As Marvel’s Phase 2 comes to an end this year, Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron sets off the summer blockbusters as one has come to expect from the franchise. There are CGI sequences, political commentary, superhero banter, and fiery explosions all set to a swelling score on an international backdrop. While we see familiar themes and characters throughout the film, it is the new faces, questions and challenges set forth for the Avengers that ultimately allow for a narrative shift that has me looking forward to Phase 3.
Some (vague) spoilers ahead, Sweetie!
It’s difficult to write about Age of Ultron as an entity unto itself, because of the complexities of Phases 1 and 2 that compile in this film. Iron Man, Thor, Cap, and Hulk have all had their stories told since 2008, and this movie isn’t so much a sequel to Avengers I or even a place holder between AI and the Infinity War films, but a bridge between two very different worlds that sets the stage for Civil War. The Avengers have evolved over the last 8 years, and this film reveals tidbits of carefully constructed character growth that allows for the team to move forward as a group as as individuals. While Ant-Man is the last film in Phase 2, it’s hard not to feel like this is the movie that holds the true narrative shift for the Avengers. Everything is connected, and we have the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe moving toward what audiences know will be the ultimate showdown at the end of Phase 3.
For this franchise, casting has been a huge key to the success of the films. Since Robert Downey Junior sauntered onto the stage as Iron Man and Chris Evans wowed us as Skinny Steve Rogers, each member of the Avengers Initiative has fully immersed themselves into the character. To Marvel’s credit, they don’t switch actors often, and only a few of the early films in Phase 1 (Terrance Howard to Don Cheedle/Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo) have had casting changes, which gives the MCU the semblance of some sort of alternate reality that runs congruent to the audiences. This includes side characters that we love, and trust me Marvel nerds, there are plenty cameos in this film to satiate your geeky desire to see the overarching connections within the MCU. Over the years, these actors have developed a repoire, and it’s obvious on screen that Whedon takes advantage of the chemistry between them to create some really humorous dialogue. Even Ultron (James Spader) is fairly sassy, and Whedon expertly sets up an easy-going atmosphere in-between devastating political commentary.
While I appreciate this film as a bridge to the rest of the MCU, there were also places where it fell short. While there was significant character development with Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), even at 2.5 hours, the film didn’t have enough time to give proper examination to each member of the ensemble cast. There were moments when we saw a bit of personal development in each member of the Avengers, but it seemed that Natasha and Clint’s characters both were thrust into a storyline that had no build up, leaving me wanting more explanation, dialogue, anything so I could understand where they were coming from.
While I went into the film wary of the “overdone fight scenes” the critics all seemed to be talking about, I honestly didn’t feel there were too many explosion, at least not for the story Whedon told. This felt like a film about war, and in war things blow up, they crumble and people die. That being said, the CGI in some of the beginning scenes was NOT GREAT and at times looked so unrealistic I had to try hard to keep from rolling my eyes. It could be because the show was meant to be seen in 3-D, but many of those opening shots seemed a little cheesy and over done. Luckily, the sass was strong throughout, which made even my least favorite visual sequences a fun experience.
While the themes within the MCU do tend to circle around this idea that mankind is screwed up and the Avengers have to save us from ourselves, this film had audiences examining the value system of the Avengers and whether or not it holds up to what they claim as their goals as a team. With new characters introduced and new agendas forming for characters we know and love, I have no doubt that Phase 3 will be fraught with tension as the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra continue to evolve. Avengers: Age of Ultron gave audiences a peek into how the MCU has grown and how it will resolve these multiple threads as we move into Phase 3. I for one, am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
xoxo The Collectiva Diva
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