Much has been written lately about the recent Marvel Retailer Summit and the unfortunate public relations debacle that followed. As you may know, Marvel had arranged to speak with and listen to leading comic shop retailers following a difficult downturn in their comic sales. The fireworks really started in the subsequent ICV2 interview when Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Print, Sales and Marketing, David Gabriel, summarized the retailer conversations, and the reasons behinds the sales slump in an awkward, clumsy fashion that ignited a plethora of heated conversations.
And then United Airlines’ corporate blunder dominated the headlines so outraged fans and consumers could focus their anger towards that brand instead.
But as the pundits reviewed Marvel’s missteps, there were a few topics missing from these conversations and analyses. Maybe these issues were just pushed into the background, but they are important puzzle pieces necessary to understanding Geek Culture’s retail landscape. And by not focusing on these issues, Geek Culture becomes its own worst enemy and just fights itself.
In fact, on John Suintres’ excellent Word Balloon Podcast, last week’s guest, industry expert Rob Salkowitz, talked about how retailers can often feed a false, or skewed, vision of reality to publishers. And as this vision can ultimately hamstring the longer term success of both retailers and publishers, I think it’s important that these trends also be considered:
Card Stores Shaking Off Comics
Attending last month’s GAMA trade show gave me a unique perspective into one particular group of the stores: retailers who are doing well but have walked away from comics.
At this trade show the focus was on games and gaming. Many card and comic shops are blended entities, where Friday Night Magic: The Gathering events are just as important as Wednesday’s New Comics Day. Of course, at a trade show like this there were many retailers whose personal passions lie in card games, and it’s difficult for them to understand comics. On the other hand, the show also hosted many comic retailers who see the potential in card games.
But there was a big contingent of card stores who have walked away from comics. It’s not that their hearts weren’t in it, it’s that they couldn’t figure out how to keep selling a sufficient amount of comics to their fans.
That’s a shame. They have the platform to make it work, they have an account with the distributor and there’s usually a lot of overlap. But for whatever reason, they chose to stop selling comics.
Diversity May Not Need Comics
A more even-handed headline would be “Diversity Doesn’t Only Need Comics, Per Se.” One of the shifts that we’ve been seeing amongst the best comics retailers is less of a percentage of sales from weekly ‘floppy’ comics and a more diversified merchandise mix. And that’s positive and robust for all parties.
It’s not hard to find a huuuuge fan of a particular character (Batman, Deadpool, Harley Quinn, Green Arrow – you name it) who does not read the comics featuring that character. They can probably recite the character’s adventures in the movies or on TV. They might spend hundreds of dollars in character merchandise. They might be wearing apparel that reflects that character or they might even cosplay the character. I know one college student in particular who has Batgirl images on her dorm room wall but is unlikely to ever read Batgirl’s adventures in comics.
The cold hard fact is that it’s unlikely you’ll ever convert this fan into a comic reader. You can convert her or him into a Geek Culture retailer customer, but not a reader. And that is surmountable for the industry.
YA Wants To Join The Party
Some of the hottest comics aren’t published by Marvel or DC – they’re published by Scholastic’s Graphix imprint and by Raina Telgemeier. And there’s a lot of them. The Young Adult (YA) genre is hot and creating new readers every day.
I stumbled across a prose Black Widow book, Forever Red by Margaret Stohl, at my local library. I’ve always liked the character ever since her reboot in Amazing Spider-Man & Amazing Adventures. (In fact, there’s a Gene Colan-illustrated shower scene that’s seared into every middle-aged comic fanboy’s’ adolescent memory.) And I’m really enjoying the current Black Widow Marvel comic series by Chris Samnee and Mark Waid.
But when I read the book, I soon realized that the entry point for the author, and her readers, was so different than my own. These fans know Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, from the movies. She’s been on screen for half a decade and that version is their heroine. Who needs musty old comics? Who needs floppy monthlies as an onramp? I did, but they certainly don’t.
