Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Early on in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), following a successful mission by the team to recover the MacGuffin, Black Widow (Scarlet Johannson) calms down the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) by gently stroking his palm. Bruce Banner is officially the only man I know who grows smaller at the touch of Scarlet Johansson.

Sexist snark aside, and despite the mixed reviews I've read and other articles about how we are once again in the decline of the Hollywood Blockbuster, I liked the latest entry in Marvel's Cinematic Universe. The action and special effects are still top of the line, I love the interaction between the characters (I particularly like the ever-increasing tension that's bubbling between Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and Chris Evans' Captain America), and at 141 minutes in length, the film never bored me. There isn't a whole lot you haven't seen elsewhere, but for now, Marvel's formula is still working.

Everyone's back: Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). After raiding a Hydra outpost and recovering Loki's scepter from Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) - who has used it to power up the Maximoff twins, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) - the Avengers regroup at headquarters, where Tony Stark convinces Banner to use the power of scepter, without the rest of the team's knowledge, to complete Stark's Ultron global defense program. The experiment works, but the newly sentient artificial intelligence (voiced by James Spader), turns out to be like SkyNet and decides the planet must be saved by eliminating humanity.

If you got lost reading that plot summary, I'm afraid you're too far behind for me to help you at this point.

The film opens with a fun action piece showing off the Avengers in action as they take out the Hydra base, each member getting a chance to show off as they knock around Strucker's mooks. There's also a tense showdown later between Stark - in a powered-up Iron Main suit - as he tries to control a hallucinating Hulk in the middle of an African city. The final action sequence - with Ultron causing an entire city to rise into the air so he can use it to cause a mass-extinction event as his robot army attacks the heroes - is quite the impressive spectacle.

Once again written and directed by Joss Whedon, Age of Ulton has its share oof humor. During a drunken celebration, the other Avengers take turns trying and failing to lift Thor's Hammer, and during a reprieve at Hawkeye's family farm, Laura Barton (Linda Cardellini) puts these super-powered heroes to work chopping wood. There's also a nice callback to Hawkeye's brainwashing by Loki in the first Avengers when he stops Scarlet Witch from messing with his mind while Thor, who insists he can't be so deceived, steps right into his own hallucination. There's a lot of moments like that, including a running gag after Captain America chides Iron Man's language and then regularly gets called out for his own swearing by the others.

What I found most interesting is the continued jockeying for authority between Stark and Rogers. Their mismatched personalities play off well against each other, and since Captain America 3 will be subtitled Civil War, and knowing what that entails in the comics, I'm anticipating this rivalry reaching a boiling point.  And without giving too much away, I'm glad to see Paul Bettany finally gets a chance to show up in the flesh, so to speak.

All that said, it feels pretty disposable as far as super hero movies go. The question I had after the first Avengers - now that they've saved the world, what next - is answered - save the world again. Spader has some fun voicing Ultron, but Ultron is ultimately not a particularly menacing villain; the Avengers really don't seem threatened by him. After so many films set in this universe with this set of characters, the formula is starting to harden and become predictable, so Marvel needs to be careful and find some fresh angles, which they seem poised to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment