It would have been easy for Avengers: Age of Ultron – the sequel to Marvel’s franchise mega-hit Avengers Assemble – to rest on its laurels. Thankfully, Avengers 2.0 improves on its predecessor on many fronts even if it doesn’t fully recapture the magic of the 2012 endeavour.
Whereas it took a little while for Avengers Assemble to get going, the opposite is true for the sequel. We begin with a Bond-esque opening skirmish between our heroes and HYDRA cronies that ends with the recovery of Loki’s scepter and a party to remember. But when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) attempt to use the power of the scepter to jumpstart a peacekeeping program, the inadvertent result is Ultron (James Spader), a highly intelligent robot hell-bent on human extinction. Making matters worse, Ultron joins forces with powerful Maximoff twins Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).
There is a great disparity between the posters and the trailers for Avengers: Age of Ultron.
In the build-up to today’s big reveal Marvel had released a number of bland and lazy character posters featuring each of our principal heroes in a standard hero pose set against a boring backdrop filled with Ultron drones. There’s also a one-sheet with all the Avengers that’s spent far too many hours in Adobe Photoshop:
Thankfully the trailers for Avengers: Age of Ultron have been anything but bland and lazy, and the third and supposedly (but probably not) final clip that was unveiled earlier today is no different.
For as fun and entertaining as the films in Marvel’s cinematic universe have been thus far, one element almost all of them have lacked is a physically imposing and truly memorable villain. To clarify, this is not to say that Loki was underwhelming in Avengers Assemble, only that watching the Hulk dismantle him in 2.3 seconds (awesome as it was) felt just a little too easy.
Where Captain America: The First Avenger was an efficient if slightly underwhelming piece of superhero entertainment, the star-spangled hero’s second solo outing helmed by Community’s Anthony and Joe Russo is an altogether different beast; multi-layered and action-packed, it’s Marvel’s best standalone film yet and easily the best representation of the character on screen thus far.
While Thor returned to Asgard and Tony Stark retreated to his armoury, Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) has been working for S.H.I.E.L.D since the events of New York whilst trying to acclimate to the modern world. When a colleague comes under attack and conspiracy is suspected, Steve goes rogue and teams up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in a bid to expose the corruption, a mission made more difficult when an old friend from his past re-emerges as a formidable adversary – the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
Kicking off with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (2008), the past six years have seen Marvel gradually build to become a blockbusting behemoth, the apex of which was ensemble adventure Avengers Assemble (2012). That success has granted Marvel the leeway to bring even more outlandish projects to the big screen, and in that regard Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is easily their riskiest venture yet. Directed by James Gunn, it’s the first and only ‘Phase Two’ instalment that isn’t a direct sequel to what’s already been established. As is the custom for big releases, the past few days have seen the marketing machine ramp up ahead of today’s big reveal, and now we finally have our first good look at our ‘cosmic Avengers’.
DC’s jewel in the crown Superman marked his return to the silver screen this year with the somewhat divisive Zack Snyder-directed, Christopher Nolan-produced Man of Steel, but next year will be an all-Marvel affair for superhero blockbusters. We were given our first look at ‘Phase Two’ offering Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) last week, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) are two other highly-anticipated entries, but now the first trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) has landed online. Based on the celebrated comic-book arc of the same name, the footage offers a tantalising glimpse of what is an elaborate undertaking.
Much like Tony Stark, Marvel Studios have been tinkering with Iron Man for over five years now, striving to upgrade and improve upon the previous model. In some ways, the success rate of the franchise mirrors Stark’s own cinematic journey. The first Iron Man (2008) was an unexpected hit, delighting cinemagoers whilst sowing the seeds for Marvel’s ‘Phase One’. Iron Man 2 (2010) saw both protag and film succumb to expectation, whilst Avengers Assemble (2012) took the character’s popularity to new heights. Enter Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 (2013) – a fun, action-packed superhero yarn that’s arguably Marvel’s best solo instalment to date.