Friday, May 1, 2015

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

3/4

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and the voices of James Spader and Paul Bettany

Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence, Action and Destruction, and for Some Suggestive Comments

I recently watched "The Avengers" again.  I hated it the first time, but after re-watching it again (thank you, discounts at Best Buy), my views have softened.  And surprisingly, I liked this one even better.  Why is that?  I'm not sure.  Maybe it's because the plot isn't a play-by-play replay of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," and let's face it, no one does action and destruction like Michael Bay.  Maybe it's because this movie isn't all about fan service, and actually recognizes that there are people out there who aren't comic book geeks.  Or maybe it's because the movie doesn't spend the better part of two hours watching the lead characters take pot shots at each other.  Whatever Joss Whedon did differently (he's certainly improved his storytelling abilities), it worked.  "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" isn't a great movie, but I had fun.

Loki's scepter has been stolen, and after retrieving it, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) realize that there is something very powerful inside it.  It's essentially a biological computer with the capacity to grow in intelligence.  In other words, it's an A.I.  Without telling the others because of a fear of their newly defeated enemy coming back, they upload it into Ultron, a machine that Tony has created in the hopes that it will do their job for them.  Of course, as we all know, this sort of thing never turns out well.  Ultron (Spader) quickly begins to think that humanity only has the capacity for violence and destruction, and decides to wipe out humanity and start over.  Now the Avengers have to stop him.

The same old crew is back, and that's good.  The actors are more comfortable with each other (periodically doing movies together while playing the same characters will allow you to get to know them pretty well on and off set, I imagine), and that camaraderie translates on screen in a way that it didn't in the original.  New to the franchise are James Spader, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen.  Spader is interesting, but his character is awkwardly written.  One minute he's making menacing speeches but the next he's tossing off colorful one-liners.  Huh?  Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen don't really get much of a chance to act (which they can), but that comes with the territory in a movie like this.

I'm not the world's biggest fan of Joss Whedon.  He receives a lot of love from fanboys and fangirls, but that's probably because he is one himself.  His movies are all in-jokes and easter eggs and references to comic books.  That's fine, and even preferable (Quentin Tarantino, anyone?).  But that stuff is just details.  You gotta have a solid foundation first, and that's where he usually fails.  He's not a very good writer or a good storyteller.  But he's made some improvements.  Hopefully, he'll keep up this momentum for "The Avengers 3" and beyond (will this superhero obsession ever end?).

I just wish I could have understood more of the dialogue.

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