Warning: this article contains spoilers for the Age Of Ultron comics.
Marvel caused a mixture of excitement and consternation over the weekend when it revealed that the next Avengers film will be titled Avengers: Age Of Ultron, thus sharing its subtitle with the recent comic book crossover event. Fan reaction has ranged from enthusiastic noises and vows to pick up the Age Of Ultron collected edition when it comes out in a few months, to angry noises and vows to boycott the new film.
In reality, of course, both of these are overreactions. Joss Whedon’s film is unlikely to bear much or any resemblance to Brian Bendis’ comics, for the simple reason that it can’t. So before you go out and pre-order the hardcover edition or rip up your Merry Marvel Marching Society membership card, here are five reasons why, aside from the choice of villain and a handful of shared characters, Marvel’s Avengers 2 will be a very different beast to the Age Of Ultron comics…
1. Half of the characters don’t belong to Marvel
Wolverine, Sue Storm and Spider-Man all play crucial roles in the Age Of Ultron story. But with Wolverine and Sue belonging to Fox, and Spider-Man still nestled in the warm bosom of Sony, you can bet they won’t be coming out to play – particularly given the current acrimony between Marvel and Fox over the use of Quicksilver in both Avengers 2 and X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
2. Most of the other characters haven’t been introduced yet
Putting aside for a moment the fact that Age Of Ultron relies heavily on the idea that Ultron has been plaguing the Avengers for decades by the beginning of the story, many of the story’s protagonists are also yet to make an appearance in the Marvel movie universe: Luke Cage, Vision, She-Hulk and, most importantly of all, Dr Henry Pym. Pym is the nexus point around which the entire story revolves, and the few high points of Age Of Ultron stem from an emotional investment in his character – one which will require more than his share of 100 minutes of screen time.
3. It’s not a good second Avengers movie
The Avengers (or Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, if you’re unable to distinguish between Robert Downey Jr and Patrick Macnee) was about bringing together a disparate group of superheroes and forcing them to work as a team; it’s only in the film’s final act that we got to see the Avengers in action. Certainly a sequel should test the team’s resolve – perhaps by having heart-and-soul Tony Stark create the titular artificial intelligence himself? – but Age Of Ultron shows a team ripped apart at the seams. Thor is dead from the outset, while Cap and Tony are broken men. Even if, say, Cap and Black Widow took the place of Wolverine and Sue (there are many reasons why this wouldn’t work, story-wise), it’s just not a team story; it’s the story of a few isolated characters trying to save an already-decimated world, and as such would be a wholly inappropriate follow-up to The Avengers.
4. Most of Age Of Ultron didn’t happen
One of the best things about Marvel’s movie universe has been watching it build, with the very real sense that all of these films are set in a shared world. After five years (and counting) it’s a world and a cast of characters to which we’ve become rather attached. It is unfortunate, then, that nine of Age Of Ultron’s ten issues are spent in timelines that, by the end of the story, are rendered null and void.
Age Of Ultron’s reset switch is played more cleverly than some I could mention, and no doubt there will be real consequences for some of the characters further down the line, but it still is ultimately a reset switch. This isn’t quite so bad in the comics universe, where any consequences can be explored fully, but as a filmic device it’s practically suicidal, leaving the audience thinking, “Well what was the point of that, then?”
5. Marvel doesn’t release adaptations
Granted, this could change following next year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but Marvel’s cinematic outings have at best only ever been loosely inspired by comic book story arcs. The closest we’ve come so far to an adaptation is Iron Man 3, which contained a number of elements from the Extremis arc of comics, but at their core the two stories were markedly different tales. More to the point, you don’t hire a writer and director as talented as Joss Whedon, fling a handful of comics across the table at him and bark “Make this” – he’ll be bringing his own ideas to the table, and we’re excited to see what they are.
So if you weren’t impressed with the Age Of Ultron comics, don’t panic. And if you haven’t read them but would still like to, then by all means do; although the series is flawed, there are some nice character moments and some interesting questions raised. But bear in mind that, when the Avengers finally face off against Ultron in 2015, it’s highly likely to be something clever, exciting – and entirely unlike anything the comics have already done. Not least because Joss Whedon has basically said that the only thing of note he’s taking from the comic itself is the title…
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