This is my favorite time for movies, even more so than the so-called Oscar season. Summer blockbusters might not be the most critically acclaimed movies, but they sure are entertaining, and with me that counts for a lot.
Marvel has proven successful in bringing the iconic heroes of comic book lore to the big screen. The Avengers franchise combines some of the most individually popular characters for one collective ensemble of awesome star power. 2012’s The Avengers was wildly successful, leaving little doubt that a sequel would be forthcoming. Last weekend I got to check out the highly anticipated sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the first blockbuster of the season.
The sequel finds our heroes more comfortable with each other, as their shared chemistry reveals an amiable familiarity and easy rapport. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) complement each other perfectly, and the opening scene highlights their collective strength. The movie begins with the Avengers attempting to infiltrate a base controlled by Hyrdra, the rogue sub-agency within SHIELD. Despite the aforementioned chemistry, the Avengers face a new challenge as they encounter two uniquely worthy foes. Hydra has trained a pair of orphaned twins to counter the Avengers. They are gifted with super speed and telepathy, respectively – and their initial salvo against the Avengers deals the crew a crippling early blow.
The opening scene was successful, because it was action-packed and wasted no time giving us what we wanted. However, the convoluted plot is introduced in the first fifteen minutes, and I found myself struggling to piece it all together. I’ll try to recount it for you, giving only the most pertinent details. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner had been working on new technology in the form of Ultron, an elite global peacekeeper with enhanced capabilities on par with the Avengers. When combined with an element from Thor’s home planet, Ultron comes to life ahead of schedule, but he has been corrupted with evil. He is not a peacekeeper, rather he seeks to destroy the planet – and the Avengers are no match for him. Ultron disables Tony’s trusted cyber soldier Jarvis, and he is hell-bent on going from a computer program to a physical being. The bulk of the movie follows the Avengers as they try to thwart his efforts and save the world.
Age of Ultron strives to give us a deeper insight into the insecurities and personal lives of the Avengers. Natasha has a thing for the good Dr. Banner. Hawkeye actually has a family, and perhaps Tony is the most layered of all. He feels guilty about having created Ultron, but his ego won’t allow him to completely abandon the technology or the ambition that allowed him to create it. The team becomes fractured, as vulnerabilities are revealed. For example, it’s not often that Captain America and Thor get their asses kicked, but the twins and Ultron prove too difficult for them, and even the Hulk. If they want to defeat their enemies, they will have to work together and trust each other.
The film’s first act simply captivated me with the action-packed fight sequences, but the plot details quickly became muddled. Admittedly, plot is secondary in movies like this – but it was confounding nevertheless. At first I thought it was dope, but by the time the credits rolled I thought the movie was just pretty good. The storyline was deficient, but the action and chemistry amongst the cast mostly made up for it. Of the recent Marvel entrants, I thought Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 were among the worst. Avengers: Age of Ultron is definitely better than those, and I put it on par with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s worth checking out. Grade: B+