• • • • •
And that’s the tyranny of it all. So many times the insular industry that is Geek Culture is talking to itself, or even fighting against itself. The experts are knowledgeable and loud, and dominate the conversations in such a way that’s difficult to discern the other voices. It’s tough to hear the lapsed retailers or the comics-character fans who don’t read or the up-and-coming YA crowd that wants to read more. I look forward to when Geek Culture focuses more on pitching bigger tents and focuses less on fighting against itself.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been chugging along for the past eight years. For the most part, almost all of their films are considered hits with the fans. Their most recent offering is up to par for Marvel, pleasing comic and non-comic fans. In fact, there is only one big glaring mark against Marvel – for me at least. Where are my female-led movies?
We are talking eight years of a major blockbuster franchise. In the MCU, there is only one central female character, Black Widow, that has been in it from almost the beginning, and a handful of female supporting characters, like Pepper Potts, Sif and Jane Foster. You can make the argument that Scarlet Witch is now a central figure but she is still very new to the universe.
Before you start yelling at me, yes I know there is a female-led movie on the Marvel schedule. Captain Marvel is set for March 8th, 2019. So almost three years from now. So, eleven years into the MCU, we finally get a female-led movie that fans were asking for four years ago. But even before that, since the moment Scarlett Johannson appeared in Iron Man 2, fans have been asking for her to get a solo film. Or toys (or as I liked to put it, any recognition at all), as in the Black Widow flash mobs in 2015.
Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, has finally gotten the hint. He told Deadline that they are committed to doing a Black Widow movie, after the current slate of films is done. So, maybe early 2020s, if we are lucky.
Traditionally, movie studios like to point to underperforming female-led movies and blame the gender of the character for a bad box office rather than any other issues, like script, direction, plot, editing, set design, general stupidity of the film. Really, who is to blame for Catwoman: Halle Berry or the writers/director/producers? Meanwhile, any high-grossing female-led film is ignored as a happy accident.
What it looks like to me is that Marvel is waiting to see how Wonder Woman does first. BvS might have been horrible, but Gal Gadot’s few minutes on screen really did the character justice. If Wonder Woman can strike gold with a lesser known actress for a troubled DC Cinematic Universe, then things will look brighter for Black Widow. Then on to Ant-Man and Wasp in 2018, to see how fans react to a female character in the title of the film. Finally, if Captain Marvel does well in 2019, I think Black Widow will be greenlit.
I don’t doubt Feige’s sincerity in wanting to do a Black Widow solo film. He has helped mold the character into a rock for the Avengers to lean on. To take her to the next level would be a dream. However, Marvel is traditionally stingy with pay and Scarlett Johannsson has proved her box office worth time and again. She can ask for a larger sum and it is totally justified. With Captain Marvel, they can pick a lesser-known actress and pay her less money for the honor career boost of being in a Marvel film.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us a lot – most of it we didn’t even know we wanted until we had it! (Guardians of the Galaxy, am I right?) Still, fans have been asking from the second movie in for a Black Widow film. We have stuck with you this far Marvel, don’t let us down.
Captain America: Civil War is complicated, and sprawling, and intense, and funny, and dark, and in the end, nobody wins. It has one of the best multi-superhero fight scenes out there, and yet the first half of the movie is held together by a series of quiet and deeply personal moments that develop numerous character arcs without feeling random or forced. Neither side of the fight along which lines are drawn – over the issue of whether to sign the Sokovia Accords, which will hold the Avengers accountable to the United Nations after their actions in saving the world have caused multiple instances of massive civilian casualties – seems entirely right.
