In 2012, Joss Whedon brought together the band of Marvel superheroes known as The Avengers, for the hugely successful ‘Avengers Assemble’. Financially, there are very few films to match the success of ‘Avengers Assemble’, grossing $1.5 billion to make it the third highest grossing film of all time (behind Titanic and Avatar). With a budget of $220 million, that’s a pretty nice little profit. Critically, the film has garnered 31 awards and 65 nominations, as well as ranking in the top 200 films of all time on IMDB. Marvel and Disney’s partnership has produced an incredibly successful, lucrative global phenomenon which has seen the superhero genre dominate the box-office in recent years. With both Marvel and DC boasting a hectic schedule slate over the next five years, the power of the superhero movie shows no signs of stalling. But is it all getting a little too much?
What is it about superheroes which very rarely allows us to leave the obsession behind with our childhood? My own love of superheroes started as early as I can remember, with my favourite, Batman. I wanted to be a hero just like him, I had the outfits and the toys, I watched the cartoons and the films religiously, I was hooked. Far from neglecting this addiction, it has thrived as I have grown older and discovered more and more superheroes. I always harboured a certain reluctance, even ignorance, to the world of Marvel, aside from The X-Men and the detestable Spider-Man movies of the early 2000s. But then, in 2008, along came Robert Downey Jr. and Iron-Man to save the day, inspiring me to delve deeper into Marvel’s rapidly expanding cinematic universe, to find Captain America and Thor.
With the world adequately educated on the stories of these three heroes, the Avengers were ready to assemble. Throw in The Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Director Nick Fury and you’ve got yourself a formidable team. For me, there is something about a super-team joining forces which really excites me. ‘Avengers Assemble’ was a truly amazing film; it’s exciting, fun, full of action and more importantly, it was NEW. A truly groundbreaking film, in terms of visual effects of course, but also a pioneer in the genre of superhero movies itself. To give the world a live-action film, featuring all the best characters Marvel has to offer, this was something special. Even with the resounding success of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, it is hard to deny that ‘Avengers Assemble’ took the superhero movie to the next level and placed itself firmly at the heart of a thriving market.
Three years later, and the world is dying for more from The Avengers. The sequel, ‘Age Of Ultron’, arrives in UK cinemas on April 23rd, with the USA having to wait another week on top of that. We have been treated to three pretty special trailers, to tantalise our excitement for the grand spectacle, but what exactly do we know about ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’? Taking its title from a 2013 comic-book story arc, the film seemingly diverts from the graphic novel plot in many ways, in which the villainous Ultron has already ravaged planet Earth and New York City in particular. Ultron is created by Tony Stark, as the final step towards artificial intelligence, but his creation turns rogue and targets humanity for annihilation. In the comic-book, Ultron is portrayed as being exceptionally powerful, and whilst it seems he will still have a devastating effect on NYC, Joss Whedon has admitted that he had to tone down the robot’s powers for the movie.
Everyone is back for this one, even the dastardly Loki, plus Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch and an appearance from The Vision. The multiple trailers for ‘Age Of Ultron’ depict an army of AI robots, led by Ultron ravaging New York City and causing a lot of trouble for the Avengers, in scenes which resonate with the Sentinels from ‘X-Men: Days Of Future Past’. The aspect of the trailers which has caused most excitement though, is the appearance of The Hulkbuster, another of Stark’s controversial creations. The Hulkbuster is Stark’s way of saying “I don’t trust you man” and it seems The Hulk doesn’t take too kindly to such a precaution, with the two pitted against each other in a destructive battle. There are clear tensions amongst the Avengers, and the Hulkbuster underlines this, tensions which Ultron is delighted to manipulate and exacerbate, whilst enjoying a reign of mass-destruction. But the good guys will win in the end, right?
If Marvel’s upcoming schedule slate is anything to go by, then yes, the good guys will prevail. The post-Ultron schedule is headed by ‘Captain America: Civil War’, which will place Captain America against Iron-Man in another internal battle within the troubled Avengers team. With Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury and more set to return for the Captain America sequel, we are left with no uncertainty as to the survivors of ‘Age Of Ultron’. By providing us with details of this film, before we have even had the chance to enjoy the Avengers sequel, Marvel have removed all elements of surprise and suspense from the experience. Only The Hulk, with no standalone film to come and no cast list released for 2018’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, is at risk of being killed off in ‘Age Of Ultron’. Unfortunately, the financial benefits of Marvel’s marketing campaigns means that we can no longer enjoy a little mystery and ambiguity surrounding our favourite films, but then again, we hardly expect the good guys to lose.
Ultimately, all of the upcoming films in Marvel’s cinematic universe SHOULD be incredible and I am personally very excited for ‘Age Of Ultron’ in particular. Indeed, I can’t recall being this excited for any film before. Maybe it’s a good thing that we know what is in the pipeline, I mean, the more the merrier when it comes to the superhero movies. This may be Joss Whedon’s farewell to the franchise, but ‘Age Of Ultron’ is set to be even better than its predecessor, an unfathomable thought. Long live the superhero movie!