avengers

“You want to protect the world. But you don’t want it to change.”

The Marvel comics universe is overflowing with some of the greatest villains created in any medium, from the regal majesty of Doctor Doom to the saturnine, brooding splendour of Galactus to the cackling, twitching megalomania of Annihilus. And amongst these villains, one of the greatest is, without question…not Ultron.

Just my opinion, mind.

The character was first created in 1968 and introduced in the pages of The Avengers as the creation of Hank Pym, whose long storied history of fucking up we will touch upon at a later point in these chronicles. But make no mistake, Hank Pym fucks up in the same way that Michaelangelo painted. He fucks up like it’s what God put him on this earth to do. Created by Pym as an artificial intelligence based on his own brainwaves, Ultron decided pretty quickly that it hated Hank Pym like the Sharks hate the Jets and tried to kill him. Which, considering that Pym based it on his own mind, should tell you everything you need to know about the state of Pym’s self-esteem (dude needs a hug).  Ultron later expanded his to do list to wiping out all human life and returned to bedevil the Avengers and threaten the world again, and again, and again. My problem with Ultron is that there’s just not much “there” there. He’s an angry shouty robot who wants to kill everyone. Have there been good stories with the character? Sure. Have there been writers who found interesting things to do with him? No doubt. But Ultron’s basic default setting has just never grabbed me as particularly compelling. Nevertheless, Ultron is generally regarded as the Avengers’ ultimate arch-enemy, the Moriarty to their Holmes if Sherlock Holmes was a conglomeration of brightly coloured WW2 era adventurers, Norse gods, billionaire tech-messiahs and former circus performers (and who wouldn’t read that?). But even that’s kinda by default. Loki is a Thor villain who sometimes fights the Avengers. Red Skull is a Captain America villain who sometimes fights the Avengers. Ultron would technically be a Hank Pym villain, but since Hank has never been popular enough to headline an ongoing series of his own Ultron just kinda became an arch-enemy for the whole team, like how the rest of the family adopts your little brother’s hamster once it becomes clear he can’t look after it himself. So when it came time for Marvel to follow up The Avengers with a sequel, choosing Ultron to be the villain was about as obvious as having the Joker be the bad guy of The Dark Knight. Who else was it going to be?

Shaddup.

Now, let’s get this out of the way. For all you people who ask why I don’t, for example, review Moana the very second it comes out? This is why. To do a review justice takes time, preparation, fasting and prayerful contemplation. The review/tongue bath I gave Age of Ultron the day after it came out back in 2015 was written while I was still basking in the afterglow of explosions and Whedonisms falling on my ears like confetti and I did not see the plotholes and padding and questionable charecterisations and clear signs of executives sticking their grubby oars in. Honestly if I had it all to do again, I imagine I’d be a lot more critical. Oh hey, look at that. I have it all to do again.

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“We’re sort of like a team. “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” type thing.”

Superhero teams have been around for almost as long as there have been superhero comics, with the first, the Justice Society of America, debuting in 1940. Since then they’ve been a staple of the genre and for good reason. They give editors a place to test out new characters that can be spun off into their own books if readers take a liking to them and there’s simply more stories you can tell with a large group than you can when you’re focused on a single hero. One character’s not working out? Simply kill him off and replace him and the book carries on unaffected, much like the earth will keep turning inexorably after your inevitable death (wow, where did that come from, Mouse?). In fact, it’s pretty much a cast-iron rule that where you have superheroes, you will have superhero teams. My point is, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did many ground-breaking, ingenious and innovative things with the comic book medium during their partnership in the sixties, but inventing the Avengers was not one of them. Once they had created a certain number of superheroes, putting them all in the one book was about as inevitable as the tides. And to be honest…that kinda shows. When you read those old comics you can tell when Stan and Jack were really invested and bringing their A-game to a book (Fantastic Four, Thor, Silver Surfer) and when they were kinda phoning it in (Daredevil, X-Men and the Avengers). Even the name is half-assed. The first issue literally ends with the heroes standing around and saying “What should we call ourselves?” “The…avengers?” “Sure, let’s go with that.” Like, they literally just went with the generic place-holder superhero team name.

If the creation of the Avengers comic book was unremarkable and by-the -numbers, though, the movie was anything but. In fact, I’m pretty sure future movie historians will be looking back at this as the start of something entirely new. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen but regardless, this movie is a big effing deal. For the first time, audiences were expected to go to a movie that shared continuity, characters and plot with four separate pre-existing series of movies. This was something on a scale that the film industry had simply never seen before.

