The Avengers reassembled May 1st, (just in time for Free Comic Book Day,) for Age of Ultron and box office numbers don’t lie; it was another huge success for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans from each camp never agree, DC fans heralding DC films’ ability to create darker, grittier characters and plotlines, while the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe,) thrives on-screen based on its blend of comedy with action and drama. They’re accessible to long-time fans of the comics, while still being highly enjoyable for people who have never picked up a single comic book in their lives. The MCU clearly has a winning formula- but what’s going into their potent cocktail of success?
The Avengers brought together some of Earth’s mightiest heroes after Phase One of Marvel’s movies. Alongside that, there was Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor. Iron Man started things off with a new, highly-entertaining blend of rapid-fire comic moments interwoven with heart-wrenching dramatic moments. Tony Stark, hilarious wise-cracking billionaire with daddy issues and an erratic moral compass, becomes relatable for audiences as he turns into something more than just a billionaire with a wealth of psychological problems and a growling voice. As we are subtly exposed to Starks’ flaws he begins to really grow as a character and this continues through Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and now Age of Ultron. The Marvel Comics Universe is impressive in that both the major and minor characters are ever-changing, ever-developing parts of a constantly expanding comic universe.
Like the first Avengers movie, Age of Ultron becomes a sum greater than its parts.
Each movie in Phase Two continues in the tradition set forth by Phase One, adding greater depth to the drama established in Phase One films while still adding humor quite seamlessly. Captain America had to face some serious moral crises in The Winter Soldier, as did Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, and Thor in Dark World. As a result the films have gathered both momentum and depth.
Like the first Avengers movie, Age of Ultron becomes a sum greater than its parts thanks to a strong cast, a fantastic performance by James Spader as the titular villain and another round of Joss Whedon’s tremendous wit and capacity for creating relatable, human moments in characters who aren’t always terrestrial. The film’s plot continues the Avengers staple and builds cleverly into a massive, city destroying, set piece brawl of good versus evil (with intriguing side plots to boot).
Ultron’s origin story isn’t quite what the comics had in mind, but over the years he’s had a number of origin stories and the movies are guilty of taking their own approach towards plenty of other things. While this can, and has proved to be, a bit of a frustration for long-time fans, these fresh starts are arguably yet another way to create accessibility to newcomers. However these alterations are far more easily explained by the inability of Marvel, Fox, and Sony to cooperate over intellectual property. Simple solutions make the story work, while clever and carefully-considered writing makes the story progress in a way that’s not heavy-handed. It doesn’t hurt that the casting decisions behind these movies are so strong they could fight off crime on their own.
Even if it weren’t for forced tweaks, the MCU have adopted an instantly appealing broad approach that welcomes in a far wider audience without sacrificing the depths their films need.
Accessibility, excellent casting and adaptability (often in overcoming intellectual property hurdles,) have been three of the MCU’s greatest assets. Instead of rolling over and saying Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver can’t possibly be a part of Age of Ultron because someone else called dibs, they found their own way to handle the situation with excellent casting and great writing. Vision’s origin story, tweaked for the sake of the movie, fitted like a glove. Even if it weren’t for forced tweaks, the MCU have adopted an instantly appealing broad approach that welcomes in a far wider audience without sacrificing the depths their films need. Fans can only hope the change in directorial regime for The Infinity Wars Part 1 and Part 2 continues the fine balance of comedy, drama, and action- if it does fans will have a series worth celebrating for years to come.
By Phil Gorski