Ultron Rocks!: The Avengers Shoot To Thrill Yet Again!

No strings attached… No spoilers neither!

Ultron-up

“I just pay for everything and design everything, make everyone look cooler…” – Tony Stark. 

Avengers, reassemble! 

You can’t escape it – it’s too big; you can’t deny it – it’s too mega; Avengers: Age of Ultron is the first genuine smash hit of the year. After avoiding some lacklustre releases so far this year, it is a pleasure – and a welcome relief – to reassure you that this sequel is a triumph! This penultimate instalment in Phase 2 of the MCU certainly has everything you could possibly want from a Hollywood juggernaut; thrilling comicbook-style action: check! Groundbreaking effects: check! Fictitious Eastern European countries: …er, check. Dodgy Eastern European accents: ho hum, ‘fraid so… 

Ultron was one of the classic villains from the original comics, and his menacing appearance here is truly unforgettable. Admittedly, there were doubts in this camp at the thought of James Spader providing the voice of what is (here, at least) Tony Stark’s creation. From the very first moment you hear it (trust me, you won’t forget it!) this creepy chrome-mech AI makes for a particularly distinctive villain: sorta like a Terminator exoskeleton with unnerving charisma – a dastardly droid to savour…

With all the premise-setting and character-intros sorted three years ago, this outing commences immediately with a heavy-duty action sequence. Hey, it’s really cool to see the gang again; as well as some welcome additions to the ranks, some old friends pop up along the way.

As for superhero-maestro Joss Whedon, it comes as no surprise that Age of Ultron will be his last Marvel epic. After juggling the stories of about a dozen supes and crafting some of the most extensive delirious and delightful set-pieces, anyone would be left mentally and physically drained!  

“I’m done. I’ve made ensemble movies exclusively. And this one was harder, by far, than all of the others combined.” Okay, did it top the last one? “It’s a different story, it’s not bigger; it is, in fact, one minute shorter. A personal accomplishment.” 

thor-hammermjolnir

“I am Thor! Son of Odin! As long as I have breath in my breast I… I‘m running out of things to say!” – Thor.

What set The Avengers (2012) apart was its deft handling of fun moments amid the heavy-duty costumed clobbering action, particularly Stark’s cache of wisecracks. Although he has significantly fewer memorable one-liners, this time it’s Thor who gets his fair share of magic comedy moments. Having already enjoyed the instant classic party scene with Thor’s anxious expression – priceless – as Cap America manages to dislodge Mjolnir “a tad,” there are, thankfully, countless other entertaining merry morsels amid the mayhem.

You could argue that this 2015 model is just a copy of the 2012 classic; expect to see plenty other heroes plucked from Marvel’s illustrious vault as this genre expands further over the next few years, but don’t expect to find much character development therein…

The effects have reached such a slick level that the action sequences get so multi-layered and convoluted that they can just wash over you. Such is the modern role of the “actor”: go through the required motions and have some bizarre concepts digitally added/enhanced later. More than ever, Hulk’s actions – even his facial contortions – are more intricate this time and-

hold on: how does Hulk even show up against a green screen?…(!)

Vision-Paul-Bettany-Poster-Avengers-2-Age-of-Ultron

“I beg your pardon, I am a synthozoid, not a robot! As such, I am a perfect meld of computer micro-circuitry and living, synthetic flesh. In all ways, I am a fully functional man!” – Vision.  

So, having waited only a measly thirty-five years to see my favourite Avenger on the big screen, did Avengers: Age of Ultron deliver? Well, from his fantastic introductory scene, Paul Bettany is striking as the Vision. It’s odd to see a purple synthezoid, considering how he’s always been depicted in a yellow and green costume. Yet the most curious aspect of this big screen realisation of Vision is the fact that he has… pupils in his eyes. Maybe Bettany is adverse to wearing contacts? Most curious… 

Did we really have to see Black Widow get the hots for Bruce Banner? The only love interest in the Avengers Universe that matters is the bond between Vision and Scarlet Witch. Both appear in this sequel, but their intriguing characters have little opportunity to evolve here – literally, blink and you’ll miss the scene they share together while droids are eliminated and a city crumbles around them…

Seriously, for such an integral member of the team, it’s a travesty that Vision doesn’t get much to say or do! The sheer wonder of this character lies in his ability to lower his density and mass until he is lighter than air. Sure, we see him fly, and fire energy beams through that jewel embedded in his forehead, but where is his trademark trick of flying through walls or disappearing through ceilings with that “almost imperceptible crackle” as so lovingly told in the comics? Opportunity (sorely) missed, methinks…

But the most nagging “problem” with this mighty blockbuster has to be: how can The Avengers: Infinity Wars (Parts 1 and 2 expected in May 2018 and May 2019 respectively) possibly top this?!