Captain America’s stance of not wanting to abdicate personal responsibility for the Avengers’ actions to people “with agendas” is shown to be dangerous when he violently defends his childhood friend and WWII army buddy Bucky (a.k.a. the Winter Soldier) against all comers, after Bucky is accused of having bombed the conference in Vienna where the Accords are to be ratified. On the other hand, Iron Man’s position of signing over accountability to the UN and his inability to ever consider that he’s “in over his head,” as the Spider-Man of the comics crossover observed, result in pretty much all of his friends ending up in prison for trying to stop the movie’s actual villain, Helmut Zemo, from activating an elite death squad that can be mind-controlled like the Winter Soldier. And with the intricacies of so many main characters with their own views on the issue, there’s a lot to unpack and consider.
So are you confused yet? If you haven’t seen the movie, a) go see it; what are you waiting for? It’s worth it! and b) I’m not surprised at the confusion. The cool thing about the modern MCU is also one of its drawbacks – these movies (thirteen and counting, with a lot more to come) have managed to stay believably within one universe and interweave references to each other in a fairly natural manner while still maintaining their individual styles. That keeps each film fresh and interesting, while also ensuring we want to see more of the whole universe.
The downside of this is that eventually, with the ensemble movies in particular, there is a lot to pack in to make the films work, and they are in danger of collapsing under their own weight. It’s a testament to writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo that they got all the moving parts built into this movie to work together like a well-oiled machine instead of dissolving into a messy disaster (did someone say Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice?)
We’ve gotten to a point in the overall MCU story where to fully comprehend the depth of events in Captain America: Civil War, it helps to be familiar with at the very least The Avengers; Captain America: Winter Soldier; and Avengers: Age of Ultron. (It’s best if you’ve seen all the others, too.) What begins in The Avengers – S.H.I.E.L.D. recruiting a bunch of heroes who start out with pretty different viewpoints and struggle to form a cohesive whole – continues in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where we see Steve Rogers/Cap’s resistance to following the government when it strays from his personal values and morality, and his belief in caring for individual people. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, we see the results of Tony Stark/Iron Man’s serious accountability issues in pursuit of what he sees as a better future, when he uses something he doesn’t fully understand to complete an A.I. that is supposed to protect the entire world but then tries to kill everyone instead.
By the end of that movie, there’s a fissure within The Avengers – who were not all that stable to begin with – and Captain America’s belief in personal accountability versus Iron Man’s futurist viewpoint stand in stark (no pun intended) contrast to each other.
Captain America: Civil War builds on this and on events of the previous movies by using the immense destruction in New York City during The Avengers and the destruction of the capital city of Sokovia in Age of Ultron as the backdrop for the opening act, in which yet another Avengers’ attempt to stop criminals ends up causing civilian casualties, when Scarlet Witch, the youngest Avenger, accidentally redirects a bomb blast meant for Steve Rogers into a building and kills several Wakandans on a peace mission (a nod to the accidental hero-caused explosion that killed civilians at the beginning of the comics’ Civil War crossover event). This leads to the Sokovia Accords, which 117 countries intend to sign, and which will make the Avengers accountable to the United Nations. The decision of whether each hero will sign the document or “retire” brings out the core issue around which the plot is built.
Although the movie starts with a bang, the series of quieter moments in the first half establishes the stakes and interpersonal relationships that each hero stands to lose when choosing a side as the plot builds the foundation of the civil war itself; creating a world that is less black and white than the comics crossover. And it almost goes without saying in the MCU, but once again the acting in the Marvel movies is top-notch across the board, and the casting choices for new characters are clear winners. Each of the headliners (Chris Evans/Captain America, Robert Downey Jr./Iron Man, Sebastian Stan/Winter Soldier, Chadwick Boseman/Black Panther, Scarlet Johansson/Black Widow, Anthony Mackie/Falcon, Jeremy Renner/Hawkeye, Elizabeth Olsen/Scarlet Witch, Paul Bettany/Vision, Paul Rudd/Ant-Man, Tom Holland/Spider-Man, and Don Cheadle/War Machine) truly embodies the characters we know from the comics and the previous movies; and brings the emotional heart of the movie to the forefront.
