It’s not a spoiler to let you know the Avengers save the world in The Age of Ultron. The spectacular six have rescued the planet before and, no doubt, will save it again in future. In superhero movies the globe is always on the eve of destruction.
The original movie, 2012’s The Avengers, saw the team protect the planet from Thor’s evil brother Loki while in Superman II the Man of Steel battles three Kryptonian criminals set to obliterate our orb. A baddie named M tries to wage world war in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and recently the Fantastic Four prevented a giant cosmic entity called Galactus from gobbling up the earth.
“I see a suit of armour around the world,” says Tony Stark in Age of Ultron. “Peace in our time, imagine that.”
The movies get bigger every time out and with thirty more superhero flicks scheduled for the five years—including Deadpool, Doctor Strange and Gambit—the mind reels at the ways villains might endanger our world. It sounds entertaining but haven’t we’ve already been there? Where do you go from the threat of total annihilation?
Diminishing returns in terms of audience reaction, that’s where. We all know The Avengers will pull out all the stops to save the earth. Buildings will crumble, trucks will go airborne and giant cracks will appear where city streets used to be but by the end credits you know everyone will emerge relatively unscathed, with the bad people vanquished and the good guys grinning from ear to ear. Viewers are left with CGI fatigue, but dammit a catastrophe was averted. Again.
But we’ve been there, done that. Why not freshen things up and turn back the hands of the doomsday clock a few minutes to create tension in the form of different kinds of situations? It sounds counter intuitive—bigger is always better, right?— but imagine Captain America going mano a mano with Kim Jong-un or Iron Man shrinking down to the size of a microbe to battle cancer from the inside à la Fantastic Voyage.
The real world is a very complicated place. Every day the news delivers more bad information than all the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles combined. Stories of beheadings, terrorism and all manner of terrible behaviour flood the airwaves aching to be corrected by some sort of superhero. How great would it be to see warrior princess of the Amazons Wonder Woman unleash the Lasso of Truth on the Canadian Senate or weather maven Storm get all medieval on climate change?
An injection of real world issues might not make for big box office, but it certainly would infuse the movies with a sense of unpredictability—just like real life events. Real life is messy and volatile and that’s what keeps it interesting.
I understand one of the reasons we go to movies like The Avengers: Age of Ultron is to see things we’ll never witness in real life, but it’s hard not to agree with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) when he says, “We’re fighting an army of robots and I have a bow and arrow—it makes no sense!” These movies try to dazzle our eyes—and they do!— but bringing them down to earth, literally, might help us engage our brains as well.