Category Archives: Avengers 2

‘Age of Ultron’ and our Marvel movie future

ultron avengers age of ultron

It’s probably an understatement that most of us geeks are looking forward to when “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opens in May.

There are a lot of comic-book movies coming – with more likely to be announced by Marvel in a mysterious event set for Tuesday – featuring Marvel, DC and other favorites.

But “Age of Ultron” is the one that everybody’s thinking about right now, in part because the teaser trailer was released this week and tens of millions of people have watched it.

I would guess that a few million of those people who watched the trailer were doing more than marvel – no pun intended – at the menace in James Spaders’ Ultron voice or the glimpses at Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor.

The little hints at the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are beyond tantalizing.

We’ve been watching so closely, in recent Marvel movie credits scenes, for clues to what would happen with villain Ultron in the third “Avengers” movie.

Then Marvel didn’t dispute reports that the third “Captain America” movie would feature, alongside Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and would likely follow at least some of the comic book “Civil War” storyline, which pit two groups of heroes, led by government skeptic Steve Rogers and government control freak Tony Stark, into a battle that would eventually lead to Rogers’ death and replacement, for a time, with Bucky Barnes.

avengers age of ultron poster

It all seems likely and seems to fit with Marvel’s ambitious plans.

We might know more Tuesday. In the meantime, we can continue to puzzle over the “Age of Ultron” trailer and what we’ll see when the movie opens in May.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ takes us out there

guardians infinity stone

A lot of people are saying “Guardians of the Galaxy” is this generation’s “Star Wars.” I’m not sure that’s the case, or that anything could be this generation’s “Star Wars.” Some people forget just what a game-changer “Star Wars” and, two years earlier, “Jaws,” were. Those two movies solidified summertime as a time for big-screen escapist fare and proved that people would pay to see it.

Others say that “Guardians” is this generation’s “The Last Starfighter” but I think that’s selling “Guardians” short. As fond as my memories of “Starfighter” are, I think “Guardians” is a better movie.

So what role does “Guardians” fill?

Roles, really.

First of all, it’s a really good summer movie. It’s good-natured and funny and full of action.

Secondly, it’s a sure-footed next milestone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although it only slyly references the quest for the Infinity Stones – the sources of power that will, almost certainly lead Thanos to Earth in the third “Avengers” movie, probably in 2018 – it keeps that subplot to the first three phases of Marvel movies in moviegoers’ minds.

Thirdly, it expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s how:

The comics published by Marvel in the past half-century-plus have covered a lot of territory, literally and figuratively speaking.

There’s the street-level superheroes, like Spider-Man and Daredevil, dealing with maniacal villains and street punks alike. The non-Marvel Cinematic Universe “Spider-Man” movies and Marvel’s upcoming Netflix series like “Daredevil” map out this world. (They’re the Marvel counterparts of Batman, for you DC lovers out there.)

There’s the global superheroes, like the Avengers, who have the power to face threats to the entire world. The non-MCU heroes like “Fantastic Four” also fall into this category, as does DC’s Superman and Justice League.

What “Guardians” does is give Marvel Studios a beachhead in the cosmic universe where the comic books have played for a half-century.

There’s always been some crossover among all these Marvel realms, such as when Galactus, devourer of worlds, shows up and is tackled by the FF. Cosmic threat comes to global heroes.
But quite often, the links between the cosmic and Earth-based heroes have been only tenuous. Captain Marvel or the Silver Surfer or Warlock show up and fight and eventually team up with the FF or the Avengers to face a menace like the Kree-Skrull War, but by the end of the story, things are back to a Marvel status quo and the Avengers are dealing with Earth-based villains like Doctor Doom.

“Guardians” plunges us headlong into that cosmic Marvel universe with only occasional looks back at Earth.

I won’t recap the plot I’m sure you’re familiar with by now or even go on and on with my thoughts about “Guardians.” Director James Gunn had made a fun, “Star Wars”-ian adventure pitting an unlikely band of heroes against evil forces. Along the way, the movie introduces, more smoothly than most would have thought possible, fantastic creatures like Rocket Racoon, a small but ferocious animal with a pitiable past and a love of big guns, and Groot, a walking, talking (well, a little) tree creature. Space raccoon and gentle plant-based giant you say? Sure, why not. It’s a testament to Gunn’s handling of the characters and plot of “Guardians” that what the characters are matter less than who they are.

If you remember, Thanos, Marvel’s go-to cosmic bad guy, showed up at the end of “The Avengers” to take credit for pitting an invading alien army against Earth and grin at the thought of courting death.

Thanos wants the Tesseract – the Cosmic Cube in the comics – that the Red Skull wielded in “Captain America” and Loki sought in “The Avengers.” Along with the Aether, the cosmic power from “Thor: The Dark World,” and other Infinity Stones, Thanos can make the Infinity Gauntlet, a weapon of unimaginable power. It’s a certainty that will be the major plot point of the third “Avengers” movie.

