Sunday, 20 September 2015

Cinema Saturday: Marvel Madness

Age of Ultron review and thoughts on Civil War

I’m posting a little late due to illness and new Civil War news, but here we go.

Image from Marvel.com

It’s been seven years since the first Iron Man movie and since then the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) has expanded exponentially. Films are lined up all the way to 2019, with around two released each year. But is this a good thing, or a bad thing?

An article on wired.com (originally on medium.com) a while back spoke about whether Marvel had ‘killed the popcorn movie’ and I have to agree. I’m a self-confessed comic book nerd and am as excited as the next person about the next superhero release, but sometimes I am left feeling disappointed. It costs almost £10 now just for a movie ticket but rather than being able to simply sit back and enjoy the film, it’s like Marvel are making you work for it. Unless you’ve seen A, B, C and D, you’re not going to understand everything, and even if you have it’s still work. Within the first ten minutes of Ultron I was ranting internally about why Hydra have Loki’s sceptre when Natasha was last seen with it in Avengers. I had to assume that Hydra stole it during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but what if you’d missed that particular movie? Occasionally, watching a Marvel film can seem akin to watching episodes of a TV series out of order.

But for arguments sake, let’s say ‘Person A’ is the biggest MCU fan ever, has seen everything and knows everything, and put continuity aside. Even then you’ve still got issues with consistency. Here I’m talking about too much formula and not enough realism.

The consistency of the movies is generally bland. Quite often I find them lacking any deep, meaningful moments because the producers are too interested in ‘boom, crash, bang’ every ten minutes. ‘Boom, crash, bang’ is fine to an extent, after all we wouldn’t watch a superhero movie if there was no threat, but I personally like some level of emotion in the characters and story. The Iron Man films I feel lack the most emotion and that’s not just because of Tony’s narcissism. The only visceral reaction those films got out of me was when they almost killed Pepper in 3. That’s it. Thor 1 and 2 were alright thanks to Loki, and The Winter Soldier definitely shone with regards to Steve and Bucky’s tumultuous relationship. Even Avengers 1 had some good moments with regards to Natasha and Clint, and also Coulson, but I feel as if anything that could have been in Age of Ultron was too manipulated and unrealistic to carry any weight. We met Clint’s family but that was more of a ‘what?!’ moment than a shocking revelation. I saw no need for it in the movie except to provide a safehouse – which could have been done some other way – and to make the audience worry for his safety more, which didn’t really work and wasn’t needed. Similarly, the Natasha and Bruce relationship was so out of the blue that it had no emotional effect. Marvel’s formula – its stories – seem too reliant on explosions and VFX that anything else, anything substantial, doesn’t seem to quite work.

Perhaps I’m picking holes which I’ve been told happens a lot, but the story just didn’t quite click with me. Realism needs to be subverted a little in superhero movies because, of course, people don’t generally turn into giant green rage monsters on a daily basis. The characters themselves are still, powers aside, normal people however and as such their decisions and character development do need to be based in some form of realism and rational thought. To me Age of Ultron didn’t quite grasp this.

  • -       Tony and Bruce inadvertently create a super robot that tries to conquer the earth, and to combat it they build another.
  • -       Wanda gives everyone dream sequences and later Thor decides to go back into his without much reason to. This dream sequence somehow tells him about Vision, which in turn causes Thor to try and destroy Vision with his hammer. Instead of destroying Vision however this instead wakes him, and he then helps save the world. Guess this was pure luck, huh?
  • -       Not to mention introducing Wanda and Pietro, but having one die two hours later saving a character we knew wasn’t going to die anyway. Why did Pietro even care about Clint? Half a movie ago they were on opposite sides!
  • -       Most importantly, Bruce seemed to have control over the Hulk in Avengers 1 (“I’m always angry”) but now seems to have no control whatsoever.

Like I say, maybe it was just me, but half of the movie seemed to make no sense and the other half was just explosions, destruction and a nonsensical death. I was very much looking forward to Age of Ultron but ultimately found myself disappointed. There wasn’t even much in the way of build-up for Civil War. Steve and Tony bickered but that was about it. Compared to the first Avengers and Winter Soldier, this wasn’t one of Marvel’s best by far. Maybe it’s time we took superhero movies with a pinch of salt, taking them for what they are rather than what they could be, but part of what makes cinema so great is the depth of the stories it tells. Superhero movies, sometimes, seem about as deep as a piece of paper.

Image from Screenrant.com

All that being said though, I am still excited for Captain America: Civil War. A part of me is wary, I’ll admit, of being disappointed again, but there have been certain teasers and news articles that make me think that Civil War – despite the obvious fighting that will occur – will rely heavily on the characters, and be a lot more emotional. Here’s are my thoughts:

  • -       In the Ant Man post credit sequence, Sam mentions that ‘The Accords’ won’t let Tony help with Bucky. In the comics, Civil War revolves around the Pro (Tony) and Con (Steve) sides of a Superhuman Registration Act. Given this line, I assume we’re dealing with a similar story.
  • -       If we’re following the comics, what does this mean in terms of Steve’s fate? In the comics Steve dies at the end of Civil War, causing Bucky to take up the mantle. It has been reported that Stan is on contract for more movies than Evans.
  • -       Bucky himself is said to be more prominent in the film. Marvel’s continuity may be at times lacking but usually every detail is a part of something larger. We found out in Winter Soldier that Bucky was responsible for the accident that took Tony’s parents. It’s my thinking that Civil War may give cause for Tony to uncover this.
  • -       The Ant Man post credit sequence was reported by Stan to be an actual scene from Civil War, which makes me wonder how Steve and Sam find him, and why Bucky’s arm is in a vice. Was it Hydra, or the only way Steve and Sam could capture him? Reports of footage shown at a convention in Thailand show Steve and Bucky ‘hugging it out’ so we can assume Bucky is somehow rehabilitated. I’m definitely hoping this brings the emotion and depth that Age of Ultron was sorely lacking.
  • -       Reports have also revealed some members of each team, pitting not only Steve and Tony against each other but Clint and Natasha. How far will the battle go, and will there be any lasting repercussions when it comes to Avengers: Infinity War? Natasha is also on Tony’s side, against Steve. How will Cap’ handle that after everything they went through in Winter Soldier, and is that the only betrayal, or does it run much deeper? Only time will tell.

Age of Ultron is on Blu-ray and DVD now, and Captain America: Civil War will hit UK theatres April 29th 2016.

Do you have any thoughts on the MCU, Age of Ultron, or Civil War? Feel free to share them in the comments below, or on Twitter.

Holly @TheArtsShelf


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