Contrary to the first The Avengers (2012) film, its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), employs some rather dark photography and lighting techniques. At first glance, one might write this off as a trivial production note, or even the fault of the theater’s projectionist, though in reality they no longer exist in the way we used to think of them. But no, it is actually an artistic decision meant to reflect the dreary and hopeless feeling that is associated with the region of the world where a large portion of the film is set – post-Soviet Eastern Europe.
Avengers: Age of Ultron’s opening and closing battles take place in the fictional Eastern European country of Sokovia, which like many real-life countries in the region, still falls under the Russian Federation’s sphere of influence, even though the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed in 1990. Despite this, tensions between the West and Russia have hit an apex since the end of the Cold War. This is due to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, their annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the ongoing Ukrainian Civil War, where nationalists in the western part of the region are supported by the United States and the European Union, and separatists in the eastern area are supported by the Russian Federation.
Some notable production pieces in Age of Ultron include run-down banners depicting the glorious lives of Sokovia’s citizens, which are eerily similar to the infamous propaganda posters during the Soviet-era. The majority of the fictional country’s citizens appear to be living in abject poverty. Riddled throughout the city lay deteriorated statues in honor of an unnamed figure, eerily similar to the Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. Sokovia’s inhabitants also show resentment towards any foreign intervention and still hold a strong populist sentiment, despite the political, social, and economic reforms that occurred nearly twenty-five years ago.
So, while it is terrific cinematic storytelling that the Avengers successfully rid this fictitious country of its super villains, completely leveling one of its cities in the process, it still doesn’t change the fact that the lives of Sokovia’s people have not improved. Similarly in real life, since the fall of the USSR, widespread political corruption has run rampant throughout the Eurasian landscape and violent ethnic clashes have led to a number of sectarian conflicts, such as the Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001). Even the recent struggle in Ukraine can be linked to the defeat of communism, showing that righteous victories have consequences and that sometimes the real battle begins when the war is over.