We are a few short months away from the release of the crown jewel of Marvel Studios' production slate. The anticipation has begun to grow as we inch towards the May premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron and everyone wants to know what is going to happen to their favorite heroes. The cast and crew are able to talk more freely about the production and Digital Spy managed to get some cool info straight from the source. So let's dig in.
The Avengers are Global
In The Avengers, a majority of the action took place in New York. Well, it was actually filmed mostly in New Mexico, Ohio, and on sound stages. There was a brief scene in Germany, but the movie certainly felt like the team was only protecting America. Marvel has global ambitions and foreign box-office is now just as important as anything. In order to expand the appeal and sense of ownership of the characters, the Age of Ultron filmed in South Korea, South Africa, and Italy, among other places.
Not only should that expand the fanbase, but it will give the movie a more grounded and epic feel. One of the biggest complaints of The Avengers, is that it feels sterile, like it was shot on a brand new television sound stage. Hopefully the on-location shooting gives the movie a more cinematic feel that it deserves.
Avengers are a Team...at First...
It's been a few years since the last movie and all of the characters have gone through a lot of individual struggles and battles, which have all taken their toll in various ways on the characters. Steve Rogers experienced political corruption and ultimately had to dismantle SHIELD in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Tony Stark's home was destroyed and he finally got the life-threatening shrapnel removed from his heart. Thor thinks that his brother has been killed. We know that Civil War is on the way, so the team could be in a lot of different positions to begin the movie. Producer Jeremy Latcham explains how we find the heroes at the beginning of Age of Ultron.
"This movie starts off and the team is together, on a mission, they're working in tandem, and there are new relationships between them. Time has passed, so you pick up right in the middle of an action sequence and start trying to catch up. I think that's fun for an audience, to try and figure out, 'Wait, those two are funny together now, there's something going on with them, maybe there's a little tension over there'. You're showing up at a party when it's already a little bit started."
In the Marvel cinematic universe, we had never seen a team of superheroes come together before The Avengers. In the Age of Ultron, it seems that we will see the first time a super-team is dismantled. However, in order for that to have the proper impact, Whedon will tease the audience with new friendships. So expect to see Banner and Stark working together in the lab...however what will result from their research will be horrifying. These unexpected alliances and twists will not only inform the Age of Ultron, but also the course of Marvel's phase 3 of movies.
Black Widow's Importance to the Avengers
There has been a lot of mystery around Scarlet Johansson's Black Widow and her role in the upcoming sequel. Whedon found a few scenes to show off how dynamic the character is in The Avengers, particularly in the scene she shares with Tom Hiddleston's Loki and her opening escape scene. Well there is a reason why Black Widow blends so seamlessly into Whedon's narrative.
"She has a special place in my heart - there is one scene in each movie that was filmed pretty much unchanged from the first draft, and they're both Natasha scenes. She's just somebody that I feel like I get."
There has also been a lot of speculation that there might be love in the air between two of the Avengers. At the very least a friendship has been forged between her and Banner in Age of Ultron. Whedon explains a little more.
"They're an unlikely pair, but there's something about the two of them that neither can deny."
The cast has been playing coy about this element since filming began, but it could be an interesting aspect to play with. Banner is ultimately a doomed and tragic character, so that might not bode well for the Green Guy.
The Green Guy
Mark Ruffalo was the new guy on campus in The Avengers, since he hadn't starred in a solo Marvel film as Hulk, or in any Marvel film at that point. In interviews before the movie premiered, he seemed a little reticent about his character and how he fit in. However in the second film, Ruffalo has been re-energized and is eager to explore the character even further.
His rejuvenation could be due to his Academy Award nomination, or to the intense motion-capture training and philosophy that he received from industry legend Andy Serkis. Ruffalo now seems ready to explore the character of the Hulk in ways that have never been done on film.
"I feel like we haven't even scratched the surface with Hulk, as far as his character goes. The technology just hasn't completely been available, and I think we've sort of been ignorant about the approach, like, what can we do with the Hulk? Yeah, he's great and it's exciting when he freaks out and smashes, but there's a whole character there from the comics, who can talk and has a personality.
Is it always just rage? I think there's a battle of identity going on between him and Banner, about establishing dominance, and what troubles Hulk in a very primal way is Banner, because he's the only thing that has any control over him. That sets up an interesting dynamic that hasn't been explored yet."
