There are conditionalities that have to be taken into account when creating a film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of them being not to greatly deviate from canon. Another being to lay waste on major cities in as grand a scale as possible. Still another is to find a way for Stan Lee to show up.
Suffice to say, my biases remain with DC Comics, but I got to congratulate Marvel for delivering yet another home run with its latest installment of its Cinematic Universe.
It manages to position the Maximoff twins, Pietro and Wanda, as team players (and comics-wise, as non-mutants). On the other hand, its depiction of The Vision is such that one can expect lawsuits from the Eiji Tsuburaya estate over his similarity to Ultraman (without the cape)
It begins with our team undertaking the grand rescue of the twins (who would, as per canon, become Quicksilver & the Scarlet Witch) from the Sokovian research lab of Hydra’s Baron Von Strucker. It so happens Mr. Monocle Guy also has Loki’s scepter which happens to encase the Mindstone (aka one of the seven components of the Infinity Gauntlet).
Meanwhile, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are looking into upgrades for the base’s J.A.R.V.I.S AI when one of their attempts toward that goal gains its own sentience and becomes Ultron (check out the creepy Pinocchio allusion). As it becomes increasingly aware, it also decides to adapt – then pervert – Tony Stark’s objective of peace for peace’s sake.
The action does not let up, whether it’s the individual members (still) getting off against each other or all of them going up against Ultron and his robot troops. The fight scenes are just as jaw-droppingly awesome as the initial entry of this installment, taking place in Seoul, Korea; an unnamed coastal African city (featuring Iron Man’s fan-favourite Hulkbuster armour once again); and the fictional Eastern European city-state of Sokovia (featuring Nick Fury and a Helicarrier – without a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo)
The comic bits are judiciously thrown in, mainly revolving around Thor’s hammer (as well as one where STAN LEE gets the fanboy’s dream of a hangover after partaking of the Asgardian’s private stock). It is these – along with the scenes at Clint (Hawkeye) Barton’s house, which also serves as the de facto temporary base of the Avengers – which ground and round out the characters, dissecting what makes them tick as a team and as players within. What got me surprised is the growing “Beauty and the Beast” dynamic happening between Black Widow and the Hulk.
The end credits shows the Avengers’s climactic battle with Ultron – lovingly rendered in solid marble…yeah, I get the joke (“Marble” comics – ha ha). A mid-credit scene lays out the groundwork for Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – one where the Infinity Gauntlet shall significantly play.
Excuse me if this took me more than two weeks to finish – had to view it all over after inadvertently falling asleep during the first screening (didn’t have enough time to get a quick one before heading out). On my 2nd try – well, had to skip that climactic fight to catch the Mad Max: Fury Road screening right next door.