By now the entire world has seen the teaser trailer for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. There really is only one word to describe it: awesome. The first movie made over $1.5 billion worldwide. It seems fair to say that $2 billion this time around is a distinct possibility. However, if director Joss Whedon delivers the goods — and all signs point to ‘yes’ — then it begs the question: How can he walk away from a climatic Avengers 3?
Over the past few weeks it’s been rumored that Marvel wants Joe and Anthony Russo to sign on for the 3rd and 4th Avengers movies, but it feels as though everything is building to Avengers 3. Only Marvel knows if that is the case, but I can’t help but feel as though walking away before completing an Avengers trilogy would be a bizarre move on Mr. Whedon’s part.
Directing a movie on as big of a scale as The Avengers must be physically and mentally exhausting. The time away from family and the pressure it puts on the director must be unbearable. However, if Mr. Whedon has set the stage for the superhero movie of all superhero movies to be Avengers 3, then passing on the job would be like the quarterback who leads his team down the field at the end of the big game, only to walk off the field on the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Regardless, for those who were too dazzled by the visuals of the teaser trailer to pay attention to the narration, it appears as though Whedon is going Empire Strikes Back-dark with this installment.
Ultron: “I’m going to show you something beautiful — everyone … screaming for mercy. You want to protect the world, but you don’t want it to change. You’re all puppets tangled in strings. String. But now I’m free. There are no strings on me.”
Then there is this exchange between Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff:
Tony Stark: “It’s the end. The end of the path I started us on.”
Natasha Romanoff: “Nothing last forever.”
Meanwhile, an eerie rendition of “I’ve Got No Strings” from Disney’s Pinocchio plays in the background. (The merger between Marvel and Disney continues to pay off in interesting ways.)
It’s hard to see how Marvel can continue to keep this momentum going. The Black Widow is right: “Nothing lasts forever.” Eventually, Marvel will create a movie that implodes under its own weight. Eventually, all waves crash against the shore. Regardless, when that happens it will be hard not acknowledge that it was one wild ride.
If someone said to you years ago that Marvel Comics was going to methodically lay out a series of movies, building an audience of a core group of characters that would culminate in one big insane summer tent pole film called The Avengers, you would not have believed it. Yet, as of May 4th, 2012 they pulled it off. And not only did they pull it off, but they shattered the mold for what was possible for a superhero franchise.
My sources are giving very early estimates for Marvel’s The Avengers of between $65 million and $67 million for Friday (including $18.7M midnights) based on matinee trends. Not a record. That would bring the worldwide total to $371 million so far… and counting.
How many articles have we seen over the years with some sort of headline that asked, “Is the superhero genre dead?” It seems like a every time there’s a comic property that flops there’s an Entertainment Weekly or Entertainment Weekly knockoff that runs such a story. What the authors fail to understand is that there is plenty of strong source material — it’s up to the studios, screenwriters, actors and directors to pull their end of the bargain. With The Avengers, a seriously large cast and crew (again, across multiple movies) came together in a collaborative effort and created something magical. The movie isn’t flawless, but it’s certainly close. It could have very easily collapsed under its own weight, and the fact that it didn’t says a lot about the people working behind the scenes.
On person who deserves many pats on the back is writer and director Joss Whedon. After hearing about the bizarre health care rant he scripted for Captain America I was worried. Very worried. Whedon wisely cut the scene from the film, and for the most part stayed away from the political soapbox. Luckily, he didn’t shy away from going over each character with a fine-toothed comb early on to really figure out what their motivation was. With hundreds of millions of dollars on the line Joss Whedon came through in the clutch. I’m not sure if he got through the ordeal without an ulcer or two, but if he didn’t Marvel should be paying his medical bills.
So how does one write a movie review and not actually talk about the movie? I just did. There’s not much I need to say. Do you want to see a movie that says, “this product was made by professionals”? Do you want to see something that’s funny, filled with action, and family-friendly? Do you like good, tight writing? Do you want to see a team of actors who all appear to have been on board with the director’s vision and who have given it their best shot to make that vision a reality? If so, go see The Avengers.
In 2009 Robert Downey Jr. was interviewed by the New York Times. When I read it I smiled, because the old phrase, “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality,” seemed to ring true for the good actor:
“I have a really interesting political point of view, and it’s not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can’t go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal. You can’t. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone else, but it was very, very, very educational for me and has informed my proclivities and politics ever since.”
It turns out that one paragraph in a single interview years ago made quite a few waves in the Hollywood community, so much so that Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere tried his hand at character assassination in 2011. I wonder if he’ll do a companion piece, since Joss Whedon wants to insert Democratic talking points into Captain America’s mouth; Mark Ruffalo (i.e., The Hulk) wants to stop oil companies from providing gas and heat to our homes; Samuel L. Jackson (i.e., Nick Fury) admits that the only reason he voted for Barack Obama was because he’s black; and Scarlett Johansson (i.e., Black Widow) hawks Barack Obama clothing and accessories for his re-election campaign. I won’t hold my breath.
Given all this, the universe demands that I write something pro-Robert Downey Jr.
Let us first establish one thing: Liberal Hollywood actors get to be activists. They get to loudly and proudly state their opinions. They get handed megaphones in front of large audiences or microphones off to the side of a fashion show runway. Robert gives a passing reference to rejecting liberalism and he’s attacked. Here’s what an anonymous source told Wells:
“His values are pure Republican values … He’s a serious materialist. He loves the great clothes, the beautiful house, the cool cars. He’s a ‘protect the rich’ guy. Why should the rich have to pay for this or that? The people who have it should keep it, and the people who don’t have it shouldn’t complain.”
Really? So Robert Downey Jr. tells the New York Times that his time spent in prison had a profound impact on his politics, but somehow we’re supposed to believe it’s really about wanting to swim in Olympic-sized pools of gold like Scrooge McDuck? Consider me skeptical.
What’s more likely: that Robert Downey Jr. found out that there are some really bad, really evil people behind bars…or that he just loves designer clothes? What’s more likely: that Robert Downey Jr. learned that allowing someone to suffer the consequences of their actions is often times better than perpetually shielding them from blow back…or that he wants to have a really nice house he can lord over the rest of us?
Robert admitted to the New York Times that he didn’t talk politics too loudly at dinner tables in Hollywood. Can anyone blame him? Even somewhat obscure allusions to a conservative streak gets the guy lambasted by his peers. It would be incredibly dangerous for Hollywood’s “Iron Man,” … someone as “cool” as Downey, to be openly conservative. The kiddies might take to such a message if it was articulated by an actor with a respected resume that runs the gamut. Downey can give a serious performance in an art house flick, he can do dark comedy, or he can do the summer blockbuster. And so, Hollywood must make the message loud and clear: “Great career you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.”
I’m sure that liberals in Hollywood aren’t happy that Iron Man 3 is getting The Tom Clancy treatment, particularly if that includes a script infused with Clancy’s conservatism. And so, I will leave them with one more comment to ponder. During his time directed by Joss Whedon for The Avengers, Downey said this:
“I will never mess with your intent. I will question every day how you plan to get there. But I will never mess with what you’re trying to accomplish.”
That sounds like many conservatives I know. Conservatives are much more inclined to say, “I know that you want to create a better place. However, your policies are naive, they don’t work in the real world and they actually have the opposite effect of your intended goals.” Remember when liberals used to pride themselves on questioning authority? Now it’s up to conservatives and libertarians; the Progressive college students soak up everything they’re told and liberal Hollywood stars blindly follow Barack Obama off a financial cliff.
Anyway, God bless you Robert Downey Jr. You’re one hell of an actor. See you opening night.