Imagine the horror of a press junket. (This should help.) A movie star is imprisoned inside a swanky hotel room for 1,000 hours with a revolving-door flotilla of pasty, agenda-having journalists. There is no escape. There is no text messaging. There is only the same shortlist of near-identical questions asked over and over until you don’t even know who you are anymore, let alone what it was like to work with Dame Judi Dench. Now, imagine that because there’s literally a billion-dollar movie at stake, this junket is but one tiny chunk of a massive, militaristic press operation that resembles nothing so much as Hannibal’s elephant-assisted conquest of Italy at the start of the Second Punic War.
Welcome to the press tour for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the lynchpin of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ushering us out of Phase II–whatever the hell that is. Over the course of several nightmarishly uncomfortable interviews, the press tour has proven to be filled with all the high stakes, emotional pyrotechnics, and moral complexity that are somehow absent from a film about indestructible beings trying to blow up a clear-cut villain with magic. Although Co.Create did not attend a press screening for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, we did attend the press screening of the press tour. (Okay, it wasn’t a “press screening” so much as a “going on the Internet” and we didn’t “attend” so much as “cease struggling to escape.”) This is a review of what we saw.
At the end of the last tour, our heroes were exhausted. Sure, The Avengers made more money than the GDP of several emerging nations combined, but promoting the film left its cast bankrupt of spirit and pep. Furthermore, several of them had to soon venture forth on similar tours to promote other Marvel films, including sequels to Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. When are these guys ever going to catch a break? Although the cast has reunited to take on the press as a familial unit, our new tour begins with Robert Downey Jr. alone, fending off his toughest opponent since the Committee Against Purple-Tinted Sunglasses: Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy. The interview is off to an awkward start already when Guru-Murthy probes the actor about the pre-2008 wasteland of his life rather than the adventures of immeasurably powerful make-believe saviors. This is not what Downey signed up for, so he bolts out of the interview, unrepentantly. Our sympathies lie with Downey here, since Co.Create doesn’t want to talk about anything that happened before 2008 either. (It was a weird time, and let’s leave it at that.) As act I ends, Guru-Murthy’s gambit signals that the press intends to actually kill the cast of The Avengers. This means superwar.
Now that Downey has signaled that the Avengers simply won’t be bullied, it’s up to Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans to confront the press about their treatment of people who dress like children’s entertainers to get angry at robots in public. When the pair unleashes their unpleasantness in an interview with Digital Spy, however, they do so in a way that is completely disrespectful to the femininity of comrade-in-arms Black Widow, empowering Gamergate-ing misogynists everywhere. No, Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans, no! This is not whom your battle is against. To put it in terms you might better understand, this is like when you’re angry at your chauffeur but you take it out on your butler–except the entire world is watching and half of its population is butlers. How are our heroes ever going to get out of this one? Truly this is the age of Ultron.
Luckily, the press tour ends with a redemptive arc. The press, in the form of Cosmopolitan UK, tries to defeat our heroes by preying on their only weakness: gender equality. The reporter asks Mark Ruffalo the kind of Camembert-soft questions about diets and underwear usually reserved for Scarlett Johansson, and asks Johansson the equally lame but slightly less insulting queries oft-aimed at Ruffalo. It’s like The Hawkeye Initiative unfolding in real-time! Cosmopolitan UK clearly expects that this question will kill Ruffalo dead where he sits, but instead he handles it with the base-level tactfulness they teach on the first day of Media Training at Movie Star Academy, and the Internet collectively does The Robot. (The dance move, not the cybernetic villain Ultron.) Point: Avengers actors. Roll credits. Entire cast does The Robot inside a bouncy castle filled with dollars.
Aww, the gang’s all here–except for Robert Downey Jr. who was sadly killed by the press during this tour–and they have a natural, understandable difficulty in playing MTV’s guessing game, a visual Pepsi Challenge based on each other’s biceps. With this weird line of inquiry, the press has once again collectively reestablished itself as an international coterie of supervillains, setting us up for the inevitable sequel in 2018. Hakuna Matata!