Saturday, May 9, 2015

Movie Reviews: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron
directed by Joss Whedon
This was a good summer movie that was very obviously aimed at a worldwide audience. You did not have to speak English as a primary language in order to understand or enjoy this movie. In some aspects I guess that's a good thing but in other ways it wasn't. But you don't go to movies like this for character development or long soliloquies that only are of interest to aspiring screenwriters. You go to movies like this to watch things go boom and to enjoy (depending on the angle of your dangle) the fleeting down blouse shots of attractive women or shirtless shots of attractive men. The dialogue, when you could hear it was pretty snappy, but as mentioned forget about character development. This will be an atypically short review because of time constraints and because this film is not at all that different from the first Avengers film. If you liked that film or generally enjoy comic book movies you will enjoy this film. The differences are few. I am not an Avengers expert but my brother, who is, assures me that this storyline and primary villain was created long before the somewhat similar storylines in Terminator and The MatrixIf you will permit an aside some of the oldest myths and actual histories feature a creator begetting children who will kill him/her. The Greeks had the Uranus-Chronus-Zeus cycle. King Arthur had Mordred. The Roman emperor Nero murdered his mother (and alleged lover) Aggripina. The Norse Aesir will do battle at Ragnarok with some of their own monstrous offspring and lose. And so on.

Maybe there is something in human nature that continues to be called back to this theme. Perhaps Freud was onto something. Or maybe not. Who can say. Anyway that old myth is what drives this movie. It's updated technologically but it's the same story. The mad scientist/creator brings his "child" into being. But the created child doesn't want to play his assigned role and proceeds to attempt to destroy or take over the world. It goes without saying that it has a special dislike for its parent. It resents its parent and wants to show that it is better than its parent.

Here the "child" with the Daddy complex is the artificial intelligence/android Ultron (James Spader). He is created by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) with the reluctant assistance of Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). In what is a return to some of the themes of the previous Avengers movie as well as the Iron Man movies, Tony Stark remains a complex individual who prefers to do good as much for the kicks and excitement as from any sense of morals. He also doesn't really play all that well with others. His animating ethos is that it's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission. Not that he really believes in asking for forgiveness either. When you're as rich and intelligent as Stark is, little things like regulations, rules and teammates are annoyances to be overcome. This is in direct opposition to Steve Rogers/Captain America's (Chris Evans) beliefs. Rogers is the titular leader of the Avengers. He thinks there must be structure, rules and order. The fact that the people he's dealing with are superpowered make such rules more, not less important, as Stark believes. And Rogers does what's right because it's right. Period. He's not interested in glory, publicity or shortcuts. The two men clash more and more throughout the film, setting up future more serious conflicts.

Stark's intention was to outsource the Avengers' responsibilities to Ultron. Ultron decides that humanity itself is the greatest threat to Earth. He goes rogue. The other Avengers, including Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Remmer), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and associated lesser superheroes and S.H.I.E.L.D agents must try to stop Ultron. Ultron is growing more powerful by the day. He has also recruited superheroes of his own, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor Johnson) who have a bone to pick with the Avengers, Tony Stark in particular. This movie was 141 minutes long. As you might imagine some of the extended fight scenes dragged a bit. I can't say I was ever bored exactly but I wasn't always on the edge of my seat either. When trying and failing to lift Thor's hammer (no phallic tension there right?) Tony Stark makes a snarky aside that attracted some feminist ire. The joke was silly but was very in keeping with Stark's persona. People overreact. There is a fair amount of humor in the film that plays on silly gender stereotypes. And that's fine. A subplot with two of the Avengers struggling with romantic feelings for one another really doesn't go anywhere. I did like Hawkeye's verbalization of the truism that compared to the other Avengers he's significantly underpowered. Nevertheless he keeps up. And he has a few secrets of his own. James Spader's voice oozed evil and disdain. He was very well cast. Other actors and actresses include Don Cheadle, Andy Serkis, Idris Elba, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Claudia Kim, Paul Bettany,Josh Brolin, and Hayley Atwell. To sum up, fun film but not quite as good as the first one. Marvel godfather Stan Lee makes his customary cameo. 
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