DCMarvel What AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON Has In Common With MAN OF STEEL written by Robert Reineke May 4, 2015 (A pair of notes. First, I understand that not everyone was able to see AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON opening weekend. Spoilers are present here so be warned. Second, this essay is my opinion on one aspect of the film and doesn’t necessarily address the overall quality of the film. The opinions of Sean Gerber and other contributors to MMM, may differ.) One of the noticeable things about AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is that it draws a clear and obvious line in the sand by saying that a superhero’s primary job is to protect people. No argument here from me. It goes out of its way to show the heroes saving lives during the climax, evacuating a city, etc. as if in direct response to the “destruction porn” of the climax of MAN OF STEEL. And it pats itself on the back for it with statues of the Avengers over the end credits honoring the heroes like 9/11 first responders. The sentiment is appreciated, but I think that it mistakes the true issue with the end of MAN OF STEEL for the easy sound bite version. That issue is that MAN OF STEEL doesn’t stop to contemplate the consequences at all and instead goes to the sunny ending that ends up being unsatisfying to those who are invested in the story being told. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON may shuffle the status quo of the team makeup at the end, but it also doesn’t stop to ponder the consequences as Tony Stark walks off scot free and quipping as if nothing important happened. It’s an equally sunny ending and it also fails to satisfy the demands of the story. The great hero of the Marvel Universe is Spider-Man and his great theme of “With great power, comes great responsibility” echoes throughout that universe. In Tony Stark’s case in the movies it’s more along the lines of “With great power, comes a little responsibility”. In this case, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON basically says that “With great power, comes no responsibility”. First of all, while I’m in agreement that the destruction of MAN OF STEEL gets excessive and I have issues with the film as a whole, the idea that Superman saves nobody in that film is an inaccurate representation of the film. Oil rig workers, school children, helicopter pilots, and soldiers are all alive due to the specific actions of Superman in that film. When the world is in peril and the government asks Superman to turn himself in, he does. And obviously, he stops the World Engine and ultimately stops, controversially, Zod’s rampage. Even more importantly, Superman did not create Zod. In contrast, Tony Stark creates Ultron, albeit inadvertently. Tony Stark’s past motivates the Twins. Yes, less people die in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON than apparently die in MAN OF STEEL, but the casualties are still in the tens of thousands, the property damage in the billions, there are thousands of homeless refugees, an Eastern European country’s economy is going to be destroyed, etc. A house fire that kills nobody is still a tragedy for the family that lost their home and possessions. None of that is even hinted at as a consequence or responsibility in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and that’s a problem for the film as much as MAN OF STEEL’s sunny ending is. Heck, that’s where the first responder analogy falls apart for The Avengers, or at least for Stark. It’s worth bringing up the opening of MAN OF STEEL with Superman dealing with an exploding oil rig. I’m sure that BP didn’t want the Deepwater Horizon to explode, regrets the loss of life, and regrets the subsequent environmental damage. We don’t celebrate them for cleaning up their own mess but consider that their responsibility. 9/11 first responders didn’t accidentally cause 9/11. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON creates a false analogy for itself and the result is somewhat unsatisfying. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON can’t really argue that it’s unaware of its issues as the creation of The Vision is deliberately framed in a way that recalls the canted angles of James Whale’s Frankenstein movies. Now, like MAN OF STEEL, the consequences may be explored in the immediate follow-up film, in this case CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. You may get away with that on television where the expectation is that you only have to wait a week for the next installment, but movies function as standalone episodes and waiting a year or more between installments doesn’t satisfy those in the present. Especially when you ignore the consequences in the present. In an age when serial storytelling is increasingly the storytelling standard, it’s important to remember one of the lessons from soap operas; People like to see consequence and complication play out for their favorite characters. Especially when the expectation that things tie up neatly and completely is near an all-time low. The idea that you can just tack on any old ending, as long as it’s neat and happy, has never applied and it especially doesn’t apply in this day. Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT Trilogy is a perfect example of what MAN OF STEEL and AVENGERS can learn. BATMAN BEGINS ends with a consideration of what happened and the possibility of “escalation” brought up. THE DARK KNIGHT ends with Batman doing the most heroic thing he can think of in the circumstances, taking responsibility upon himself. The ending of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES considers legacy even as it ends its story. They don’t duck the issues previously raised in the film, nor do they dwell on them for a long time, but they embrace them and use them to point to the future. That’s satisfying. Tony Stark and Superman walking away into the sunshine without even addressing the issues that the film has raised is unsatisfying on a storytelling level. It needlessly simplifies a story that due to its serial nature doesn’t need simplifying. It’s a cop out ending. The schwarma ending of THE AVENGERS was earned and right for the simple tale it was telling. It was completely satisfying in the moment. Ending more complex takes on superhero movies in that simplistic a manner isn’t satisfying. That’s not a light or dark issue, that’s responding to the previous 2 plus hours of your movie in an appropriately nuanced manner. A movie that ends without honestly exploring its consequences, even in a very brief manner, is missing something vital. Saving that exploration until later doesn’t help viewers in the present. You can resolve those issues later, but you need to acknowledge them now. And that’s something that MAN OF STEEL and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON can both learn. What AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON Has In Common With MAN OF STEEL was last modified: February 20th, 2016 by Robert Reineke Related Avengers: Age of UltronMan of Steel 31 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest Robert Reineke previous post Making Mine Marvel AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON Roundtable Review next post The FLASH: “The Trap” Is Set for the Reckoning. You may also like Marvel Heroes Coming To Save & Build... May 23, 2014 It’s Okay To Say: Marvel Is Winning October 31, 2014 Marvel: Groot To Get His Own Comic! March 9, 2015 Book Review: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SPIDER-MAN July 10, 2014 LEGO Bolsters 2015 Video Game Slate With... January 29, 2015 Super Sunday, Indeed – Superheroes All Over... February 8, 2016 Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes Says ‘Hello’... July 28, 2014 Enemies Unite In THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2... February 2, 2014 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 Trailer Really Swings! December 5, 2013 All Sony Wants For Christmas Is A... December 13, 2013 Christopher Faul Robert, have you seen the Batman v Superman trailer released a few weeks ago? If not, I strongly urge you to watch it. According to Zack Snyder, Superman assuming responsibility for all of the destruction and chaos in Metropolis is going to be heavily addressed in this upcoming film. The film will be centered around this plot point, as well as the peoples reaction to such a crazy series of events. I understand your argument of “addressing these issues in the present” and “not waiting until the next installment,” but the entire movie following this addresses those actions and their repercussions. 1 movie of conflict management for 1 movie of destruction. Just thought you would like to know that. This is one of the reasons I am so excited for this movie, it is one of the only modern superhero movies to really touch on that point! TheFlash1984 This maybe true, but a film must always have to stand on it’s own two legs as it’s own solid individual entity. Joss himself claimed to have disliked Empire’s ending as it was an open “Setup the Sequel” ending, so both AoU and Mos are guilty of glossing over the destruction. However, what I will say the Marvel franchises seem to “A-Team” it a little too much. This means a shed load of destruction and damage can be done, then we get a quick shot of people walking away, which means we think more people survived than actually would have, and I think if MoS is getting nitpicked for the thousands that die in a conflict between Gods, then Marvel movies should perhaps be judged for downplaying, and thus, losing the stakes of the battle. Back on point, I agree. I think MoS would have been nice if, yes he was Clark, perhaps even looking over the announcement of the staute we see in BvS only to see