The first of the quiet emotional moments occurs soon after Wanda/Scarlet Witch’s mistake costs civilian lives. As she watches the newscasters vilify her, Steve turns the TV off, and together they accept shared blame for the tragedy, as he tells her that they have to learn to live with the collateral damage of trying to save the world because otherwise, next time they might not be able to save anybody. Their mentor/mentee relationship, and Steve’s recognition of her youth and inexperience in the face of the great power she is trying to wield, are clear. Another scene has Tony giving grant money to MIT students in an effort to assuage his guilt over his mistakes (including the creation of Ultron), when he is confronted in an empty backstage hallway by the mother of a boy who died in the Sovokian tragedy while doing aid work; she blames Tony for his death.
And then we have Steve attending the funeral of Peggy Carter, where he receives an almost beyond-the-grave message from Peggy to stand strong for what he believes in via a eulogy from her niece Sharon Carter (surprise, Steve! The pretty neighbor who was spying on you for S.H.I.E.L.D. in Winter Soldier is actually your first love’s age-appropriate relative!). And the introduction of Black Panther, occurring on either side of the bombing in Vienna, is composed of two deeply personal moments – the first of which shows T’Challa’s desire to be a politic leader who will make his peace-loving father proud, and the second of which flips to his intensity and willingness to take matters into his own hands after his father is killed by the explosion. (T’Challa also acts as an “undecided voter” in the war, in that his agenda is his own, not Cap’s or Iron Man’s; and Black Widow lends some other interesting shades of grey to the ideological debate down the line.)
The bombing sets off a chain reaction of events which results in insanely violent but elegant fights down stairways, on rooftops, and through highway tunnels as first the Bucharest police and then Black Panther try to take down Bucky, as Cap and his more recent sidekick Falcon try to protect him.
On a purely cinematic level, I absolutely adore the way that each superhero’s unique fighting style echoes the comics and looks completely natural on screen, the way Bucky and Cap fight almost as one person when they’re fighting on the same side, and the fun the movie-makers must have had choreographing these and the other hero team-up and civil war scenes. The end result of this fight, though, is everyone being captured and brought in to where Thaddeus Ross (who is now Secretary of State, what whaaaat) is haranguing Tony Stark on the phone about the whole mess. This leads to one of my favorite interactions between actors Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans as Stark tries to get Rogers to sign the Accords so he won’t be prosecuted.
Downey Jr. shows a vulnerable side of Stark that we haven’t seen very often since the first Iron Man, and Evans ability to emote with facial expressions shines as Steve comes close to signing before discovering that Tony has confined Wanda to the Avengers compound. Disappointment and disgust for Tony’s stance are written all over Cap’s face as he makes the final decision not to sign.
But tell me, have we forgotten about Helmut Zemo?
Who? One thing that’s so great about this film is that underneath all of the straightforward politics of Avenger-accountability, and the character moments, there’s also this little mystery growing. In the background of the superhero clashes, Zemo is seen tracking down old Hydra secrets and plotting to get a face-to-face meeting with the Winter Soldier. Once he does, the movie flips into high gear, with action scenes rolling into character introductions resulting in funny asides, and moving back into action.
Despite the intensity and dark elements in this film, it doesn’t lose the trademark heart and humor that runs through the MCU. Vision trying to cook for Wanda to comfort her even though he’s never tasted food; the introduction of Spider-man and his running fight-scene commentary; Ant-Man meeting Captain America (I love other heroes’ reactions to meeting Cap for the first time. I mean, he’s Captain America. I get it.); everything about Hawkeye (can I even encompass how much I love what these movies and Jeremy Renner have done with Hawkeye? Probably not); Cap’s two best friends/sidekicks grumping on each other (tell me there isn’t a little bromance jealousy up in there) – these are the bits that make the heroes seem like real people.
