Avengers pregame: What I want out of Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron has quite a bit of stuff that it needs to get right. It has to live up to the first movie, which was among the most entertaining superhero movies ever made. It needs to set up some new characters, like Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch, that will become important in future MCU films. It needs to find some way to not feel overstuffed and crowded, with dozens of characters sharing screen that need to be fully developed. Can Joss Whedon pull it off?

With a few days to go until the premiere of the movie, here’s what I’m hoping for from Ultron, along with some other general thoughts going into the movie.

The humor

One of my worries as we started seeing the trailers for Ultron was that the movie would take itself too seriously. Avengers was so great because it was able to be genuinely hilarious, light and fun, while still being well written and emotional when it needed to be. Like a lot of my favorite blockbusters, it’s full of hilarious, quotable lines, and I have a smile on my face for practically the entire film every time I watch it.

You can’t really say that about some other superhero movies. Man of Steel, for example, is such a dreary affair, and never do we really get a sense of the joy that comes with these types of comic book stories. Joss Whedon completely understood that joy with The Avengers. Going into Ultron, one thing we’ve heard is that this movie would be more dark and emotional, and while it’s great that the series is going to mature a bit, if the film takes itself too seriously, I’ll be kind of disappointed.

A more cinematic feel

One small flaw in the first Avengers is that at times it sort of feels like a TV show. It’s plainly obvious that Whedon has his background mostly in TV, and for much of the film shots are framed like they would be on a TV show rather than a movie. Part of that is because it’s the only Marvel movie to be shot in 1.85:1, which is the aspect ratio television shows use. This creates a “box” look, whereas a typical feature film is shot at 2.39:1.

As a result of everything being framed like it’s on television, some of the action doesn’t quite have as big of an impact, and many scenes, like those set on the helicarrier, feel really small in scale, with just one or two characters talking on a small set.

This isn’t a bad thing, and it helps emphasize the dialogue, which is the best thing about the movie. But for the second installment, I’d like to see Whedon up the visual stakes, making us really feel the impact that should come with seeing a giant, big budget feature on the big screen.

Good set pieces 

Similar to that, I want the movie to have some good, creative set pieces, something the first Avengers did pretty well but that not all of the MCU movies can accomplish. Let’s get some interesting action in here that isn’t just the Avengers flying around blowing up bad guys with some sort of blue beam of light in the sky. I want to see something we’ve never seen before in any movie like this. It would be a shame if we left Ultron feeling like what we just saw was just a well made version of stuff we’ve seen a million times before. This is likely Whedon’s last time at the bat with Marvel, and so I hope he goes out with a bang.

The score

One major complaint I’ve had with the Marvel movies has been the inconsistency with the score. I always like when a movie or movie franchise has clear, iconic themes that carry through in each movie, and the MCU doesn’t really have that. Captain America had a theme in The First Avenger, but it was pretty absent in The Winter Soldier. Thor and the Hulk don’t really have themes. Iron Man sort of has one in Iron Man 3, but it’s unclear if that’s going to carry through to Ultron. In terms of non-character themes, there’s the actual Avengers theme in the first movie, and I really hope we hear that again in Ultron. Nothing hammers in an amazing film moment like having a familiar, kickass theme kick in, but we can’t get that if every single film introduces a completely new musical feel.

Make Hawkeye not suck

Let’s be real here: Hawkeye was kind of lame in the first Avengers. He’s mind controlled for the majority of it, meaning he doesn’t even really have the opportunity to be cool until the last battle. Even at that point, I couldn’t help but laugh as Iron Man and Thor are flying around the city smashing bad guys, and Hawkeye is just standing on the ground with his bow and arrow. Practically every single character in the first Avengers has at least one or two memorable lines, but Hawkeye for sure doesn’t. If we’re going to keep him as part of this team, Ultron really needs to prove to us why Hawkeye needs to be a part of that.

A real threat?

I talked in a previous post about how most of the Marvel villains aren’t really that memorable. In addition to that, it’s also a serious problem that barely any of them are actually threatening, and never has a Marvel movie really convinced me that the villain has a serious chance of winning. Sure, a lot of damage is being done in Avengers, but I really never feel the impact of it. It feels more like we’re on a rollercoaster ride with explosions as a backdrop, rather than us actually feeling the dread of all the destruction that’s happening. Never does it even occur to me that the Avengers might lose.

Again, that’s fine for the first movie, which is really all just about having fun. But if the second movie wants to advance this franchise and not just give us more of the same, I’d love for Ultron to give us a villain who is both actually memorable and who posses a real, tangible threat.  Maybe he even kills someone and they stay dead this time?

Don’t get bogged down by setting other things up

Avengers: Age of Ultron exists in a cinematic universe which is becoming extremely massive. Naturally, then, the movie has a whole lot to do for the overall franchise and not just for this 2 1/2 hour period. As we mentioned before, it has to set up new characters, probably reference old events and pay off old storylines, and maybe even set up some of Civil War…but there’s only so much that can be accomplished in one film. I hope that Whedon understands the need to have this be a singular movie that is good by itself, and having all the MCU stuff become fun background rather than a major part of the movie.

Please no love interest for Black Widow 

Can we stop with the thing where every female movie character needs to pair up with one of the male characters? Not that Black Widow has officially paired up with anyone yet, but the movies have certainly flirted with that a lot. Avengers sort of played with a potential romance between her and Hawkeye, and The Winter Solider played with a relationship between her and Steve Rogers.  Can we please let Black Widow be a character who doesn’t need to pair up with a man, and if she does, can it please not be one of the Avengers?

Dynamic between the Avengers

In the first Avengers, a lot of the movie revolved around these people fighting, and the movie questioning whether they’ll ever be able to work together. It’s really entertaining to see them fight and verbally spar, but that all pretty much ends by the last act of the movie when they all come together for the final battle. Going into Ultron, I’m really excited to see the group all working together for the majority of the movie, now functioning as part of a team. I’m pumped about the prospect of seeing these people joke around with each other, have a fun and interesting rapport, and based on some of the clips Marvel has released it looks like we’ll be getting that.

Spider-Man?

So what do we think are the chances of any sort of Spider-Man reference in the movie? Marvel just got the rights to Spider-Man back recently, so they probably wouldn’t have had enough time to get him in there. But how cool would it be to see even just a passing reference to him, or the Daily Bugle office building in the background or something? Of course, there’s always the chance of Spider-Man being the character reveal in the end credits, but I kind of doubt that. That would imply Ultron had no end credits scene as of February when Marvel got the rights back, that the deal with Sony was in the works long enough to make the scene, or that they completely scrapped the existing scene to get Spider-Man in there. I think there’s a realistic probability of him appearing in the Ant-Man credits, but probably not here. But hey, we can dream, right?

And that’s about as much as I can get out right now between my screams of pure hype. Three days left. Let’s do this, guys.

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