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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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Score: 4/10

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 21 min.

Release Date: May 1st, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Joss Whedon Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgard, Claudia Kim, Linda Cardellini

T

he movie starts right into the action, assuming audiences are well briefed on the previous seven or so Marvel features, which fuels the disassociation with telling a complete, original story. Perhaps it’s better that way, as the ensemble cast is so sizable that origins and introductions would further slow down the already lengthy runtime. And the film does manage its massive star power with an adequate mix of strong personas cooperating for the spotlight – instead of contesting over it (though an extraneous romance subplot with Johansson’s Natasha seems to be aimed squarely at the teen crowd itching for sexuality amidst all the macho warriors).

Set against a backdrop of neon laserblasts, flashing guns, vibrant fireballs, whizzing projectiles, rumbling vehicles, and predominant computer graphics, the superhero team of Avengers – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – storm a Hydra base in Sokovia, Eastern Europe. Their mission is to retrieve Loki’s magical scepter, which houses an uncontainable power. But simply confiscating the item leads to greater problems, as a pair of mysterious “enhanced” twins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, “he’s fast and she’s weird”) starts causing mayhem. And Tony Stark’s global peacekeeping initiative, dubbed the Ultron Project, comes to fruition through analyzing the artifact – which quickly spirals out of control. An unimaginably adaptive artificial intelligence (voiced by James Spader, whose mannerisms and affectations wholly consume any preconceived notions about what the Ultron character should be) soon organizes an army of androids with the intention of annihilating the world.

AI gone rogue (or robots taking over the world) has populated the science-fiction likes of “Robocop” (2014) and “Chappie” (2015) just recently, and, of course, the world of “The Terminator” over the last three decades. “The Matrix” also made quite an impact on the topic. So it’s a little underwhelming that the Avengers, with all of their inexplicable, routinely undefined superpowers, are forced to fight legions of basic killer robots.

Ultimately, however, the enemies are merely repetitive opportunities for over-the-top, realism-devoid, gravity-defying stunts and action sequences to play out, one after the next. Fortunately, the film handles the build to the finale just competently enough that the explosive moments continue to rousingly escalate. Still, the choreography doesn’t exhibit the creativity of Bond or Bourne, instead planted firmly in an alternate realm of lighthearted fantasy, where collateral damage and civilian casualties are nonexistent, danger never feels genuinely threatening, and skirmishes are so fast and convoluted that, if it weren’t for regular slow-motion seconds, it would all be just a blur of colors and sounds.

Humans Clint Barton (Hawkeye’s real name) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow’s real name) still appear grossly incapable of fighting alongside invincible gods and indomitable freaks of radiation mutations, while Iron Man’s laughable technology, constant jargon, and unlimited supply of money are exhausting (sillier still is the Stark Relief Foundation, which is called in to financially restore the entire city that is leveled when it becomes necessary to destructively beat the Hulk into a state of calm). “I totally support your avenging,” insists a supportive girlfriend. The intermittent, comedy-relief one-liners similarly return, the sentimental camaraderie replaces any hint of substantial dialogue, and periodic predicaments are solved by spontaneous solutions (which are always explained by convenient alien capabilities or the incomprehensible intricacies of bio-organics).

The visuals are occasionally stunning, but the actual combat lacks freshness, as if the filmmakers believe that hordes of shock troopers discharging ammo is all it takes to orchestrate a battle. Impressive action isn’t about continual chaotic imagery – it’s about imaginative ideas; ceaseless wild movements don’t naturally become awe-inspiring sequences. There are, nevertheless, amusing bits buried under all the frenzies, including hallucinations from mind manipulations (caused by the Scarlet Witch, a fun new addition) and the flip-flopping of allegiances. But the overabundance of heroism is, at times, almost sickening (full of preachy, pro-humanity sentimentalism), striving to drown out the set pieces that work.

– Mike Massie

 



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