Daredevil, Avengers: Age of Ultron – Run-Up

This piece has partly appeared in the Mumbai Mirror. It was meant to be a review of Daredevil, along with a run-up to Avengers: Age of Ultron and then a review of Age of Ultron.


Netflix and Marvel last week put out 13 episodes of the re-imagined Daredevil, all at one go, which I managed to binge-watch over two weekends.

Growing up, Daredevil was always a fun read. Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer with heightened senses and fights crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. Even in those days, it was dark, simply because Matt Murdock isn’t your typical superhero like Thor or one of the X-Men. Matt fights at street level, which makes him much more believable than an Iron Man or Ant-Man and it is this realism that is captured so well in the Netflix show.


The new Daredevil series starring Charlie Cox, set in current times, just after the destruction of New York in the last Avengers film, is dark and gritty, Nolan Batmanish, making Arrow and Flash look like candy floss and Gotham, a wannabe noir show.


While the first Daredevil episode is good, setting the tone and the mood, it is the second that hooks you completely…the five-minute fight sequence in a corridor, just before the end of the episode, a single unedited choreographed sequence, will take your breath away.


With Daredevil, Marvel seems to have finally got the superhero TV show universe right, a space it had ceded for some time to the DC shows, Arrow, Flash and Gotham. The Agents of SHIELD spin-off, Agent Carter was nice, but did not set my iPad on fire. And with the Marvel-Netflix plans for Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage likely to pan out, we will also get a Defenders miniseries in the next couple of years.



Avengers: Age of Ultron

Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) took shape with the first Iron Man film in 2008, it has been an incredible ride. Phase I introduced several characters – Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk along with Black Widow and Nick Fury and culminated in the Avengers film in 2012, which saw large-scale destruction of New York when the Chitauri descended through a worm-hole opened by Loki. Then came Phase II with Iron Man 3 and Thor: Dark World followed by Captain America: The Winter that saw the collapse of SHIELD. The culmination is Avengers: Age of Ultron.

From a superhero perspective, the release of this movie is an event that fans are waiting for with bated breath… apart from the fact that the entire Avengers team is present in the film (including Hawkeye), there are new characters (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch), a villain (Ultron) who cannot be defeated and Vision.


The Avengers, consisting of Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America were brought together by Nick Fury as part of a SHIELD initiative when it was necessary to defeat Loki after he stole the Tesseract in the early part of the first Avengers film.


Ultron in the original comic book series is an intelligent robot made by Hank Pym (the creator of Ant-Man) who takes over the world by constructing and replicating thousands of destructive robots. There is nothing that the Avengers (including Spiderman), the X-men and the Fantastic Four can do to fight Ultron, and eventually Wolverine (X-men) and Susan Storm (Fantastic Four) go back in time to stop Hank Pym from developing Ultron. They succeed without having to kill Hank and that is how Ultron is eventually defeated.


In the past when Marvel was a small company, it sold the rights to many characters to other studios: Spiderman went to Sony and X-men and the Fantastic Four to Fox. It was only after Marvel was acquired by Disney that the MCU was birthed. The Hulk was re-acquired from Universal but the other characters cannot be used by Marvel in their movies (Spiderman rights have just been re-acquired in a joint deal with Sony).


This means that Wolverine and Susan Storm cannot go back in time to save the Earth from Ultron. Since Ant-Man is to come out only later this year, Ultron in the new Avengers film is a robot created by Tony Stark (Iron Man) in an attempt to fashion a super-security system to protect the Earth from extra-terrestrial villains. Ultron, voiced by James Spader (Boston Legal and the Blacklist), decides to take over the world.


The trailers have shown the destruction wrought by Ultron, the desperation of the Avengers, a fight between the Hulk and Iron Man and a vision of Vision, but no other plot details are evident and despite all the speculation, the big suspense clearly is trying to figure out how the seemingly unbeatable Ultron will eventually be defeated.


I know there are many people (my family and friends included) who only view the MCU films as individual entities that entertain, but for those who love the larger picture and are excited by the comic-book characters coming to life and creating a parallel universe (like Harry Potter, etc), a film like this is worth the first-day-first-show excitement of the past when there were only single-screen theatres and we had to suffer in long lines to buy tickets or get hold of them in “black”.


And for those who can’t wait, a review of this film will be out tomorrow in these pages anyway.

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