Even in the epic fight scene that has twelve superheroes squaring off against each other, the humor is not lost, and each hero gets to showcase his or her moves and have at least one lighter moment as the battle rages. Every. Single. Thing. About this battle is cool – but hands-down, the stars of the show are Spider-Man, doing his thing for the first time in the MCU proper; and Ant-Man, who literally takes over the scene and has a blast doing it. This is one fight scene I will inevitably rewind and watch twice during any home viewing of the movie (the Guardians of the Galaxy Xandar ship-crash scene is another one).
The aftermath of this fight leads to the final showdown, and for once, I’m not going to spoil things here. Suffice it to say that although hinted at previously, the movie took a turn you might not expect, and that the fallout from the final reveal resulted in an even more personal, we-ain’t-friends-no-more fight than the all-hands-on-deck brawl that came before. (It also brought an epic comic book cover from the crossover to the screen.) And in the end, out of the chaos of the civil war came almost no resolution (with one notable exception), actually less darkness than I expected despite the villain sort-of actually winning this round, and a question as to what the Avengers will look like when next they fill our screens.
I guess we’ll have to wait until May 2018 and 2019 to find out; but in the meantime, this movie is definitely worth the price of admission.
This week we took a little trip to one of our favorite places in the world…
Target to check out the new DC Superhero Girls dolls and the new Black Widow doll (action figure, if you wish) from Marvel. Maddy also explores the choice of geek socks made for women that somehow forgot to include women.
This past weekend I took part in the Black Widow #WeWantWidow flash mob that swept through the world. If you happened to spend the past few days hiding under a really big rock from news sites and Facebook, here are the details about what happened.
This was cosplaying for a cause. Kristin Rielly, of RiellyGeek and formally Geek Girls Network, organized this event as a fun protest to the treatment of Marvel’s Black Widow, in terms of exposure in movies and merchandising. When I asked her the why of doing this event, she stated “After seeing Age of Ulton and Black Widow’s lack of character development (or her abrupt back story scene), and writing several posts for Fashionably Geek about the new Avengers line this and that – almost all missing Black Widow images, I just had enough. And then then to top it all off, Hasbro and Mattel both released action figures of Captain America and Iron Man on Black Widow’s motorcycle in her most badass AoU scene, instead of a Black Widow action figure.”
People from the US, Canada and Australia took part, dressing as Black Widow or in merchandise for the character. I was one of them, participating in the NYC demonstration outside of ReedPop’s Special Edition comicon. At least, that was the plan. The standard rule for most New Yorkers: if you are running late, the subway will make it worse. So I missed out on the big group photo shoot by a few minutes.
However, I lucked out that another late person and a few other Black Widows were out front when I arrived. So I still got my group shot! (I am weirdly proud of the belt buckle that I made. Never underestimate the power of twist ties!)
As I walked the floor of the comicon, some exhibitors remarked to me about the sheer number of Black Widows in attendance. I came to realize that this flash mob was sending a message to the people in the room that we want to see a change. I am so proud that I took part in it, even if I was late. I made a difference in that room.
The truth is that this really applies to all female and minority characters in comics. If DC had done the cinematic universe building first, we probably would have been tweeting We Want Wonder Woman instead. (That outfit would have been harder for me to make though.) I can hope that the industry heard us and saw the aftermath of supporting coverage.
In case you were wondering what to do now, I did ask Kristin how she thought we should continue. Rielly said “Let’s keep talking about it until we can make a difference. Keep sharing the hashtag, keep posting photos online of Black Widow images and cosplay. Maybe Marvel and Disney will see that they really do have a demographic ready for more female superheroines on screen and on the shelves.”
So, it is now in your hands. Go tweet #WeWantWidow. Go tell Marvel, Mattel, Hasbro and any other licenser that you want to see more Black Widow. Or go tell DC that you want to see more female coverage. Go use your voice to make sure that change happens.
As I stared blankly past my blank-canvas-of-a-computer-screen this evening (and yeah, I totally know you’re reading this Saturday morning…), my eyes have rested on my still-mint-in-package Kyle Rayner Action Figure. It’s his post-crab-mask, post-Jim-Lee, pre-New-52 costume. He sits in line with representatives of all the Lantern spectrum – Saint Walker, Atrocitus, Larfleeze, Sinestro, and Indigo. Whoops, never did buy that Star Sapphire figure, did I? Oh well.
