My expectations couldn’t have been lower going into Avengers:Age of Ultron. The last few Marvel comics based movies have been terrible. Guardians of the Galaxy confused pop culture references for having a sense of humor. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was nothing more than a loud two and a half hour commercial for the next Marvel movies.
So I went into the theater dreading that Avengers:Age of Ultron would be another cynical spit in the eye of the stories and characters I’ve invested so much time and money into. What a surprise then to find myself enjoying the hell out of the sequel. Not that it’s perfect, there’s a time wasting romance and a couple gratuitous sexual double entendres that seemed ridiculous for a movie made for kids. Worst off they’ve destroyed my favorite character, the wise cracking womanizing, archer Hawkeye so completely I almost think they only added the character to the roster because they hated him and wanted to publicly humiliate him.
But I am willing to forgive these sins because they got so much right. My biggest complaint with comic book movies has been their makers unwillingness to see the forest for the trees. They’ve been so busy trying to make epic franchises, that the individual movies have felt like nothing but a set-up for the next sequel. Avengers:Age of Ultron has plenty of hints of what is to come, fortunately though it is its own creature with a beginning, middle, and end. It introduces new characters while giving each established character something to do (except for poor Hawkeye who was once a street smart purple masked wearing ex-carnie and now is… ok maybe I’m not willing to forgive them for the way they portrayed him). Instead of feeling like a way station for bigger things like the first Avengers movie did, this felt like a main event. They offer longtime fans so many faithful touches from the comic books that I wondered at times whether people unfamiliar with the source material would be able to follow what was going on.
I enjoyed it so much I have to wonder if I have gotten soft. Had taking nine months off from superhero movies (not counting Birdman) made me less critical? But then I remembered I recently spent thirteen hours watching the great Daredevil TV show on Netflix.
After watching Daredevil I was convinced episodic television was the right way to adapt comic books, rather than movies. It’s a format that is more conducive to the cliffhanger ending that is so central to superhero comic books. With television instead of having to wait months or years, you only have to wait until the next week (or in Daredevil’s case seconds) to see how the hero gets out of whatever bind he found himself in at the end of an episode. Daredevil is lucky to have had some of the best stories in comic history, but when they made a movie with Ben Affleck as the character they got it all wrong. The TV show was wise enough to stay true to those comics’ spirit. This first season is mostly based on Frank Miller’s creations making it even grittier and more violent than what came out of his sick mind decades earlier. There are epic fight scenes and great explorations of what can make a man a hero and alternately what can make a man a villain.
Daredevil and Avengers:Age of Ultron were so good I’m almost allowing myself to get excited to see Ant-man.