Avengers: Age of Ultron, is the 11th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe®, the 2nd big Marvel team-up helmed by beloved nerd auteur Joss Whedon where Earth’s Mightiest Heroes™ must band together, squabble with each other, party together, argue and also save the world from a deadly threat unleashed by themselves. Apparently, The Avengers’ goal was for the world not to need them anymore, but it seems like the world will always need the Avengers as long as the Avengers are around. Which is kind of a metaphor for how this multi-billion dollar franchise of interconnected films has become. 11 films into this series have had their ups (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and downs (Thor: The Dark World) but mostly a lot of it has begun to feel middling (Guardians of the Galaxy). You can really feel the bubble that has been the Marvel superhero films begin to burst, if not strain with this iteration that provides a solid and entertaining time at best, but at worst seems like a 2 & ½ hour teaser for over 9 upcoming films. These films have essentially become their own marketing vehicles. However, there is an impressive spectacle on display here in the ways only a big Hollywood movie can provide, not to mention a fun character playhouse that only a theater-junkie like Whedon can provide when not pulled by the requirements of the ever-insular Marvel movie lore.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier presents the tipping point for Marvel Studios’ labyrinth of interconnected media franchises in the best way possible. This is the first film they’ve produced that is the closest in not being a good superhero film, but a flat out good film PERIOD. Alongside Superman, Captain America is one of the most unfashionable and archaic of all the spandex-clad superheroes that have made their way out of the comics and into movie theaters. In 2014, there’s something bitterly ironic about a living symbol of idealized American might & valor, draped in the stars and stripes of a simpler era. Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger sidestepped such concerns by setting his feature back to his WWII-era pulp-adventure roots in an escapist adventure reminiscent of the Indiana Jones features. However the Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuously growing and changing and a certain superhero team is in need of its old-fashioned veteran patriarch. Now that The Avengers had the genetically-enhanced soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) defrosted on the present side of history, how do creators and filmmakers to confront his dated 20th-century sensibilities to the 21st-century world?