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a blast! It’s a humdinger! And – ha ha, yeah – it’s a MARVEL!

Ultron-Fan-Art-Matt-Broox

“I was designed to save the world. People would look to the sky and see hope… I’ll take that from them first!” – Ultron.  

Groovy, but it’s only fair that the lady should have the last laugh

Black-Widow-Ultron

“You’d be surprised at how un-macho male actors are. All of us are extremely emotionally delicate, regardless of gender. Once you put men in tights, it’s a great equaliser” – Scarlett Johansson. 

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Cheers!

Blurred Vision: Where Is The Android Avenger?!

Then, silently, effortlessly… like some great, vengeful bird of prey… he swoops into the moonless, cloud-draped sky. Behold… the Vision! 

ultron creates vision

“What difference if I have the same brain waves? I AM UNIQUE! I am THE VISION…! And thus… I am content” – The Vision.  

Another month, another Avengers trailer… but still no sign of him. Unfortunately, this veteran comic book afficionado has yet to see that member of the Avengers who drew his attention to the title all those years ago! Naturally, when the first Avengers movie came in 2012, it was assumed that the amazing android known as The Vision would get his big screen debut there and then, but… nah. 

The latest trailer turned out to be quite a letdown; no Vision, and neither Maximoff siblings: Scarlet Witch or Quicksilver for that matter. Incidentally, there were hardly any shots of Ultron himself; worryingly, there was emphasis on a Hulk vs. Iron Man face-off which, quite frankly, is the last thing my tired retinas want to absorb right now. There is, therefore – unsurprisingly – a distinct lack of excitement from this corner of the blogosphere…

With just three months until Age of Ultron is released, there is only conceptual art of the android Avenger to whet my appetite, and this is made more frustrating by Breaking News that the Vision will have an extended role in the cinematic universe – it now “seems likely” that the Vision will appear again in Captain America: Civil War (June 2016)

How ironic: we are unable to see The Vision now!

paul bettany vision header

“He has the ability to change his density and that’s awesome… Vision is able to do something otherworldly and it’s kind of great. And he’s discovering it all as he goes along” – Paul Bettany. 

As a highly advanced synthetic being – even he describes himself as “a thing of plastoid flesh – synthetic blood” – the Vision can alter his molecular density to not only fly, but pass through solid walls and floors; as an eight year old, that was the coolest thing you could possibly see, and is probably the sole reason why he is so well-respected. In addition, he can shoot energy beams (from the jewel encrusted in his forehead). Astoundingly, despite being artificial, he had taken Scarlet Witch as his wife. Thus, his back-story had acquired tremendous depth and significance.

Having provided the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Iron Man films (and the first Avengers movie of course), it does not sound so surprising that British actor Paul Bettany was cast as The Vision. Although quite understandably reticent to reveal too much about his upcoming character, Bettany did explain that having only recorded lines, he’d never actually watched any of the Marvel movies; as preparation for the role, he sat through all of them. Just how can anyone “prepare” to portray such an enigmatic figure?

Apart from alluding to the extravagance of the sets: “we were in a set that felt like a town,” it is most curious that we actually know so little about his onscreen persona. Come on! The waiting and anticipation is anxious enough as it is… We’ve barely been given any insight into his costume, what and how much action he will deliver, or even what his dialogue will be like. Heck, what will he sound like?! 

And you know, that release date fast approaches… 

Vision-and-Ultron

vision (1)

“No… no! It’s some sort of unearthly inhuman vision!” – Janet Pym. 

As new intriguing Avengers news filters through, it does appear slightly annoying that The Vision is referred to as the team’s newest member! This distinctive, green-skinned character was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema, making his debut in Avengers #57 (1968). Originally constructed by Ultron as a villainous machine programmed to destroy the Avengers, the Vision betrayed his master and sided with the superhero team instead. At one time, the Vision became leader of the Avengers; it would later be revealed that the Vision’s body was the remains of the original Human Torch. As for the odd name, Ant-Man’s girlfriend unwittingly provided that in one of the series’ more memorable speech bubbles…

Out of all the mind-blowing characters to have graced the Marvel Comics Universe, The Vision must surely count as one of the most extraordinary. Reading some Avengers comics, my attention was always drawn towards the more bizarre characters like Ant-Man, The Beast, even Thor if you will, and of course, The Vision. So, “ordinary dudes” like Captain America and Iron Man were never really going to appeal, and yet, right now, they have both dominated the Big Screen in their own separate highly successful series’, plus had hefty roles in the 2012 movie together.

