Up for debate: Will Avengers: Age of Ultron live up to hype?

Up for debate: Will Avengers: Age of Ultron live up to hype?

2015 should be an exciting year for movies, and Jakob Bilinski and I will be taking a look at some of the ones that interest us, starting with Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Is it going to live up to the hype? Is it going to be a dud? Hulk smash!

JOE GRACE: OK, so when the Avengers: Age of Ultron teaser trailer came out, I watched it at least three times. I’m sure you’ve seen it multiple times, as well. What were your intitial thoughts the first time you saw the trailer?

JAKOB BILINSKI: Yes. I saw the trailer multiple times. If by multiple you mean I stopped counting around thirty. I watched it an embarrassingly extreme amount of times in the first 24 hours it was online, and then kept watching it multiple times each day after that. My initial thoughts? Geeking the eff out. It’s glorious. In terms of the editing, presentation, music cue, tempo, tone, and overall impact, it’s one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. I mean that honestly, and devoid of hyperbole. It still gives me chills when I watch it. So many moments that scream holyschnikes in this thing. And I love that it’s gone (apparently) much darker than the first film. I feel like the stakes are upped significantly and that we might finally have a Marvel cinematic villain that is a dynamic, charismatic, ruthless adversary for our heroes (something each other film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has sort of struggled with). Seeing it made me sit down and watch every other MCU film in chronological order back-to-back (across a couple days), some of which I hadn’t seen yet. And that haunting cover of that song from Pinocchio. If the sole motivation for Disney buying Marvel was so that Marvel could have the rights to use that song integrated into this trailer, with no other incentive, then that sale was 100% justified. So, yeah, I guess my initial thoughts were it wasn’t too bad. You watched it more than once, so I take it you’re geeking out on some level alongside me here?

GRACE: Oh, all the geeking out. And the haunting use of I Got No Strings from Pinocchio is certainly delightful. I would love to see this used with other Disney songs, as well, such as A Whole New (Bleak) World or Beauty and the Beast (of your Nightmares). I also love seeing new characters from the Marvel Universe brought in. I’m excited for the screen time for Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, as well as whoever Andy (Gollum) Serkis is portraying, supposedly Ulysses Klaw. Andy Serkis makes everything better. He’s like the butter of supporting actors. (Not the Butters of supporting actors, though I suppose that would be OK, too.) As for Ultron, I agree with you that we might finally have the Marvel movie villain we’ve been hoping for. My least favorite part of Guardians of the Galaxy was the main villain Ronan, who I just found to be a horrifically boring and one-dimensional character. So I’m looking forward to Ultron being a far superior villain and having James Spader voice him does not hurt. Let’s go off topic a bit here. Who would you say have been the best Marvel movie villains so far?

BILINSKI: I, too, would love to see more Disney songs used in miserable circumstances. Maybe we could have The Bear Necessities set to a scene involving cannibalism? Or The Circle of Life could even cue up when Thanos is ultimately killed at the end of Infinity War (not really a spoiler, sorry) in slow motion. Or better even still, we could get a retelling of Jack The Ripper and he sings that Hamster Dance song from Robin Hood as he slices people up but good. But I digress. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch – yep, stoked. Serkis getting on board to set up him being the villain for Black Panther ultimately (so it seems) = effing amazing. Also I thought I read that Serkis did the motion capture performance for Hulk when he’s not Bruce Banner? If so, that’s awesome, too. And I would be down for Butters becoming a part of anything. Love me some South Park. And let’s all have a moment of reverence for JAMES F**KING SPADER, please. Love that dude, and his voice gave me chills in that trailer. Excellent casting choice there, Joss Whedon. A+. I didn’t hate Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy (which actually is my favorite Marvel movie, to date). But I agree with what you’re saying and see where you’re coming from. The best Marvel movie villains so far? Hmm, well, like I said I think we haven’t seen the REAL villains yet in this universe (Ultron may take that throne till Thanos drops the mic and reigns supreme). But so far I’ve really been a fan of Loki in The Avengers. He’s charismatic as hell – so much so that he got away with calling Black Widow a “mewling quim” and made it sound eloquent enough that Disney was like, “That sounded so cool we won’t bother to look up what that really means!” I also really dug The Winter Soldier as a villain in Captain America 2. A total badass, and a worthy match for Cap. How about you? Favorite villains? And I’ll divert the topic a bit here, I think eventually we will have to cross the bridge of a major character dying in this franchise. Something that the other characters will really feel, that will have an emotional impact. Who do you think could/should be killed off, if such a plotline comes to fruition?

