The Avengers: Age of Ultron
based on characters by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
2015 • 141 minutes • Marvel Studios
A lot of critics—especially those outside of fandom in general and sf in particular—have criticized The Avengers: Age of Ultron for being overstuffed. And that’s true. The crown jewel of Marvel’s Phase Two is stuffed, crammed, and otherwise jam-packed in such a way that, as Captain Cinema told me on our way out of the theater, that it felt like we’d been in that screening room for years. (I can only imagine what the brave souls who endured the twenty-eight hour long While Joss Whedon did succeed in his fanatical desire to make it shorter than The Avengers, but only by sixty seconds. (And that’s not including the extended and alternate endings promised on the DVD.)
But I only think that’s a downside if you’re coming to it from a context that does not value and reward serialization and attention the way that mainstream superhero comics do. Despite DC and Marvel’s intermittent attempts to clean up their universes (behold Marvel’s Ultimates, DC’s All Stars, and this summer’s Convergence and Divergence events at both companies) in order to attract new readers who might otherwise hesitate to leap into a genre that seems like it comes with a lot of homework, that backlog, once you manage to make the initial leap, is actually one of the great delights of comics fandom. (Although you have it to admit, it’s a lot easier with the Internet. I would have never hacked it in pre-Internet fandom, y’all.) As much as Marvel Studios gets deserved flack for the time it spends building the foundation for the next film during the film you’re actually watching, it’s that foundation that makes it great. Not, perhaps, in terms of film (especially standalone films), but in terms of what Marvel Studios is trying to do—it’s trying to recreate great comic book storytelling in a different medium.