The trailer for Avengers II is one of many signs that the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe may be taking a turn for the gloomy. Is that a wise decision?
So we got to see the teaser trailer for the Avengers: Age of Ultron earlier that we were expecting – Hail Hydra! – and my overwhelming reaction is ‘COOL!’ The quality of the trailer itself is worth appreciating; in particular how it uses its Pinocchio motif to build a sinister tone. More importantly, the omens for the film are positive. It seems like there will be plenty happening, the visuals look impressive, James Spader’s version of Ultron appears pleasingly menacing and it has Andy Serkis in it!
However, it does look rather bleak. There are lots of hints of tragedy and it contains none of the wisecracking the teaser for the first film focused on. Now this could just be the trailer but there are other reasons to think Marvel may be about to start emphasising tragedy over comedy:
- That Captain America 3 will apparently feature the ‘Marvel Civil War.’ Having the heroes fighting each other and the most popular of them becoming a villain without a hefty dose of darkness will be hard.
- That it appears the Russo brothers will take over directing the Avengers from Joss Whedon. While their background is in TV comedy when it comes to Marvel films they seem to be on the dark side. They wrote and directed Captain America: the Winter Soldier which was – with the possible exception of the Incredible Hulk – the darkest film Marvel has made so far. They are directing Cap 3 sounds like it might be gloomier still (see above).
- The new characters Marvel is introducing are Doctor Strange and Ant Man. (Caveat: I’m going with limited information here as I don’t read comics and therefore may be talking crap here). The Sorcerer Supreme seems like he’s not going to be a barrel of laughs and while Ant Man might sound goofy he comes with some nasty baggage from the comics.
- A number of the actors playing major roles will be coming to the end of their contracts. One way for Marvel to deal with this may well be to kill off their characters which would obviously be rather a downer.
- This season of Agents of Shield is notably darker than the first.
Based on the past year one might reasonably wonder if this isn’t a mistake. Sure Marvel did well with the Winter Soldier but their real commercial success was Guardians of the Galaxy. This was the closest they’ve come to making an outright comedy and audiences seemed to like it.
I’m excited to see what Marvel does with the darker parts of its range. However, going dark still feels like a gamble and I have to wonder if they will lose part of their audience along the way. More than that I hope that it doesn’t prevent them from also making some light hearted fair. Mainstream audiences deserve films like Guardians which are silly in a clever way.