Okay, so the Vision hasn’t made an appearance in the first movie and neither trailer for the second thus far. Still, no reason to feel upset…

…or is there?

vision5

Avengers: Age of Ultron will be released 24 April in the UK and 1 May in the US. 

Make Mine Marvel!

 

Posted: 11 April 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: everything a movie blockbuster should be
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: everything a movie blockbuster should be

“Marvel was pioneering new methods of comics storytelling and characterization, addressing more serious issues and in the process keeping and attracting readers in their teens and beyond” – Peter Sanderson.

Having watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier the other night which, in this case, thoroughly deserves the overused tag: “awesome,” the whole phenomenon of comicbook movies has proved its worth, and looks set to be the most bankable genre of all time. A tremendous amalgam of superhero action and the twists and intrigue of a political thriller, The Winter Soldier showcases all that should be big and spectacular about the modern blockbuster.  

It cannot go unmentioned that Marvel comicbooks greatly inpiring my own writing. The standard of scripts was engrossing. Even now, skip through a certain classic and the descriptions and dialogue still look superbly crafted.

The Avengers movie (2012) not only invigorated the Marvel franchise, it practically blew every other blockbuster out of the park. Having grossed $623.4 million in the US and $1.5 billion worldwide, it has become the third highest-grossing movie of all time. Only had one Avengers comic, and that was just to get scenes with The Vision (my personal fave Avenger) the “synthozoid” who can alter his own density to walk through walls, and spoke some of the more poignant dialogue of any comicbook.

Stan Lee: Creator of the best comics
Stan Lee: Creator of the best comics

“You know, I guess one person can make a difference. Enough said” – Stan Lee.

The one aspect which Bradscribe loves about the Marvel movies is the numerous cameos by Stan Lee, the mastermind behind Marvel Comics. His best appearance must surely be in Hulk (2003) in which he appears as a security guard talking with a colleague played by Lou Ferrigno, who played the green giant in the original TV series; if only the rest of this dull movie had been as good as this charming moment…

Back in 1980/1981, the heyday of my avid comic accumulation period, whenever given the opportunity to peruse the latest copies on the newsstands, there was a tendency to select a different title every time; if the cover carried the epithet: “Stan Lee Presents” it was sure to be a winner.

It is estimated that more than 8,000 characters exist within the Marvel Universe alone. Thus, there is an unlimited trove of possibilities for Marvel Studios to dominate the multiplexes for the foreseeable future. An enlightening prospect considering that Marvel had filed for bankruptcy in 1994! Moreover, when Disney snapped up Marvel Entertainment in 2010, the former’s stock price tumbled; Sony Pictures owned the film rights for Spider-Man while Fox controlled the X-Men. When a big-budget production of Captain America was mooted, it seemed nobody believed that the success of Iron Man could be repeated…

The original X-Men stories were reprinted from 1986 onwards: my best homework!
The original X-Men stories were reprinted from 1986 onwards: my best homework!

..Stan Lee had this huge breakthrough of two-dimensional characters. So, they dress up in costumes and do good, but they’ve got a bad heart. Or a bad leg. I actually did think for a long while that having a bad leg was an actual character trait” – Alan Moore.  

The comicbook which excited me the most was The Uncanny X-Men. During 1987/1988, a friend’s overflowing comic collection spurred the second wave of my comix-fix. Classic X-Men (which began in 1986)reprinted the hard-to-obtain earlier editions from the 70s. In addition to Chris Claremont’s writing, brilliantly realised by John Byrne’s artwork, it was amazing to learn the frustrations and complications suffered by mutantkind. X2 (2003) remains my personal favourite Marvel movie, perhaps coming closest to transferring the tight script and catchy characterization from comic pages to the big screen.

Like Iron Man and the Hulk, Thor was a co-creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Just a few issues of The Mighty Thor comic inspired me to peruse Norse mythology, and expand the scope for creating my own historical fiction. Even at such a tender age, the “peculiar” way in which the Thunder God spoke enthralled me.

When news of a major movie production was finally confirmed, this fan became anxious. How would they treat the Thor-talk?! The result (2011) was agreeable; appreciated the choice of director and the presence of Anthony Hopkins as Odin, but as usual, any gravitas it could have achieved was submerged under a deluge of frenetic fights, CGI tomfoolery and… Thor just didn’t sound right.   

Never mind, Captain America is turning out to be a major franchise; who knows, it might be big and cool enough to entice kids off computer games and back to comicbooks!