GRACE: You had me at Jack the Ripper and Hamster Dance. That tune will also be stuck in my head for the rest of the day. So, um, thanks? I also was a fan of Loki, but he’s not a true evil villain. I would consider him Chaotic Neutral rather than Chaotic Evil on the Character Alignment system. Loki just does whatever is best for Loki. Ultron, however, has a chance to be Chaotic Evil. I can’t think of any Marvel movie villains so far that have really impressed me – certainly not any in the X-Men franchise (here’s hoping Apocalypse fills that role) and none of the Spiderman villains have really stood out to me either. Venom fell quite short of expectations. So far Marvel hasn’t come close to coming up with anything nearly as good as Heath Ledger’s portrayal of DC’s Joker. I think it will be and should be Captain America that ends up dying. It can’t be Iron Man or The Hulk because, well, Robert Downey Jr. and The Hulk. Hawkeye and Black Widow aren’t major enough characters, plus both are so human anyway I don’t think it would make as much of an impact. You could make a case for Thor, especially since it would set up the female version of Thor showing up in future movies. But I think Captain is the obvious choice since it’s a role that both would be a major impact and Captain America is more of an idea that easily could be passed on to a new actor/actress should it come to that. This is just one of the many Marvel movies either coming out soon or in the works, including movies about Ant-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and the Inhumans. Are we getting to the point of oversaturation of comic book movies or is it a case of the more, the merrier?

BILINSKI:  You’re welcome on infecting your mindgrapes with the nefarious Hamster Dance. Dee-da-dee— DAMMIT!!! As for Loki being Chaotic Neutral as opposed to Chaotic Evil – yes, I agree. But he was “the” villain for The Avengers, and also for the first Thor, essentially. As for Ultron being Chaotic Evil – yup. And we need that. That’s what we need to see our heroes fighting. And I wasn’t factoring in any villains from the X-Men or Spider-Man films (or even Punisher, etc). I was only considering the ones in the specific Marvel Cinematic Universe that started with Phase 1, with the first Iron Man. But as for Spider-Man – yeah, the ball was dropped hardcore on Venom. In fact, let’s just pretend Spider-Man 3 doesn’t exist. At all. Ah, that’s better. As for Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight – yup. That’s an all-timer, in terms of great performances. I love DC and honestly am probably more biased towards their characters (Batman > everything else). But even with their ambitious slate of films over the next decade or whatever, DC is playing catch up building a house that Marvel has steadily been carefully laying bricks towards for several years (and films) at this point. DC can get there, but not in the same time frame. And they’re rushing it. So while I do love DC, my faith is more in Marvel at this point. They’re leading the pack and paving the way in cinematic superhero storytelling. But Marvel has no holyschnike villain, yet. But I think they will. Soon. Even if it is a CG performance with a solid actor providing the voice, as opposed to Ledger’s owning every frame of his scenes in a direct actor portrayal.

I actually agree with you. Captain America would be the right choice. It would be a message, it would rally the rest of the team, it would have a lasting impact. And yes, someone else can take up the shield. Not gonna be able to kill Hulk. They’ve established him as too indestructible, it would take something crazy to counteract that (but who knows?). Iron Man, well, we are definitely going to lose Robert Downey, Jr. at some point here (contract, etc). My bet is on another actor stepping into some VERY intimidating iron shoes, attempting to fill what they can. Black Widow and Hawkeye – I agree, wouldn’t have as strong an impact. Though those characters are getting more meat as we go along, it seems (Black Widow was a huge part of The Winter Soldier, and she was awesome in it). Thor… I don’t see them killing him, but probably retiring him to rule on Asgard. Which probably could lead to female Thor, yes. Though with them going with Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, they might not double up on the female hero concept so as to not detract from her? Dunno. We shall see. But you’re right. Captain America is an idea, and that is more than Steve Rogers.

