Avengers: Age of Ultron is the only wide release today, a sane decision by the other studios as nothing was going to stand a chance against the Marvel avalanche. I’ll know in about five hours if the hype was worth it. But it seems like some folks have already made up their minds about it before even seeing it.
There’s been trepidation about Marvel films before. There was concern that Thor would confuse people with its trippy take on Norse mythology. Some thought Captain America might be too rah-rah and corny for modern, jaded audiences. Guardians of the Galaxy, with its talking trees and raccoons, was thought to simply be too weird to hit. And in every case, albeit to varying degrees, the worries were unfounded, the films made money, and the Marvel juggernaut rolled on.
But with Age of Ultron, it feels a little different. It almost as if some consensus has been reached that this will be the film where Marvel drops the ball. There’s a certainty that, while it will make tons of money, it won’t be very good, that it signals the end of Marvel’s ascendancy, that it’s the beginning of a super-hero backlash. All without most of the people saying this actually having seen the film.
Maybe it’s a result of the long hype cycle, where we’ve been teased with bits and pieces of the film since Comic Con three years ago, and then inundated with clips and trailers in the past few months until it could arguably be stated we’ve pretty much already seen the first act of the film. Maybe there’s some resentment that all this attention given to people in spandex is taking the spotlight from more intellectually worthy fare. Maybe it’s just fashionable — and hit generating — to poke the 800-pound gorilla in the room than to nod along with everyone else at how impressive it is.
Whatever the case, I have this sense that some are waiting for Marvel to finally fail, and want this film to be the stumbling block. When you could argue Marvel has already stumbled plenty. The second Iron Man film is generally regarded as nothing more than a weak Avengers prequel. The first Thor isn’t all that well liked, and I know plenty of people who don’t think much of the second one either. It hasn’t been nothing but home runs for Marvel. Thing is, their home runs have been mammoth shots that land in the parking lot, and even the less successful films still feel like part of the whole, their faults covered up and their reputations bolstered by association.
I honestly don’t think Age of Ultron will be as successful as the first film, at least domestically. I think it breaks the opening weekend record — something that’s normally an indication of how much a sequel’s predecessor was liked — but with all the other huge films this summer, I don’t think it gets to the $623 million mark. But it’ll break $500 million easily, and I think it will outdo Avengers overseas. I do think The Force Awakens will win the year — and likely set a new opening weekend record — but Age of Ultron will wear the crown for a good while.
But even if Age of Ultron doesn’t set opening records and only makes, oh, $450 million, it’s not the end of the Marvel world. They’ve got stuff in the pipeline for the next decade, a varied and interesting slate of films that will undoubtedly benefit from the cohesion they’ve established, especially compared to the mad rush DC seems to be in to throw as many characters into as few movies as possible. So there’ll be plenty of other contenders for the title of “the big Marvel bomb.” There’ll be just as much rooting for them to fail as there will be for them to succeed. That’s how you know you’ve made it.