Ruffalo is talking about taking Hulk into territory that has not yet been touched in cinema. Ang Lee explored what it would take to create a Hulk. The Incredible Hulk focused more on Banner's journey to suppress the monster. In the quote, Ruffalo mentions the Hulk that can "talk and has a personality." This characterization has had many interpretations in past and current comics, ranging from the grey Hulk to Planet Hulk. It will be interesting to see how Marvel ends up adapting elements of Hulk's untapped comic storylines into their future adventures. There is a lot of fertile ground in the Hulk's psychology and evolution that has not been fully explored yet.
It isn't clear what Whedon has cooked up for the Hulk in Age of Ultron, but it appears that the Green Goliath is in the center of the mayhem. There have been a few theories about his ultimate fate and most of them are pointing to the stars. We will see how this shapes up.
Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch Hate the Avengers for a Good Reason
Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen will be bringing twin brother and sister, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, to life. These are two long-running members and foes of the Avengers in the comics and it is slowly becoming clear how they will fit into the Age of Ultron. Olsen explains their background and exactly what their beef is with the Avengers.
"The story that Joss put together with these two kids is really sweet and poignant, and you really understand why they would start on this side of the line. It's a great journey that they go on, from being these rough and tumble kids in Eastern Europe who blame the West, and the Avengers for the plight, the power structure of the world that keeps kids like them down. Over the course of it they realize maybe the Avengers are here for good reason."
"Our characters have a lot of anger, especially towards Tony Stark, and we want revenge. We meet Ultron, and he's someone who preaches peace and… believes what we believe, which is that the Avengers create destruction and that Tony Stark's bomb is responsible for killing our parents."
Olsen revealed the key to their animosity. A huge part of Tony Stark's background is that he becomes a superhero out of guilt, created by the destruction caused by his weapons engineering. This will be yet another way that Stark's past will come back to haunt him in the MCU. Geez, that guy needs to stop goofing up... However with Captain America: Civil War around the corner, it looks like he isn't done pissing people off and getting punched in the face.
It is also mentioned that Hawkeye would be the one to extract the twins and introduce them to the Avengers. It will be interesting to watch the uneasy alliance that eventually forms between them and the team. How can the circumstances become so dire that the Avengers will team up with their former enemies? It will be fun to find out. Having a (Stark Industries) bomb kill their parents is a clever way for Marvel to work around the Magneto parentage issue with Fox as well.
What is Thor Up To?
Thor is essentially the Avengers' Superman, so he always plays a pivotal role in the action. Unless he is somehow sidelined. Ultron has already been described as manipulative and he has boasted that he is going to tear the Avengers apart in the trailer. His tactics seem to involve divide and conquer. Chris Hemsworth vaguely explains what Thor is up to in Age of Ultron to Digital Spy.
"The larger threat individually isolates each of us. It's quite a personal kind of threat, and Thor is potentially seeing the bigger picture here - he has a whole other sort of journey for a while, where he kind of goes 'Hang on, this is part of something else, I think'."
The larger picture will be glimpsed in Age of Ultron, but it will surely become clear for Thor in his third film, Ragnarok. When asked if the events of Age of Ultron will effect Thor's solo franchise Hemsworth responded.
"Yeah, definitely... they have to, don't they?" he asked, laughing. "No [I can't give away any hints], but I will say there is no script for the next Thor. So, I have no idea where we're going to end up, but it's pretty big... this one."
The Beginning of Civil War
There have been tensions between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark since Loki began manipulating their minds in The Avengers. There is a complex backstory between them that could be mined. Producer Jeremy Latcham explains how the power structure of the Avengers is set up at the beginning of Age of Ultron.
"SHIELD has fallen apart, so this movie becomes Tony Stark and Steve Rogers trying to put the Avengers together without a parental unit like Nick Fury hovering over them. What you realize is that these are guys who work best with rules, and probably do need some adult supervision. Tony has been paying for everything, designing stuff, building new toys, he's the benefactor of the whole thing. But Steve Rogers is very much in charge of operations and missions, he's the moral compass. But how long can Tony Stark have someone else be in charge?"
Latcham puts an interesting spin on the growing conflict. If Stark is funding and creating everything, he could develop an animosity towards Rogers, who people naturally gravitate towards and want to follow. While Stark has a more grating persona that keeps everyone at arm's length. (Not to mention he has almost ended the world a couple of times.)
