Have you ever joined a circle where everyone is talking about something you know nothing about? Well folks, the next superhero film is about to hit our screens, and it’s going to be absolutely massive, if you feel that you’re going to be okay not being a part of it, think again, because Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is going to be so much bigger than you think, and here’s 5 reasons why.
#1 – They don’t call it the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for nothing
First, a brief rundown: In 2008, Marvel began building its universe with the release of the first Iron Man film. Iron man was just one of the hundreds of characters created by the comic book geniuses reaching all the way back to the 1930’s. It was met with critical and commercial success, becoming one of the 50 highest grossing films of all time by the time it left cinemas. Over the past 8 years, another 5 main characters/heroes have been added to what is currently known as The Avengers in the MCU. They are: Captain America aka Steve Rogers, alien (and God of Thunder) Thor, The (Incredible) Hulk, as well as super spies Natasha Romanoff aka “Black Widow” and Clint Barton or “Hawkeye”. And those are just the leads!
But Marvel Comics haven’t stopped there. After the huge success of the first Avengers film in 2012, the entertainment giant commissioned a spin-off television series, Agents of SHIELD, a year later. In 2015, they are adding another two television series to the Universe in the form of Agent Carter (season 1 has just finished in SA) and Daredevil (which should be picked up by one of the m-net channels soon). But wait, there’s more! There are also tie-in comics and One-Shot films created in order to enhance the Universe and further explore minor characters. While it’s not imperative that you engage with ALL this material (I haven’t and I still know what’s going on), it certainly enhances the experience, which brings me to…
#2 – The experience
I’m not talking about the explosions or fantastic fight sequences, but rather the rich experience of engaging in a world that has been fully imagined. Remember how people who read and saw the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter books and films actively participated and brought into that magical world? Well, Marvel achieves something very similar with their cinematic Universe. If you allow yourself to buy into a world in which super heroes exist, you very quickly become emerged in the world itself because of its rich detail – the films, the series, the comics, all assist in creating fully imagined characters and the world in which they live. Writing 101 teaches that if you’re going to tell a story, give it detail. The details make it believable, and when you ‘believe’, you fully engage with the films, series and comic books.
#3 – The storylines
So once you’re a believer, then what? Marvel has not only assembled the Avengers, but also a team of story developers and writers. These each work on their respective films, but are aware of other products (films, series, comic books, etc.) being created at the same time. They refer to each other, through funny cameos and one-liners, which are a hat-tip to those who have watched the films and series that came before it. But more than that, the films themselves have matured into something more than just ‘superhero films’. I was completely blown away by the manner in which the Captain America sequel, The Winter Soldier, played more like a thrilling Bond Film than a ridiculous Transformers sequel. The films focus a great deal on the characters (their personal journeys), and the result has often paid off. Critics, who tend to focus on the film’s story and/or over-arching themes, have praised Marvel’s films with none of the films achieving less than a 65% approval rating from RottenTomatoes.com (believe it or not, not even Spielberg was that good!).
#4 – The stakes are higher
So, slight spoiler if you haven’t seen the first one, but The Avengers assembled in 2012 to fight off an alien invasion. How can you top that? Well, apart from the general rule that sequels planned way in advance are better than their predecessors, Marvel have pushed the envelope by introducing even more Avengers into the mix, in the form of X-men twins Quicksilver (who runs super-fast) and Scarlet Witch (who destroys things with her mind). Then there’s robot overlord, Ultron, who decides to take over all humanity. This typically wouldn’t be such a bad thing in a comic book film, because previously, you would know what happens in the end: good guys win, bad guys don’t. Well, sorry to burst your bubble folks, but Marvel aren’t going the sunshine-and-daisies route with this franchise. The sequel’s tone is noticeably darker than all the Marvel films before it, and even though good will most likely triumph over evil, not everyone will pass by unscathed. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone is going to die… If not in this film, then soon!
#5 – Post-Avengers (the future is bright!)
Late last year Marvel announced a slate of films that they would release over the next 5 years (see, I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned Marvel’s advanced-planning). This includes a mix of sequels (Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy and eventually an Avengers two-parter in 2018 & 2019) as well as a string of films for new characters like Captain Marvel, Black Panther and the Inhumans. Though one’s first reaction may be to stop and ask ‘isn’t this too much?” I, say ‘the more the merrier’ (just ask the millions of South Africans who saw Fast and Furious 7 at the beginning of the month). Of these, I am most excited for Captain America: Civil War which pits the titular hero against Iron Man, and once-allies become enemies. Throw another famous superhero into the mix in the form of the sharp-witted teenage Spider-man and you have a recipe for a glorious disaster!
Okay, so maybe I started out as a just a casual viewer of the MCU, but, as the evidence suggests above, I have been turned! It does this to you, stop resisting, go, binge-watch the films, and then head to the cinema for Avengers: Age of Ultron on the 24th April.
Thomas Riest @FilmFanaticZA