengers…” Oh yeah, this is basically a live-action cartoon. And that is awesome.
That’s how I started my spoiler-lite AoU review at Christ and Pop Culture. The following are a few remnant and updated observations about the superhero flick and fan responses.
1. Breaking Whedon
It’s clear that making AoU nearly broke fan-favorite director Joss Whedon, who perhaps felt he himself was battling an artificially intelligent lifeform bent on box-office domination.
“The dreams were not an executive favorite — the dreams, the farmhouse, these were things I fought to keep,” Whedon said (my thought: thank God they did). “With the cave [in which one hero has other visions], it really turned into: they pointed a gun at the farm’s head and said, ‘Give us the cave, or we’ll take out the farm,’ — in a civilized way.”
But Whedon remains a class act even while being honest about “evil” corporate producers: “I respect these guys, they’re artists, but that’s when it got really, really unpleasant.”
It’s hilarious that even folks who do claim to despise corporations love superhero films and popular culture in general. But even that seeming “compromise” seems to be coming to an end as people seem unable to contain even these moderate amounts of story-enjoyment.
2. More superheroes
In that same interview Whedon reveals what he really wanted to do at the film’s end — reveal a few more fan-favorite heroes as (slightly bigger spoiler here) new Avengers.
“I said, ‘It would be great if we could add a few more [characters], if we could have a Captain Marvel there, now that you’ve made a deal,’ and they talked about it,” Whedon said. “And I was like, ‘And Spider-Man, we could do that too, ’cause Sony had approached us during the first movie about a little integration. … But neither of the deals were made.”
At least, not made in time.
My own prediction, based on Marvel showrunner Kevin Feige’s tease of the new Spider-Man, is that Captain America: Civil War will feature the fledgling hero showing up at that location at the end of AoU, determined to join his fellow heroes. Moments ago Marvel made its official Civil War cast announcement including basically the entire AoU cast except for Hulk, Thor and Ultron. Also conspicuously absent is Spider-Man, who may not yet be cast …
3. A ‘normcore’ hero
This especially spoilery article by Dr. Russell Moore explores what Whedon called a “normcore” twist for this film and for one fan-favorite hero’s journey in particular.
“For the past two or three generations, the heroes in popular culture were often trying to escape the stifling ‘conformity’ of the nuclear family,” Moore says. “In this movie, though, conformity seems to be girlfriends and boyfriends and, implicitly, sex and romance, but not marriage and family. A family of husband and wife with children, that is more surprising than artificially intelligent robots, suspended animation, or Gamma-radiated monsters.
4. Black Widow bashing
See more here about the “Black Widow isn’t enough of a feminist hero”-related critiques.
What did you think of Avengers: Age of Ultron and the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far?