(Welcome to Road to Endgame, where we revisit the first 22 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and ask, “How did we get here?” In this edition: Avengers: Age of Ultron digs in to the superhero’s religious subtext)
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a big ol’ action beat-’em-up between superheroes and robots. It also uses genre trappings to dramatize the creation of God and the Devil, in order to tell a story about why we create, and why our stories matter.
By 2015, our entertainment landscape had become dominated by violent Übermensch in visages of childhood fantasy. DC’s Man of Steel, which attempted to reframe one of pop culture’s premier icons two years prior, caused widespread debate about civilian casualty and the role of the superhero. As if in response to that conversation, Avengers: Age of Ultron placed similar debates in its crosshairs; first, by making its characters re-establish their objectives — the protection of individuals — and second, by challenging their methods.
This narrative not only helped set up future installments, it also forced the Avengers to contend with their in-world legacies as a means to explore the series’ legacy on-screen. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most successful franchise in history, and so a $300 million blockbuster that acts as genre self-critique (to varying degrees of success) is noteworthy.
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We all know Marvel Studios is currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And while Avengers: Infinity War was one hell of a way to celebrate the unprecedented crossover of all these film franchises, the comic book movie studio has another treat for fans to enjoy this year.
Marvel Studios has announced that all 20 of their movies, from Iron Man to this year’s Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp, will return to IMAX screens for a limited run at the end of August through the first week of September. But there’s a specific schedule for the movies that will make it rather difficult for even the most hardcore Marvel fan to see all of them. Find out more below. Read More »
After teasing his appearance for so long, Marvel finally unleashed Thanos this year in Avengers: Infinity War. But fans expected the gauntlet-wielding titan to show up much earlier – as soon as Avengers 2, in fact. But that didn’t happen. In a new interview, Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon reveals that ultimately, he just didn’t know what to do with Thanos as a character.
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In the Avengers: Age of Ultron credits scene, an increasingly-impatient Thanos (Josh Brolin) opens a vault, reaches in, grabs a stone-less gauntlet, and says, “Fine. I’ll do it myself.” But in an interview with Avengers: Infinity War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, they intimated that they weren’t going to deal with the ramifications of that scene.
“Not our movie,” McFeely said, referring to Age of Ultron. Markus then chimed in: “And we’ve all sat there and went, “What the hell is he talking about? Where was he when he did that?'”
Now Infinity War directors Anthony and Joe Russo have commented about how the Age of Ultron credits scene aligns with the events of Infinity War. And just like with real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.
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(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: why Avengers: Age of Ultron is actually superior to the other Avengers films.)
What do we want from the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Do we merely want a collection of cool moments; the realization of decades upon decades of comic book splash pages brought to digital life on a big screen with booming surround sound? Do we want the joy of recognition; the giddiness that comes when a familiar easter egg appears and we knowingly elbow whomever we’re seeing the movie with, as if to say, “I recognize that; do you?” Or do we want something challenging? Something that takes the raw materials that make up the MCU and builds them up into something entirely unexpected?
Better yet – what if we could have all of those things, together? As it turns out, we did. It was called Avengers: Age of Ultron. And people weren’t happy about it.
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(Welcome to Road to Infinity War, a new series where we revisit the first 18 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and ask “How did we get here?” In this edition: Avengers: Age of Ultron takes a long, hard look at gods, monsters, and the humans in-between.)
How often do we ask ourselves why we created God and the Devil? We’ve been questioning our own existence for thousands of years – where we came from and what we’ll leave behind – so to have those ideas pumped into a $300 million superhero sequel, albeit to varying degrees of success, is something of note.
We’re well into Marvel being the biggest thing in popular culture with Avengers: Infinity War, but the questions asked by Joss Whedon’s medial crossover are of particular interest when it comes to the Avengers’ iconography. By 2015, our entertainment landscape had become dominated by the violent Übermensch in a visage of childlike fantasy, and it warranted artistic introspection.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is not some Watchmen-esque deconstruction; then again, neither was the 2009 Watchmen movie, which took straight from the pages of the 1986 comic series rather than drawing from the culture around it. Age of Ultron on the other hand came out a mere two years after the destruction debate post-Man of Steel, which focused largely on civilian causalities. Whether as response to the new tenor of superhero conversation or as a means to set up Captain America: Civil War (or both; the intent isn’t mutually exclusive), Age of Ultron places similar debates in its crosshairs, first by making its characters’ top priority the protection of civilians, and then by exploring the ways in which they ought to go about it. The film forces the Avengers to contend with their in-world legacy as a means to explore their fictional legacy on-screen.
It’s a narrative nexus, building on what came before while setting up Marvel’s future, as it attempts to define that very nexus for each of its characters. A mirror to our modern pantheon.
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Everybody loves Thor now, primarily due to Chris Hemsworth‘s charming, slightly goofy take on the character, and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok. But folks at Marvel weren’t always convinced of Thor’s durability. The Avengers screenwriter Zak Penn confirms that early Avengers scripts attempted to reduce Thor’s screentime – until the casting of Chris Hemsworth changed everyone’s mind.
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While the post-credit scene has become a staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the scenes themselves don’t always make sense. Sometimes. they screw-up continuity and raise more questions than provide answers. If you’ve ever come away from MCU post-credits scenes confused, you’re in good company. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, screenwriters of Avengers: Infinity War, are confused by them sometimes, too.
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Cool Posts From Around the Web:
This past weekend saw the release of Marvel’s Black Panther and the debut of Michael B. Jordan’s striking new villain. So you know what that means: it’s time to update our Marvel villain ranking.
If you’re still reading, there are two things to keep in mind regarding this particularly ranking of Marvel’s bad guys. One, I’m judging them all based on Personality and Plan Points. How magnetic are they? How stupid is their plan for world domination (or whatever else they’re seeking)?
Two, Thanos isn’t on it because he doesn’t count. He’s not a villain; he’s a Postmates customer with the munchies. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to Infinity War, when he can legitimately join this list.
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When Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor made his hammer-smashing debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2011, his character was ripped directly from comic book pages, staying true to his origins and persona – a noble warrior whose sole reason for existing is to protect his home world of Asgard, his people, and the rest of the nine realms. In the greater timeline of the MCU, Thor appears in his own stand-alone trilogy (Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok), two ensemble films (The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Doctor Strange.
Thor: Ragnarok (the last film in the trilogy) is a welcome and drastic change from his previous films. Thor is so remarkably different that we barely recognize the original God of Thunder, especially with his snazzy new haircut. And It’s not just Thor – the entire film has a completely contrasting tone and aesthetic compared to the rest of the trilogy. Director Taika Watiti took Thor out of a dark world of doom and gloom and tossed him into a whimsical rainbow.
Throughout his screen time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor noticeably transforms from a serious, wise warrior into a goofball (bordering on big buffoon) with a magical hammer. Although fans adore this new light-hearted, funny guy version of Thor, we’re still asking, “since when did Thor become a comedian?”
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