There was a time, in what I’d wish was the not-too-distant past (it is, I did the math, ouch), where my toys would not find their final resting place on a half-mantle, still sealed in clamshells. They would be free-air action figures, posed in intricate dioramas, depicting my favorite scenes from books past. And slightly before that time (yes, so, I’m really starting to feel old), these same action figures would sit in a toy chest, ready to do combat on the coffee table, and zip around the basement. No worries, Batman can fly too. He installed rockets in his boots. Which is why there are holes in the heels.
Action figures have come a good long way since the 80s (when I’m personally professing the true boon began). The Transformers – once blocky and spindly in the same breath – are now multiple lines deep, featuring both highly intricate sculpts as well as animated-inspired designs offered in the same shelf-space. And where we comic fans might pray for a chase rogue packed deep in the line of a Batman or Superman series, now we’re getting B, C, and D listers being sold en masse. And where the action figures of yesteryear were either choked with articulation points (G.I. Joe) or confined to four or five (Batman: The Animated Series), now, we have offering from each pole and everything in between. And accessories? What was once a series of mono-color swords or missiles, is now a litany of swapable heads, hands, guns, and pieces of other figures.
And what of those Build-A-Figures? Pure marketing genius. How better to force kids and their grown-up counterparts to part with errant assets for otherwise unwanted figures in a line? Well, pack in that much-needed torso of the Anti-Monitor or Galactus, and suddenly the demand for Batroc the Leaper or G’nort goes through the roof.
If I’m allowed to kvetch for a second though, allow me now to digress. With the mass of plastic übermenches choking the aisles of the local department stores, there still seems to be a few big gaping holes left to plug. As usual, the girls aren’t getting as much attention as the boys. We’ve come a long way from just the pink aisle for the girls – packed tightly with 17 variants of the same white Barbie (sorry, Michael Davis) – but there still seems to be the stigma of corporate focus groups when it comes to complete diversity via toy lines. Look no further than The Avengers movie tie-ins, where Black Widow can’t even seem to negotiate a spot on the damned packaging, let alone get a figure to call her own. Where or how little girls are supposed to get their ass-kicking in, I don’t know. Maybe release a pink Thor and call it a day?
Girl-power aside, I’m also surprised that there’s no push of the ole’ action playset anymore. Back in my day a kid coveted those gargantuan homes for their action figures to pummel one-another on. To be totally fair? I only went over to Kyle’s house (Kyle Gnepper, of Unshaven Comics infamy) because I’d heard he’d had the Technodrome. Bastard never let me see it up close either. Suffice to say, perhaps it’s because of the price point or production woes, but when there’s 19 different Hulkbusters all coming to the collectible shelves near you… why isn’t there a half blown-up Triskelion awaiting the kiddies under the Hanukkah bush? Digression over.
So, what of my titular question? What makes a great action figure? Here’s the truth: imagination. Nothing more. No accessory too detailed, sculpt too perfect, or pitch-perfect point-of-articulation mean a hill of beans without the very life-force of a toy. Toys breed creativity for those willing to cut open their clamshells.
Now, if you’ll excuse me… I need to act out a better ending to Geoff John’s War of Light.
Oh, Avengers: Age of Ultron, how I loved you so! From the moment the pre-movie Ant-Man trailer began to the last second of Whedon-tinted footage befell my eyes, I was a happy camper. Before I roll up my sleeves and dive in to the nitty-gritty details that made the movie for me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout from the rafters that this week’s column is chock full of spoilers. So, consider yourself warned. But I digress. Let the love-in begin!
Remembering Where It All Began.