One of the most amusing things about “Guardians” is that much of the history and power of the Infinity Stones is laid out midway through the movie … but to the protagonists and antagonists of “Guardians,” who don’t even know as much as Captain America and Iron Man about the importance of the Stones but know a thing to keep away from bad guys when they see one.

So the collected Guardians, led by the effortlessly charming Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, take on Ronan, an upstart ally of Thanos, in an effort to keep a handle on their particular Infinity Stone and keep it away from Thanos.

It’s an effort that will continue for another four years before the contest for the Stones pits Avengers – and likely other allies – against Thanos in the third Avengers movie, which will likely act as capper to the first three phases of big-screen Marvel.

“Guardians” is so much fun, so funny, so charming, that it carries all the responsibility of furthering the over-arching plot of big-screen Marvel as if it were a feather. Despite its many accomplishments, that might be the movie’s handiest achievement.

By the way, I wanted to mention Marvel’s other comic-book universes, besides street-level, global and cosmic playgrounds, because the big-screen Marvel universe will no doubt incorporate them as well.

(I won’t get into a couple of lesser-known Marvel comic book universes here because, frankly, I don’t think we’ll see big-screen versions of Marvel’s romance and western comic worlds anytime soon.)

We’re all but certain to see Marvel’s mystical and horror universes come into play in movies before long, perhaps in a combined venture.

The studio has already named a director for its “Dr. Strange” movie, about a physician who became a master of the mystic arts and fought supernatural creatures. It’ll be interesting to see who the studio picks to play the part because Strange could be as much of an anchor for ongoing Marvel movies as Robert Downey Jr. has been as Tony Stark.

A “Strange” movie would not only introduce the mystical and supernatural Marvel universes to the big screen but could encompass the company’s long history of horror characters, some of whom regularly cross paths with heroes like Spider-Man (I’m looking at you, Moebius the Living Vampire) but operate in a realm that ranges from the dark corners of the Earth to other dimensions. It’s a world of magic – already explained in the “Thor” movies as simply science that humans can’t understand – and wild creatures.

If the idea seems strange to you, consider how strange a space raccoon and a talking tree might have seemed before this record-breaking opening weekend for “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Secrets of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron?’

avengers-age-of-ultron-

Are you ready for some total guesswork?

I’m going to speculate on what we might see next May when “Avengers: Age of Ultron” hits theaters.

I don’t have any inside knowledge (my friend in the movie business doesn’t work on these Marvel movies). I’m speculating based on what I’ve read online recently and on recent re-readings of half-century-old comics that told this story before.

And I’ve already written about Marvel’s long game, the climax – most likely in the third “Avengers” movie – that will pit Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes against Thanos, the god-like destroyer and embracer of death.

Josh Brolin voices Thanos in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and likely in future Marvel movies. From scenes we’ve already seen in the “Thor” sequel and in “Guardians,” we know Thanos is pursuing the Infinity Stones to make his all-powerful weapon, the Infinity Gauntlet. Heck, Brolin took the stage in San Diego wearing a mock-up of an Infinity Gauntlet.

But what happens in the meantime, in “Age of Ultron?”

While the MCU has taken big variations away from the established Marvel comic book shorelines we’ve known for a half-century now, I think “Age of Ultron” will mix elements from a couple of milestone “Avengers” comic books.

We already know Ultron is in the movie, obviously, The murderous robot is invented (in the movies at least) by Tony Stark but, like Skynet, gets his own ideas on how to run the world.

And we know that Vision, a synthetic person created by Ultron to kill the Avengers only to end up joining them, is in “Age of Ultron.” He’s played by Paul Bettany, the voice of Tony Stark butler Jarvis in the “Iron Man” movies and “The Avengers.”

“Age of Ultron” creates Ultron (voiced by James Spader) and sets up the conflict depicted in the original 1960s “Avengers” comics, namely issues 55 through 57, when the Vision is introduced. In the comics, of course, Ultron was created by Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas in “Ant-Man” but that movie’s not coming out until later in 2015.

So Ultron on a collision course with the Avengers, with Vision changing sides. Check.

But who else changes sides?

For this, we go back a few years in the “Avengers” comics, to issue 16, in which the Avengers experiences the biggest line-up change in its young history.

Although Hulk had come and gone and Cap joined the team in “Avengers” 4, the big change didn’t come until issue 16, when Thor flies off to deal with Asgardian issues, Giant-Man (the former Ant-Man) and Wasp decide to leave and Tony Stark decides to retire his “bodyguard,” Iron Man, from the roster.

Who joins?

Three former criminals/crooks/super villains: Hawkeye, the archer (already on the team in the MCU), Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (who we know are in “Age of Ultron).

