The Avengers: Age of Ultron
I'm going to do something a little different today and talk about the Avengers. Specifically in regards to the new film currently playing in theaters around the world, Age of Ultron. Film review is, believe it or not, not entirely outside my wheelhouse. I once wrote movie reviews for a newspaper and was a film reviewer for one of the first internet based film sites. I've even been a sometimes news hound for Ain't It Cool News and was even listed as a critic on Rotten Tomatoes until a short time ago. So I do have some bonafides.
This isn't necessarily going to be a "review" exactly. It is in fact going to be a defense of the following statement, the new Avengers film is the perfect distillation of and the best example of a "comic book" movie ever made.
I'm going to tell you straight up that I am a fanboy. I do not fall into Marvel or DC 'camps' and I enjoy all types of movies. My connections to the comic universe run rather deep and, like many of us, I've suffered thru an incredible amount of horrible crap in my life in order to live to see this modern resurgence in comic based movies. I've watched the Hulk and Spider-Man television shows, the Howard the Ducks, the Burton Batman's, the endless line of "this is the best we have" rationalizations. I'm not here to destroy any of those, each one has its merits - as camp, as lessons, as rose-colored glass history - but let's set the ground-work as adults here. A lot of stuff was truly not that great.
I wrote a piece once after I came out of the theater for the first showing of Jurassic Park, the main point of which was the coming revolution in CGI and what it meant specifically for SuperHero films. Other people saw dinosaurs - I saw Iron Man. It took a lot longer to get here than I thought it would, but the promise of that dream has finally arrived. There can be no doubt that we are living in the age of the SuperHero. Perhaps soon to be glut, but that is a topic for another post.
The modern form of this wave came with Spider-Man, Watchmen, and Nolan's Batman trilogy. And the thread that led directly to Ultron started with the first Iron Man. You don't have to be a 'fanboy' to appreciate what Marvel/Disney has done since then. The establishment of a connected universe is unprecedented in movie history. The only close approximation would be the Bond films and they don't really count. You'd have to go way back to the very early days of serials in order to find something even close.
Except for another form of entertainment - the comic book.
Weird huh? Perhaps what makes what Marvel has attempted so unique is the thing us fans of the genre have been screaming at the screen for decades - pay attention to the source material. How many times in the past have we had to suffer fools who told us, "We had to change this because it just wouldn't work in a movie"? I mean, come on, this is a comic book we're talking about! And we are making a film! We can't have people running around in tights, that would be silly. We need to make the bad guy into a cloud or people won't take us serious.
If Marvel has proven anything in the last decade it is that the source material can indeed be handled directly. That putting silly things like talking trees and racoons on screen actually works. That Norse Gods and Iron Men can exist together on screen. Cosmic powered Androids are not silly. They are actually pretty damn awesome when you think about it.
And this latest film, Avengers Age of Ultron is the perfect example of that form. It is exactly like a Giant-Sized Avengers Annual came to life in front of your eyes. Do you remember Annuals? Those huge year-end tomes that brought everyone together, that had crazy guest appearances, nutty plots, insane "Action Packed" pages? I do. And this film feels exactly like those did.
To me, it is the ultimate example of actual, real, comic book filmmaking. Where Nolan's Batman felt like a Graphic Novel, the Avengers feels like a comic book brought to life.
It is an amazing thing.
Will we get tired of comic book movies? Perhaps. Goodness knows there are a lot of them on the horizon. It is starting to feel a bit overwhelming. But, as I tell people all the time, this is exactly what happened to comics - it was called the glut for a reason. Hopefully the quality will remain and we'll be fortunate enough to enjoy the ride while it lasts. Because nothing lasts forever.
Until then try to enjoy what we have. It's ok to be a kid again, to lose yourself for a few hours and thumb thru your comics. That's what they have always been. A diversion from real life. A trifle. Something your Mother throws away when you go off to college.