And yeah, there are plenty more individual yarns Marvel is beginning to spin, coming up. I’m pretty excited about Black Panther and Dr. Strange. But at this point my ticket is bought for anything they do. Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge risk. And is the #1 highest grossing movie of the year, domestically. And #2 worldwide. And it’s critically adored, at that (a rarity). The #2 highest grossing domestic movie of 2014, btw? Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Audiences are coming in waves to see what Marvel puts out. They own the box office. And they are on a hot streak. I think Avengers 2 is only going to propel them further, and I can’t even fathom the bank that thing is going to rake in. Are we getting to the point of oversaturation of comic book movies? The argument can be made that it’s too much. Far too much. Absolutely. But, no. I don’t think it’s too much, and don’t think it’s oversaturated. But I am a geek, and I love this stuff, and I’m just thrilled that there is SO DAMN MUCH to look forward to here. It’s a pretty great time to be a geek. So I say sit back and enjoy it. The more the merrier, indeed. KEEP THEM COMING.

So you sort of inadvertently lead me into my final question for you. Being as that eventually actors’ contracts will run out with Marvel, and they simply may grow tired of playing their same role over and over (case in point: Hugh Jackman has been Wolverine since 2000… damn… but he owns it). There even was a recent bit of controversy from an interview with Idris Elba and his hating playing his role in the Thor films (and the spoiler he dropped regarding his role in an upcoming Marvel film), and how he hated playing his character and all the costumes and green screen work and he wanted out of his contract and wanted to quit, but can’t… because Marvel locks everyone in for a so-many-pictures deal. (Sidebar: I love Idris Elba… but seriously, shut up… you’re getting to do awesome stuff and PLAY all day, inhabiting an otherworldly character and literally make movie magic, and you’re getting paid handsomely for it, I’m sure…. please…. just stop whining). My question (sorry for the tangent) is, if Marvel continued the torch of the existing characters we’ve grown to know and love across these films so far, and they didn’t want to pass the torch to another iteration of each character (such as a different character would now be Captain America instead of Steve Rogers, or Iron Man instead of Tony Stark, etc), what actors would you cast to fill the shoes of the current Avengers lineup? And yes, I’m aware this is a rather hard question….

GRACE: That is a fantastic and very tough question. I’m going to go with:

  •  Iron Man – Jamie Foxx (has the personality and humor to pull it off)
  • Captain America – Luke Evans (would be a good fit for the role)
  • Hulk – Benedict Cumberbatch (because Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • Thor – Jennifer Lawrence (because Jennifer Lawrence)
  • Hawkeye – Matt Damon (Renner took over Damon’s role in Bourne; let’s make this a trade)
  • Black Widow – Aubrey Plaza (because if Chris Pratt can be a superhero, so can Aubrey)

I’ll shoot the same question back to you and let you wrap this up.

BILINSKI: Crap. I was actually hoping you wouldn’t boomerang and ask me the same question. Because… Yeah. Tough. You picked some interesting choices. I actually can get behind your casting of Jennifer Lawrence as a female Thor. I can totally see that one. Touché, on your replacing Renner with Damon to even the score there. As for Cumberbatch, I haven’t heard any updates (so this could’ve fallen through) but last I heard they were courting him to play Dr. Strange. Which I am totally on board with. So he COULD be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe anyway already. But okay, I’ll take a haphazard stab at this Avengers replacement casting query:

  • Iron Man – This one is almost impossible… Robert Downey, Jr. IS Tony Stark/Iron Man at this point… So, tough to imagine anyone, really. But, I’ll go with Justin Theroux (I think he has the right look and could pull off the needed charisma)
  • Captain America – Antony Starr (huge fan of this dude on the show “Banshee” – and he should be a way bigger star than he is)
  • Hulk – Michael C. Hall (Dexter could totally pull off the perfect blend of crazysmart scientist meets rage-filled monsterbeast)
  • Thor – Jason Momoa (make him blonde, and Khal Drogo from “Game of Thrones” could totally rock this… though, dude is now going to play Aquaman in the DC Universe… but I can totally see this)
  • Hawkeye – Norman Reedus (he’s already doing the archery thing, albeit with a crossbow, on “The Walking Dead” and making it look cool, so why the hell not)
  • Black Widow – Emily Blunt (red hair and a leather outfit – she totally has the right look… as a backup, I also could see Alexandra Daddario working here)

• Joe Grace and Jakob Bilinski have been talking about movies with each other for a long, long time. A ridiculously long time. Learn when new blogs are posted by liking the Facebook page.

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