I know there’s a new “Star Wars” movie coming out in December, but I’m still looking forward to May and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” more than any other movie this year.
The new trailer came out tonight.
And this Joss Whedon sequel is, obviously, the “Empire Strikes Back” of this series.
Dark, I tells ya.
Here’s the trailer.
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.
Hollywood reporter Nikki Finke recently scooped the rest of the entertainment press with a list purporting to detail Warner Bros. and DC’s plans for big-screen superhero movies in the near future.
Here’s the list:
• May 2016 – Batman v Superman
• July 2016 – Shazam
• Xmas 2016 – Sandman
• May 2017 – Justice League
• July 2017 – Wonder Woman
• Xmas 2017 – Flash and Green Lantern team-up
• May 2018 – Man Of Steel 2
Nope. Not happening.
I mean, in many ways, I wish it would. As satisfying as Marvel’s big-screen universe is, I’d like to see DC comics heroes – the most accessible and familiar heroes in the world, in many ways – finally achieve lift off on screen.
Last year’s “Man of Steel” had so many things wrong with it, and with writer David Goyer and others behind the scenes who are plainly ashamed of superhero names, colorful costumes, origins and storylines, I don’t have much hope for future movies in the series.
And in particular I doubt that the studio can pull this off.
Lookit: WB and DC have only just gotten rolling on “BvsS.” How quickly can they turn around “Shazam,” which is supposed to follow the May 2016 release of “BvsS” by a couple of months?
And if they haven’t been able to figure out a big-screen “Wonder Woman” or “Green Lantern,” how can they pull off an oddity like “Sandman?”
Not to mention the whole “seven movies released within two years” thing. That’s a feat that I’m not sure even Marvel, with its assembly-line methods, could pull off.
I’ll go see whatever DC movies get released in the coming years, no doubt. But I’m afraid I’ll find them as lacking as “Green Lantern” and “Man of Steel.”
And I sure don’t think we’ll see one every few months.