I’ve got a problem, an addiction if you will, one that threatens to ruin both familial relationships and friendships. And as much as everyone I know and love has tried to get me to change my ways, I simply refuse to give up my bad habit. Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chris H, and I’m a spoiler junkie.
That’s right, I’m the type of guy that reads the Wikipedia plot synopsis for Gone Girl before reading it. I’m that dude who jumped to the last season of Breaking Bad and watched it from there. I’m that jerk who not only knows that Han Solo is killed by his own son in the new Star Wars movie, I just told you about it without giving you a spoiler warning.
And this week there has been no movie that has gotten my spoil-seeking attention like The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Now, I’m looking forward to seeing it. You might even call me excited. But I’m not expecting much from it. Writer-director Joss Whedon’s take on the Marvel Universe is just a little too jocular, and his storytelling MO is mired in pop culture referentialism. Neither of those are cardinal sins — especially for a butter bucket movie. I just can’t get past the fact that all of his work feels like it was written for the small screen, not the big screen, no matter how many millions are dropped on special effects. The jokes always have a sitcom zing to them, and the majority of the action set pieces have a poorly choreographed, studio-shot Star Trek: Next Gen vibe. It’s like if SyFy had $150 mil to make Sharknado. Same thing. (Seriously, you cannot watch the opening car chase in The Avengers and not tell me it feels like something off of Scorpion or NCIS: Los Angeles or any of the countless other TV shows that stage ambitious action pieces their budgets can’t afford.)
Of course, none of that is neither here nor there. This is about spoilers, and spoilers for Age of Ultron in particular. So let me just go ahead and get it out of the way. Oh yeah … spoiler alert and all that yada yada yada.
Quicksilver dies. Who, you ask? Exactly. Move on.
But that’s not all. In fact, this character’s death is actually one of the least surprising things about Age of Ultron. What shocked me the most was the discovery that the majority of the film was set in Charleston.
I know, I know, how did Marvel shoot a blockbuster in the Holy City and no one notice? Honestly, I don’t know. But then again, that’s coming from a guy who doubts that Southern Charm is even shot here. Hell, I’m beginning to think that Whitney Sudler-Smith is a muppet, and I’m pretty sure Thomas Ravenel is a figment of our collective imagination.
So, how does Charleston work into this? Well, it all starts when Bruce Banner pulls into South of the Border in Dillon, S.C.
See, Dr. Banner is on a road trip with Black Widow — they’re romanticos this go around — and he and his lady friend have been bombarded with billboards for South of the Border ever since they entered North Carolina. Needless to say, the signs have gotten their attention. Surely, this is some kind of magical oasis, they think. They’re wrong, of course, and they find out exactly what South of the Border is — a shitty little truck stop — when they pull off the interstate.
This sets off Banner, who, not surprisingly, turns into the Hulk, and the Hulk promptly starts destroying everything. He even gets into an epic battle with the giant Pedro sign in front of the kitschy tourist trap. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s as brilliant a movie moment as Gandalf’s battle with the Balrog. You’re going to love it when the Hulk roars, “You shall not gas!!!!” Oh, and Alvin Greene serves Stan Lee ice cream.
Anyhow, the other Avengers are called down to the naval brig in North Charleston — except for Quicksilver because he’s dead or dying or about to die — and after they stop by a bail bondsman and get Banner out of the pokey, they each kind of go their separate ways. They all read Condé Nast Traveler, so they know about Charleston’s No. 1 City in the Nation status. Unfortunately, that leads them to the same four or five restaurants that everybody writes about, and, well, honestly, they really wanted to take a break from each other. More fighting ensues, but mostly over who gets the last piece of Martha Lou’s fried chicken. It’s Agent Coulson.
All of this is why Captain America is in a pretty foul mood the next day. He’s in an even worse mood because he’s taking a carriage ride and the tour guide is spouting all kinds of nonsense about the glories of antebellum Charleston and the War of Northern Aggression and the like, and Cap, being a true patriot, fucking flips his shit and gives the guide a history lesson to his face.
And that’s when Glenn McConnell shows up.
I’m not sure how he got there. It may have been by a Hunley hovercraft or he may have teleported, but there he was in his Confederate gray, waving his sword in the air like he just didn’t care about historical accuracy. They fought for a bit, and Cap kicked McConnell’s ass, and then he delivers my second favorite line: “Bucky might have come back alive, but the South will never rise … again.” Boom.
But what about Iron Man, you say? It’s not a true-blue Avengers flick until we see Tony Stark sans suit, and Robert Downey Jr. is dropping bon mots faster than David Aylor drops clients. (No, seriously, David, love ya. Just had to go there, you know.)
We first find Stark at Boeing, where he’s taking a tour of the Dreamliner factory. Now, Tony’s read the reports from the Seattle Times, you know, the ones that say that the 787s coming out of South Carolina are, dare we say it, just a little on the shoddy side. So, he does what any responsible industrialist does, he decides to find a way to fire the entire Boeing assembly line and replace them with robots. And I’m not talking about Nintendo Gyromites here. I’m talking about walking, talking AIs. Unfortunately, one such robot, Ultron, decides that if man was meant to fly he would’ve been born with a jet engine instead of an ass, and so he decides to wipe out humanity much in the same way that his “father” wiped out the Boeing workforce. Take that unions. Err.
While this is going on, Thor, who’s recovering from his breakup with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), is drowning his sorrows at The Griffon, where he encounters television host Anthony Bourdain and local celebuchef Sean Brock. They all get hammered, although Bourdain does come out of it a little worse for the wear. Pro tip: Do not touch another man’s Mjölnir. Don’t.
Some other stuff happens, of course. Hawkeye takes a graveyard tour, Nick Fury gets shot in the back while on a tour South of Broad, Black Widow goes to the Farmers Market on Saturday and gets in a jump castle, to the delight of many. Oh, oh, and Quicksliver, yeah, he dies.
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