protesters and the divided figure he is to become and how he isn’t sure if he has a place in this world or is he more alienated than ever. Adrian Edmondson Nice write up Rob . SeanLM The consequences are definitely glossed over in both. Tone might be a differentiating factor between the two. The MCU (with exceptions) is a bright escapist cartoon world and MoS is so serious that it needs a gray filter to give it the same color saturation as Saving Private Ryan. I guess I’m more forgiving of the former due to its sort of low ambitions while the pretentiousness of the latter gives me a different set of expectations. Still, how is that there’s no international arrest warrant for Stark from the government of Sokovia? I think he might have committed negligent genocide by creating Ultron. Wanda should be on the hook for hexing the Hulk and causing untold destruction to that African city. Does joining the Avengers come with total immunity for crimes? It might be interesting if they lie to the world about where Ultron came from (uh, he was a HYDRA creation!). I said it previously: I don’t really understand Tony Stark’s character anymore. His Randian selfishness in Iron Man 1 and 2 in not sharing his ideas with the world was a sort of noble selflessness that saved lives: “You can’t have my reactor or suits because they’re my property and you’re all idiots.” In Iron Man 3 he learned about creating his own demons and was in a good place as a character. That Tony Stark would not have been so flippant about creating AI, at least not creating it so sloppily. The Tony Stark in AoU is almost like pre-Iron Man 1 Stark where it’s just full speed ahead. I’ll bet money Civil War will have nothing to do with the fallout from Tony’s Ultron fiasco, because there’s no bittersweet aspect to the end other than Black Widow misses Bruce. As for Man of Steel, everything’s been said about that one. Of course, before Superman flies off into the sunshine, he smashes a (Constitutionally permissible) surveillance drone to intimidate a general, and declares that he’s unanswerable to any authority even in his country of citizenship. Slightly different than Stark. I get the feeling that BATMAN v superman was not originally intended to address the fact that Metropolis is now an irradiated crater, covered in millions of tons of rubble, the partially incinerated bodies of tens of thousands of victims, reeking of carrion and ruptured sewer pipes. Let’s not forget the 100,000 new orphans created in Metropolis on that day which will overload social services for decades to come. Sorry, I started rambling. Judging by his previous director commentaries, Snyder thought the action “looked cool.” The script probably only said “Superman and Zod Fight.” After seeing the final product and the reactions, I imagine Goyer thought, “Welp, the fans may have a point. Better include it.” Mike Weaver Good point in the first paragraph. People are more forgiving of Marvel because it is quasi-comedic, while the DC films are more dramatic. While we’re mentioning destruction, anyone want to mention the blatant destruction of property by Batman in the Dark Knight? Addressing the destruction of Metropolis is most definitely retcon. But I will take it. As for Marvel, you know, way back in Iron Man 2, Congress went as far as to call Tony in to testify before them. It was far too powerful a weapon to allow in the hands of a rich and flippant playboy. That storyline has since been glossed over. I think it is a strong possibility that that they WILL return to that. And I expect that Black Panther will be upset at Tony (and Banner) as well. I just wish they had ended AoU with tension between Tony and Cap. This next movie shouldn’t be “civil war” as much as “everyone against Tony Stark”. The problem with Civil war now is that Tony and Cap must have a falling out, fight, then make up and go on to Infinity War. Adrian Edmondson Good points SeanLM I’m thinking there’s going to be some event in the beginning of Civil War like the Stamford Incident in the comics that gets the ball rolling even though starting from the Ultron incident would make more sense. As for property destruction in Dark Knight, he tragically wrecks his own $250,000 Lamborghini. Batman destroys some parked cars, busts through some concrete walls, breaks some glass doors in the mall, wraps that cable around the street lights during the chase scene to flip the truck– probably no more than a million dollars in damage and cleanup to apprehend the worst terrorist in the city’s history. He does some damage to a building that’s under construction. Most of that stuff can be fixed within a few days. Assuming insurance can’t deal with it, I wouldn’t be surprised if an “anonymous donor” pays for the repairs. It’s established in pre-Dark Knight viral stuff that Wayne Enterprises picks up the tab to rebuild the train that Batman and Gordon destroyed. Batman’s entire