More than once during Age of Ultron, the lingering ideas of Iron Man permeated the plot line. This attention to detail – taking the theme of Tony’s war-mongering past as the driving force for all that has followed – helped create a sequel born of the cinematic MCU, rather than being plucked directly from the proverbial pulp.
That Pietro and Wanda would stare a Stark explosive in the face for several days of mental anguish, would lead them to their nearly permissible antagonistic actions showed a deft hand in the writer’s room. Pair this with the birth of Ultron himself and you have a wealth of villains to combat without it feeling like a bloated mess. I’m looking at you, Spider-Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man, and any other multi-villain movie menagerie. Here, Tony Stark is the spark for the unfurling events. It’s an organic plotline that pays dividends through believable character interaction. Astonishing, no?
Exploring The Details Of The Under-Players.
In the first Avengers movie, Black Widow and Hawkeye were mostly there to flesh out the cast. Believably placed for the ties to S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha and Clint had their moments, but their placement on the team at large seemed more or less to add a human element to an inhuman team. No, not those Inhumans.
Here in Ultron, our truly human Avengers showcase that it was their humanity that was their superpower all along. Hawkeye the family man and the Black Widow the no-baby-mama helped anchor their gifted counterparts when things got too explody. That we would see Hawkeye leap into battle knowing he leaves a wife and kids behind – because he knows his worth and importance to the team – hit me as a parent right in the feels. As for Natasha revealing a secret shame to Bruce Banner in an effort to prove that her budding feelings for Tony Stark’s best science-bro matched his outer monsterhood with her own perceived faults… well, it was a touching and mature a concept placed in a movie I wouldn’t have pegged as either of those adjectives.
A Master Plan Worthy Of A Mean Child.
Loki, granted the mind-gem by Thanos in an effort to conquer Earth, hatched an invasion pitted against a handful of misguided do-gooders. His machinations included mind-control, sabotage, and ultimately brute force. In contrast, Ultron – very much a child, with more mental capacity and power then he can truly control – opts instead to smash the earth with a big rock. Sure, there’s more to it than that… but really, there isn’t. And it’s a brilliant move. When we first meet him, Ultron seeks to evolve. He sets about his plan not unlike Loki – using mind-control and psychic attack to distract – but when he’s denied his prize, there’s little left to do but start killing. That he was able to create a network of thrusters underneath an entire city in what feel like a few days? Well, I guess that’s what makes him a super-villain.
What I love most about it though, is that the end-game motivations of Ultron end up immature and thuggish when he’s left without the toy he wanted in the first place. We are reminded at the tail-end of the movie that both he and The Vision are very much new to the world. No amount of knowledge can replace wisdom. Again, this is a little detail in a large moving plot that escalates a would-be blockbuster into something that rises above my personal expectations.
And Last, But Not Least… The Promise Of The Future.
When the dust settles, it’s apropo that there’s no schwarma to be had. The Avengers fall into their more natural state. If I might beat this dead horse one last time: the actions presented all felt in line with the characters we’ve seen built in front of us now for the last seven years. Of course Captain America and Black Widow will remain Avengers set to train the first class of new heroes. Tony Stark, tail between his legs, retreats to his vast fortune and his machine shop to ponder where he goes next. Thor returns to his homeland to seek answers, and likely build towards Infinity Wars. Hawkeye gets his well-deserved family time.
And our incredible Hulk? He’ll incredibly sulk for a while, until he’s needed again, I suppose. Given that he turned down the opportunity for a romantic connection in lieu of a martyrs’ life makes sense. He did try to commit suicide only a year or two ago. He’s not ready to move on.
And after a nuanced movie like Age of Ultron? Neither am I. Excelsior indeed.
Of course, we saw Avengers: Age of Ultron on opening weekend and of course you did too — or else why do you watch a comic geek vlog? But in case you didn’t get to it yet, do that soon and be careful watching our video, because you know….SPOILERS!