And, be honest, you kinda thought it would suck. Didn’t you?

Didn’t you?

C’mon. Be honest. You thought it was going to suck. You can say it.

"Yeah..."

“Yeah…”

"SEIZE HER!"

“SEIZE HER!”

Seriously though, the reaction to this movie was damn near euphoric but part of that just had to have been due to the fact that Marvel had even pulled it off. The fact that it was simply something you could point to and say “Yup, that’s a movie.” was in and of itself something to Marvel at (I ain’t ashamed). Four years later, though, when every studio and their mother is trying to ape Marvel’s shared universe concept, does it still hold up as anything other than a well-executed gimmick? Is it even a good movie in its own right? Does it have what noted film-maker Jackie Treehorn called the “little extras”?

 

"Story? Productions value? Feelings?"

“Story? Production values? Feelings?”

Let’s take a look.

Ad 3

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The Avengers: Age of Ultron (spoiler free review)

Okay, before we get into the actual movie let’s talk about The Ball. As in, “When are Marvel going to drop the ball?” We are now on the eleventh film set in the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe and the studio has yet to release a flick that was worse than the perfectly acceptable Incredible Hulk or the shaggy-but-still-fun Iron Man 2. And Marvel fans are starting to get paranoid. Sooner or later Marvel’s going to drop the ball, law of averages. One of these movies will eventually flop, and when it does, all we can do is hope that it doesn’t flop so badly that it puts the whole MCU project in jeopardy. And with a movie like Age of Ultron, the stakes are even higher. If Ant-Man tanks, Marvel will walk it off.

If Age of Ultron flops, or even performs below expectations, it could bring the whole thing crashing down. So, as a huge fan of these movies, I was more than a little nervous sitting down to last night’s screening and I knew I was not alone. Looking in the eyes of my fellow Marvel cinephiles I saw the same fear that would take the heart of me. Because one day, Marvel will release a colossal turd.

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Let’s all take a look at the Avengers 2 trailer now that everyone else has done that.

Howdy peeps,
So while I’m still technically on break a couple of things have arisen that need to be (belatedly) made mention of. Firstly, it appears that the following conversation occurred in the offices of Marvel studios.
"Hey Stan, you hear the Unshaved Mouse is going to start reviewing our movies?"

“Hey Stan, you hear the Unshaved Mouse is going to start reviewing our movies?”

Stantheman

“What? Isn’t he that guy who reviewed all 53 canon Disney movies in only two years?

"That’s the guy."

“That’s him.”

Stantheman

“Well damn, we’d better crank out some more movies before he burns right through them.”

Phase 3

“There, that oughta hold the bastard.” “Excelsior!”

Honestly, not really much to say at this stage, most of these movies almost certainly haven’t even got a completed script yet. I’m very interested to see that they’ll be tackling Civil War as a Captain America movie rather than an Avengers movie for a number of reasons. As I’ve mentioned before, I love Civil War, flaws and all, and I would love to see a version of it on the big screen (although, what with this coming straight after Captain America 2 it’s starting to look like Cap just fights the American government fulltime nowadays). Also happy to see a Captain Marvel movie on the slate, but the one that really has me psyched is Black Panther. Love the character, love the concept, love the costume, cannot frickin’ wait.
Soem complain that the costume is just like Batman's. And it is. With the crucial difference that it is much, much cooler.

Some complain that the costume is just like Batman’s. And it is. With the crucial difference that it is much, much cooler.

Oh, and peaking of Marvel, and my opinions on it,  if you’re craving a fix of Mouse, a certain furry reviewer and his black magic using, mustachioed frenemy may have recently made a cameo appearance over on Newtcave.It’s a cool blog, as my spambots like to say, full of fascinating content that you should share.
So, as you all know I’ve been taking a break from reviews to focus on my writing. I spent the last few week writing in a cottage way out in the middle of the wilds of County Monaghan on Halloween because I’ve never read a Stephen King novel, apparently. I got some good work done, the first draft of my new play is now more or less finished, I’m pretty sure I’ve developed some killer new psychic powers and the army of killer slugs that came for me in the night now call me their Queen. Downside was that internet connection was spotty but I’ve been reading all your comments (and special thanks to the Hangman’s Daughter fans for your continued feedback. Always appreciated, thanks guys).
But of course, the real reason that I’ve had to interrupt my vacation was the fact that Disney/Marvel released the single most Disney/Marvellous thing ever. So, like the last horse asthmatically crossing the finish line of the internet long after everyone stopped caring, let’s take a look at the Avengers 2 trailer.

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