cultivated image, unlike Superman’s, is one of a violent, scary vigilante who doesn’t care about anything other than hunting his prey. Mike Weaver Good points on Batman Screenphile DC Entertainment movies aren’t more “dramatic” than those from Marvel Studios. None of the movies Marvel has produced have been comedies. Sure, they have humor, but that something they share in common with any good drama. I guess what I am saying is that when you separate humor from drama, things get nihilistic, and the movie becomes an exercise in endurance, not enjoyment. As I am rather fond of saying, Man of Steel was a great alien invasion movie, but an awful Superman one. Dennis Ramirez Bravo! All excellent points. I agree with practically everything you said. It’s also interesting that you point out Snyder’s original intention for the battle of Metropolis. I don’t think he or Goyer ever intended the destruction or the implied loss of life to be an issue. They were simply trying to craft a “cool looking” fight scene. It was supposed to be fan service because the prior Superman movie had been so stale when it came to fighting. I definitely think they were blindsided by the reaction. I also believe they’ll include the fallout in the BvS plot to make up for their initial lack of foresight. Matthew Dickinson I’ve always defended the destruction of Metropolis in MoS, but something always left me feeling uncomfortable, you are right that it was the lack of contemplating the consequences and the abrupt ending that was the problem. Thanks for making me realise this! I think MoS also doesn’t bring to a close its other threads about Clark’s place in the world. While watching AoU I was also thinking of the pointed parallels with MoS, however, while I liked that they made a point of saving civilians my respect was lost in the Hulk vs Hulkbuster set-piece which didn’t just allude to 9/11, it straight up recreated it in that collapsing building. Yes, MoS had things reminiscent of 9/11, which is inevitable given the situation, AoU matched the tragedy almost frame for frame, I thought that was in poor taste. Mike Weaver Excellent points. So good that I am sharing this article (don’t do that often). The “refuge” point is an outstanding one. It only makes one of my major problems (and I had many) with AoU stronger: there should have been more set up for Civil War. I felt (even expected) that the movie should have ended with Cap and Tony on less than friendly terms. ALL OF THE DESTRUCTION throughout the movie is HIS fault. Whedon, in trying to put respond to the fan criticism surrounding the destruction in MoS by REALLY making a point to show them saving the civilians forgot to address the issue of the humanitarian crisis that has been created by the COMPLETE destruction of the European city (and, unlike Metropolis, can’t even be rebuilt). An ending amongst the refugees in the camp with Cap really angry at Tony would have been very strong in my book. But as it is, the set up must be in the next movie, instead of this one. The truth (in fairness to them) is that filmakers are not used to addressing these issues. As mentioned in the article above, Avengers dismissed the destruction of NYC by hanging out and eating gyros. Anthony_T_Caruso Great article, Rob. I completely agree. Sharing as well! Dennis Ramirez Excellent article, Robert. In total agreement with you. Darby_Forever Wow. People who complain about the ending of Man of Steel are a special brand of maniac. WiscoJoe “Metaphysical consolation had been ousted by the deus ex machina.” -Nietzsche Perhaps one way to look at this comparison is to consider that Man of Steel ends with a literal metaphysical consolation, whereas Age of Ultron ends with a literal deus ex machina. T.J. We see Dr. Banner / Hulk assume responsibility (in some way) for the damage he caused by plunging himself (quite literally) into isolation. I am hoping we will see Tony Stark face the consequences of his actions more in Civil War. One of my only nagging questions from AoU was, “Where is the fallout for the guy who helped create Ultron, even if it was under the influence of Witches?” Robert Reineke It’s a fair point on Banner/Hulk. T.J. I think that’s as close as we’re going to get to the Planet Hulk storyline. I think that’s as close as we *need* to get to the Planet Hulk storyline. Gregory Walsh This is the marvel model. They do not deal with consequences in a significant way and they never put their heroes in any significant moral quandary. They aim to entertain and they do a great job of it but walking into a marvel movie expecting more at this point is on the audience. They are what they are. If years from now there is an article where whedon says that part of why he walked away was marvels lack of dealing with consequences, it would not surprise me. He likes dealing with consequences in his work where as marvel is content with its current model