It's also an entertaining dichotomy that with all the smarts that Stark has, he will always lack the judgement and foresight of Rogers. So pay close attention to how they slowly build the tension in Stark and show his philosophies to gradually become more militant.
Whedon's "Controlled Improv" System
Comedy has been a huge part of the formula for the success of Marvel films so far. It's hard to imagine their movie's working without Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Pratt's improvised takes. However as the universe grows more complicated and connected, sticking to the script becomes of a greater importance. Fortunately Joss Whedon has a system in place that lets the actors have the space to create a unique performance, while keep the narrative and story on track.
"Joss is such a writer that he'll have ten alternatives written, if there's a joke and he's worried Downey's not gonna like the joke. Downey always comes in with a couple of alternatives, so there's definitely room for interplay, but with a cast this big you want to make sure you stay on point. You don't want to let the scene wander off into something we all find hilarious on the day, and later in the editing room makes you go, 'Arrgh, what are we doing? Sometimes when everyone gets together, they're all so funny that they kind of slip out of character, and start saying stuff that's not quite in line with what their character would say. Joss is really great at moderating that on the day, keeping his eye on the big picture."
That is awesome behind-the-scenes knowledge and also gives some insight into how prolific of a writer Whedon is. So despite the dark tone of the trailers, there will certainly be many moments of levity to look forward to.
The Search for Bucky/Respecting Solo Film's Arcs
One of the questions many people ask in the solo films is "why don't they call the Avengers for help?" In the second Avengers' adventure, many may wonder what happened to the characters' personal problems. In the case of Steve Rogers, does he have to put his search for Bucky on hold? Whedon explains his approach to movie-making on such a large scale and honoring the loose plot threads.
"We have to honor all of that, and also ignore it, because not only can Steve not be busy looking for Bucky in this film, but he shouldn't make any kind of progress on that at all....Some people don't see this, they only want to see the Captain America movies. In comic books, if you do a big crossover event, back in the old days the solo books would just carry on. Now it's sort of like if you buy one, you have to buy them all, and I never want to do that. I don't want to make a movie where you have to have seen the other movies. So it comes up, because we have to respect what they've all been through, but this film is a simultaneous side-bar."
It sounds like that is a really smart approach. As we enter the Marvel's third phase of films, the backstory that viewer's would typically have to imagine, actually exists in earlier movies. However if Marvel wants to sustain its success and not have the MCU crumble under its own weight, each adventure will need to be self-contained films. It has been strongly implied that Whedon won't be returning for the next The Avengers: Infinity War and that the Russo brothers will be taking over the reigns. Hopefully Marvel retains Whedon as a consultant because he clearly can see the big picture.
The Tone of 'Age of Ultron'
A key to Marvel's continued success is attributed to their ability to blend additional genres with their comic book source material. The same diversity in stories that you can find in the pages, is now being translated to the big-screen. Captain America: The Winter Soldier had heavy elements of a political thriller, while Guardians of the Galaxy more accurately classified as a space opera over a superhero movie. Whedon explains what genre elements he initially tried to blend into the Age of Ultron.
"With the first one, I set out to make a war movie. This time I said to Marvel, 'I really want to make more of a science-fiction horror', but then in the first week I was like 'This is clearly a western'. Then it became a war movie again, then oh no, it's a romantic comedy, a 1940s romantic comedy… No, it's Ibsen! No, okay, it's definitely an adventure. It's an action comedy! I suppose if it's gonna get put in a category, it has got some science fiction in it, but for me, it's just everything. And hopefully that doesn't come out as ADD, but as what happens when you put these different people together, you get that kind of weird dissonance with their different worlds and styles, and you hopefully make music out of it, instead of a horrible cacophony."
Whedon may be finding it hard to label the genre of the Age of Ultron, because it is simply too close to see. It's a superhero movie. If one Marvel movie has the right to be a straight forward action-adventure with bright colors and unapologetic special effects, it's the Avengers franchise. Things may change with the Infinity War, but the Avengers is where all the characters come together, which illuminates how individually special they are. It is the perfect franchise to celebrate the medium.
Hopefully these ten points give you a better understanding of the scope of Age of Ultron. With all that has been talked about and seen, very little is known about the movie's third act, so we are still in for some huge surprises. How do you think things will end up by the end of Age of Ultron? What should they do to include the Hulk in other movies? Let us know on the comment boards!
Avengers: Age of Ultron opens on May 1st, 2015.
Source: Point of Geeks