What we’ve done this week instead of a classic review is to answer some questions our friends asked us after the movie. If you haven’t been reading the comics and or watched all the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s offerings, you might have had these same questions as well. And if you already know everything there is to know about Marvel, maybe you can kindly (very nicely & respectfully because we are only kids & we can’t be expected to pass the 7th grade AND read & see everything in a time span that started before our parents were even born) expand on our points. We also talk about Avengers: Infinity Wars and our favorite MCU ships (#CaptainCarter #ScarletVision) and the one that sank during Ultron (you gotta watch to find out).
First of all, I was lucky because I got to go. I was lucky to hear Joe Quesada introduce the film, not only because he was amusing but he was gracious enough to thank the event planners before he thanked the Hollywood bosses. Trust me, as someone who has worked events for more than 20 years, it’s unusual when someone says “Thank you.” He also thanked all the people who worked on the books, the source material for the movies.
And I was lucky because of the audience. The people in Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Theater on Tuesday were Marvel (and Disney) employees, freelancers, and their plus-ones. It was the kind of audience that cheered the coming attractions (Ant-Man), of course. They cheered the created-by credits. They cheered Stan Lee. From their cheers, I could tell that I picked up all the Easter eggs, thrown in for the fans in the audience by the fans who made the film.
The film. How was it? There may be SPOILERS, depending on how you define the term, although I will try to avoid the big ones.
If you haven’t seen the first Avengers movie, you might have some problems jumping into the plot of this one. If you haven’t seen any of the Iron Man, Thor or Captain America movies, you may miss a few key character developments. And if you didn’t watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week, you missed the set-up.
None of this was a problem for me. I’m going to guess, given the name of this site, that it isn’t a problem for you either.
The plot, as you might surmise from the title, concerns the creation of Ultron, using the Infinity Stone from Loki’s staff (from the first Avengers movie) and Tony Stark’s tech. Ultron runs amok, and the rest of the movie involves our heroes trying to stop him/it. As they do, they first fight and then team-up with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. In the process, many, many places suffer severe damage, including Wakanda.
(During the fight in Wakanda, our heroes must deal with the local police and, later, the military. In both cases, the first faces we see in uniform are white. Given current events, this took me out of the narrative for a beat.)
If I approach this review with my English class lessons, it is difficult to describe. There is no single protagonist, no character who has a transformative story arc. My future husband, Robert Downey, Jr., and the other heroes with their own film franchises (i.e. Captain America and Thor) do very little other than fight and trade quips, once they get past the exposition parts of the dialogue.
Instead, the revealing character moments belong to the Hulk, to Hawkeye, and the Black Widow. If anything is going to rile up the fanboys, it is the changes the movie makes to Hawkeye. Since I haven’t followed the character in the comics (although I’ve enjoyed a bunch of the new version), I wasn’t offended. I think it works for the character in the movie. It explains a lot about his relationship with Black Widow.
Here’s my favorite thing about the version of the Black Widow we get in these movies, a part of her character I credit to Joss Whedon (based on Buffy and Firefly): she not only holds her own with the male characters, but she has relationships with them that are collegial, not romantic. She is, first and foremost, a friend and an ally. While there seems to be some suggestion that she and Bruce Banner might click, even that possibility comes from the trust and respect they have for each other as teammates, not hot bodies.
Ultimately, The Avengers: Age of Ultron suffers from the fate of most middle films in a trilogy. There can’t be a real resolution because then there would be no need for the third movie. Still, there are a lot of pretty people doing a lot of pretty spectacular things, with plenty of explosions and lots and lots of fight scenes in exotic scenery.
Go. You’ll have a good time. Just don’t try to write an English theme about it.
Last week, we went to The Marvel Experience during its stop in San Diego.Taking place in seven large domes, visitors become S.H.I.E.L.D recruits who undergo training in order to fight alongside the Avengers against Hydra in a final showdown. It reminded us of a Marvel themed amusement park, but is it worth the ticket price (ranging from $24.50 to $34.50) when it comes your city?Watch our review to find out.