of moving onto the next story. But I also think we are starting to see the first cracks in the marvel machine. There is only so many times they can essentially produce the same movie at the story level before enthusiasm starts to wane. I thought they were going to do this in AoU. When the Avengers were fighting over if they should let the people on the rock die to save the rest. Would have really set up civil war while also stepping up the entire MCU for phase 3, adding a level of risk and threat lacking in every one of their movies. that is slowly becoming a real issue for the MCU. This article is a reflection of that growing sentiment. Instead we got the easy cop out and sunny ending. T.J. Greg, I will disagree on one point – I think Winter Soldier is all about consequences and moral quandaries. It’s probably why it’s my favorite MCU film and why I think it’s the best film in the MCU, in my opinion. That said, my one nagging concern is the lack of consequences from AoU, especially for Tony. I think Dr. Banner has accepted the only punishment that you can actually give the Hulk – self-enforced isolation, so that works for me. My consolation is that Civil War may directly deal with Tony’s reckoning for his involvement in Ultron. I also agree that the MCU has to evolve now or there will be diminishing returns in the quality department. I think the key for Marvel in Phase 3 are 2 words that start with “D” – Diversification, and Detachability. Diversification – take on some different stuff. Dr. Strange & Black Panther should be able to check that box off, as well as Thor Ragnarok, especially if it stays the heck away from earth and goes to other realms. Detachability – it’d be nice if these stories had value besides the #ItsAllConnected value. I think that will begin to be addressed with Ant-Man. I can’t imagine Ant-Man will have much impact on the overall story arc of the MCU … and that is more than OK with me. Another encouragement for me in the detachability department is Netflix’s Daredevil. First of all, Daredevil was a grand slam. Second, it has little connection to what’s going on with the Avengers and Thanos … and there is nothing wrong with that. Self-contained value & different characters are going to be what helps the MCU continue to improve and evolve (I hope!). Tim My initial complaint/concern with the whole “cinematic universe” concept was “how are they possibly going to maintain any consistency in the tone and storylines across all these different films?” but not worrying about any of that is turning out to be its greatest strength. You can go from the feel good fun of the first Avengers, into Tony Stark’s inner turmoil in Ironman 3, then to Thor’s Dark World, and then reveal the corruption of the Winter Solider, and when all that darkness gets to be too much, “cut to” a crazy movie with a talking raccoon to lighten things up. The whole thing is one big movie, the individual films are just small scenes in this gigantic unfolding story. It’s the comic book form of serialized, character driven stories + the original form of super heroes in the movies, the Saturday Matinee Serials, but it’s being done on this giant scale with incredible production value, and the sophistication of modern weekly TV Dramas, which is why I guess they have guys like Joss Whedon and Brian Singer over seeing it, because they produce both film and television… it only took me 7 seven years but I’m finally starting to get it It’s a new form of movie entertainment with better results… Good doesn’t need to triumph over Evil in about 2 hours anymore. They don’t have to kill the villains in order to have the story feel complete… because no one really wants these stories to end anyway, and they certainly don’t want to see the villains get killed. They don’t need to worry about the “Hollywood Happy Ending” They can leave the heroes in these unresolved emotional “cliff hangers” …what kind of parallel universe does Wolverine end up in at the end of “Days of Future Past”? I’m sure we’ll find out next time …Don’t worry that Superman isn’t the hero he’s supposed to be yet, his story is just beginning… and Tony Stark has lived long enough as a Hero that he’s starting to become the Villain… how will all end? …tune-in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel …I think it’s pretty damn clever what they’ve done with these movies Adrian Edmondson Good doesn’t need to triumph over Evil in about 2 hours anymore. They don’t have to kill the villains in order to have the story feel complete… because no one really wants these stories to end anyway, and they certainly don’t want to see the villains get killed- If I could upvote several times I would for this comment . People complain that Sups broke Zods neck , yet hardly a wimper for how Obadiah Stane , Whiplash, Red Skull and other villains have been killed off and the Heroes hardly bat an eye or seem fazed . Tim