While I’d LOVE to see the “Ultron” footage screened at Comic Con, I’m pretty sure the final scene shown – the Avengers lying defeated at Ultron’s hands, Cap’s shield broken – isn’t the end of the movie. Despite the fact I believe it will end up being “The Empire Strikes Back” of the “Avengers” series, “Ultron” won’t end that way. That’s a vision (pun intended) or dream of something plaguing Tony.

No, I think “Ultron” will end with something more dire: The team breaking up. The powerhouses will be gone and Cap will carry on, as he did in the comics, with less powerful teammates like Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision.

Which will make it all the more essential that big guns like Thor and Hulk return in 2018, the likely release date of the third “Avengers” movie.

Comic Con: ‘Age of Ultron’ poster

avengers ultron poster

And then there’s this.

For Comic Con, Marvel has been releasing pieces of a giant poster promoting next May’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

The final pieces were released today.

And yes, that’s the Vision, as played by Paul Bettany, up in the corner. And he looks to be the proper green and yellow color.

That’s a whole lot of Ultrons.

 

 

New Cap, new Thor and ‘Avengers: Ultron!’

avengers ultron EW cover

Again, which of us, as little geeks, thought this would happen? All this superhero movie madness?

And who could have imagined it would be so much fun?

Entertainment Weekly – which I haven’t seen yet – has a big preview of next May’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

new female thor

Marvel announces that, in the comics, Thor will soon be a female who takes the Thunder God’s mighty hammer when the original Odinson is sidelined.

new captain america falcon sam wilson

Marvel announces a new Captain America – most likely Sam Wilson, Cap’s longtime partner as the Falcon – will take over for Steve Rogers, also in the comics.

You know, this isn’t entirely new. Thor has been replaced before – once, notably, by a giant frog – and so has Cap (so many times I couldn’t begin to count, but most notably by Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier).

But it’s all fun and fair and will juice up publicity leading up to the “Ultron” movie next May.

So to reiterate: Hell to the yes.

 

Joss Whedon, Edgar Wright and the ‘Ant-Man’ Cornetto

joss whedon twitter cornetto edgar wright

So this was “Avengers” mastermind Joss Whedon’s reaction to fellow director Edgar Wright’s departure from Marvels “Ant-Man.”

Whedon tweeted this picture last night. Head bowed, he’s holding aloft a Cornetto – the British sweet that gave its name to Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy,” including “Shaun of the Dead” – like a candle at a vigil.

It’s already been dubbed “The Cornetto of Solidarity.”

Nicely done, Mr. Whedon.

Edgar Wright, ‘Ant-Man’ and the Marvel Cinematic Universe

ant-man-test-shot

The news today that Edgar Wright would no longer direct “Ant-Man” – but that the movie, set to kick off the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Three, immediately following 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” would continue under another director – seemed like a bump in the road that Marvel’s been building since before “Iron Man” came out in 2008.

Maybe a major bump.

It’s possible we’ll find out what “creative differences” occurred between Wright, maker of “Shaun of the Dead,” and Marvel and MCU honcho Kevin Feige. These things happen, but aside from some disgruntlement from writers and directors and Jon Favreau’s departure after “Iron Man 2,” we haven’t seen a lot of discord in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As a matter of fact, compared to DC/Warner Bros.’ problems getting its superhero slate booted up, Marvel has had a pretty smooth time of it. Despite the fact that Marvel is somewhat notoriously cheap in its movie-making.

But Wright’s departure, we have to believe, doesn’t come about because of money. There must have been some fundamental disagreement in how “Ant-Man” was going to come out and how it would fit into the MCU.

What’s even stranger is that Feige recently said that Wright – who has been working on “Ant-Man” since 2006, before most people even knew there was an MCU – was integral in how the universe was developed.
Feige said:

“We changed, frankly some of the MCU to accommodate this version of Ant-Man. Knowing what we wanted to do with Edgar and with Ant-Man, going years and years back, helped to dictate what we did with the roster for Avengers the first time. It was a bit of both in terms of his idea for the Ant-Man story influencing the birth of the MCU in the early films leading up to Avengers…”

Since the movie has mostly been cast, with Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd as older and younger Ant-Men Hank Pym and Scott Lang, and the movie was about to start filming soon, it seems unlikely we’ll see major changes in the story. More likely it will be a matter of tone and execution. Wright was going to do his movie his way and Marvel couldn’t abide by that.

ant-man-movie-test

I was excited about “Ant-Man” for a couple of reasons. For one, the character is a lynchpin of the comic-book Marvel universe. He was a founder of “The Avengers,” for pete’s sake.

And the apparent plan to use “Ant-Man” to flesh out the mostly unexplored middle years of the MCU – with Douglas as Pym active in flashback scenes in the 1960s or 1970s – was even cooler.

We still might see that all play out.

Or we might not.

“Ant-Man” might be terrific even without Wright. After all, we all hated the thought of Favreau leaving the “Iron Man” series.

We’ll all be lucky if the MCU can continue on smoothly after this bump in the road.