Well “I” certainly miss those characters, and maybe more so the actors who played them. I’d like to think Red Skull is still out there in the 5th dimension somewhere and will be back some time in the future, and this new ongoing type film making/story telling allows for at least the possibility of that to happen. The author here points to The Dark Knight trilogy as the correct approach to telling stories, where all conflict is resolved by the end, and he’s right, but The Dark Knight was also a 3 Act, 7 Hour, open and shut, self contained story, which shows you how Batman begins and also how Batman ends (I personally didn’t want to see Batman end any more than I want to see the villains die though) But so far this Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a Phase 1 that was about 10 hours long, and Phase 2 was another 10 hours long… so who’s to say they aren’t going to address the deaths of Obadiah Stane, and Whiplash in Phase 3? If they are going to start following a traditional 3 Act structure their deaths will probably will come back to haunt Tony Stark like Liam Neeson’s ghost, and family, came back in The Dark Knight Rises, which was the third act of that story. And If DC is now going to start doing the same kind of Cinimatic Universe thing, Man of Steel is only about 2 hours in to that story stock Destruction porn is a staple of just about every action flick from Die Hard to the new Expendables franchise. It’s really nothing new. But I gotta say, implied or expected deaths considering the destruction does not equate with actual deaths. Am I wrong or misremembering that I never saw any civilian actually die in either of these films? I need to watch again, I guess, but I don’t remember any limp, lifeless bodies on the screen besides Pietro, and I doubt he’s dead. As far as Stark, the whole flick is riddled with such an off the cuff attitude, that I can’t see any indication that the writer gave much thought to the consequences, personality, or history of the cinematic Stark. I mean, he’s not only a mad, inhuman scientist, he’s positively un-American here. Tony is an American, isn’t he? I was disgusted by it. Robert Reineke I actually think it might be a healthy attitude if realistic mass destruction for our entertainment may be something of a turnoff these days. It might turn cinema into some interesting new directions. stock But Robert, how would you show the principle of irresistible force vs immovable object? Isn’t that the main thing here? Gods doing battle while we normals scream in helpless terror? What other purpose for these flicks is there? It’s clear that we the people don’t matter. Just run. And we can watch it like they used to watch Ali in the ring. Down Goes Frazier! Down Goes Frazier! Jeff Duarte Great article Rob. Toney B So many good points in this piece. I especially like that you quoted reference that classic Spider-Man line. It Reminds me that what makes these characters in special is that each characters can have can a unique set of ethics and values. For instance; Spider-Man has lines he won’t cross, but Daredevil would might go there and the Punisher does thing that the latter two wouldn’t dare. After all the destruction and death caused directly or indirectly by Stark’s inventions. By now one of the characters should have been opposed or at least conflicted to idea of teaming up with him. Where is the mistrust or frayed relationships? Tristan Jesse Pearson Well written article. Very good points are made. Sam I think with both universes, when it’s all done, we’ll see both movies through different eyes, because right now we can’t help but see both movies as endings, or at least, the story as we know it so far. It’s like with season finales on television shows; how many have ended in a freeze frame with our heroes in an impossible situation? And you know it’s not, but that’s where you get left for 4 month time and again. I guess what I’m wondering is how much of BvS is based on the reaction to MOS? What if the fans hadn’t said dick about the destruction of Metropolis or Superman snapping Zod’s neck? Would we be getting a different movie? Honestly, I think Snyder underestimated the fan’s attachment to the Superman of the Donner/Reeve era, in terms of that Superman’s core beliefs/moral directives. I think Snyder heard the fans saying they wanna see Superman punch someone in the aftermath of Superman Returns, and he delivered, but he sacrificed too much of what we want Superman to be in the process. Anyone notice how much more colorful the BvS trailers have been in comparision to the practically black and white that is MOS? Is that a reaction to the fans almost universal rejection of the coloring choices made in MOS? I always want to believe that they know what they’re doing all along along in hollywood and don’t need us to tell them what they’re “doing wrong”, cause it’s all diliberate. But sometimes I wonder.