Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I saw Ultron come of age...

Joss Whedon's new Avengers adventure, "Age of Ultron", has arrived, and our favorites are back: Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans); Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr); Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo); Thor (Chris Hemsworth); War Machine/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle); Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner); Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson); the Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie)...and a special appearance by SHIELD's fatherly force, Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson). 

New to the mix is Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron "Kick-Ass" Taylor-Johnson), though not to be confused with Evan Peter's hero in "Days of Future Past"; the Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and the majestic android, the Vision (Paul Bettany, who also voices Stark's digital butler, JARVIS). 

The computer angle is big in this sequel, with a robot army on the loose, led by the power-hungry Ultron (voiced by James Spader). However, the concept of fickle technology isn't new in science-fiction/fantasy fables. We've seen it depicted in "Terminator", "2001: a Space Odyssey, and "Colossus: the Forbin Project". As far as acrobatic robots dominating the landscape goes, we've seen that, too, thanks to the RoboCop and Transformers sagas, but "Age of Ultron" somehow manages to keep things fresh, despite the recycled trimmings. 

On the flip side, as significant as the mechanical infiltraton is, it never dominates our heroes' presence or their sense of family. Sure, the members possess enough variance to be dysfunctional, but they also subscribe to a common cause: keep Earth safe.

As seized from Hydra's Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), the technology involved is culled from Loki's scepter: its harbored "artificial intelligence" deemed worthy of implantation in Stark's defense project, designed (ironically) to protect us from villainous penetration.

Ultron, a creation fashioned as a learner/watcher of sorts within the expansive program, develops an egomaniacal consciousness, which then constructs a body and breaks free to take over the world with a league of his own. He's also quite a sight to behold: a towering cross between Superman's Brainiac and a pumped-up Terminator prototype. 

Stark is, perhaps, the most adversely affected by the robot rebellion, for having activated the computerized Frankensteins, which leads Rogers to push further toward the Avengers forefront. Considering that Ultron and his army are equivalents to Nazis, Commies, and any other variety of on-and-off-again evil-doers, Cap's prominent presence feels right. After all, this is a war-time mission, and through his cordial relationship with Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), he increases the Avengers' chance for victory with his stalwart perspective. 

With this established, the movie advocates that we, as cognitive, freedom-loving creatures, have full right to combat and destroy such cold, calculating monsters. To fight is essential and all-out war (particularly under the film's harrowing circumstances) a non-debatable necessity. 

All the same, this staunch angle will likely unsettle negotiation advocates, but as the turmoil mounts under Whedon's emotional script and tense direction, "Age of Ultron" can't help but inspire one's righteous angst: the need to shout out a hardy "action not appeasement". Its message, though seemingly simple, should prove profound for anyone with any sort of practical, moral conviction. 

Philosophy aside,the movie is jammed with vivacious action sequences. The prelude is one of the best rendered (and that's saying a lot considering how sleek the Bond intros have been), and the battle between a confused Hulk and Stark's Hulk Buster is a grand feast in it own right, guaranteed to rattle one's senses with rumbles and roars, heightening the adventure to near Wagnerian proportions. 

I can't yet say that "Age of Ultron" surpasses the original "Avengers", which had the charming novelty of bringing the gang together, and it's certainly nowhere near as politically intricate as "Winter Soldier". It does, however, soar consistently high, never losing its momentum even when it dares to spotlight the relationships between Hawkeye and his wife, or the burgeoning one between Widow and Banner/Hulk. (The latter scenarios surely could have derailed the film, as had the superfluous romance in "Amazing Spider-man 2".)

Regardless of what the future holds for the Avengers, this current chapter does an admirable job of nurturing the traditional comic-book format. That should certainly please purists. The movie is also a terrific way to start the spring/summer blockbuster season, delivering thrills, chills and above all, a sense of wonderment. So, don't delay; jump on board and join the fun!!!


  1. PS: Got to say, Scarlett Johansson is doing wonders with Black Widow and stands out even more in "Age of Ultron" than she did in "Winter Soldier". It's also nice to see her making such a significant mark on the imagi-movie scene, starring in "Under the Skin" and "Lucy", in addition to the Marvel installments. If the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" remake does come about this time, it should be most interesting to see how Ms. Johannson is featured in it.Universal execs would be wise to play up her glamorous charms, since the role (if it is, indeed, to be patterned after Julia Adams') demands such.

  2. On another side note, it's odd that Ant-Man didn't figure into the Ultron scheme, since such has played a part in the comics. The Ant-Man movie is set for release this summer, of course. I'm sure, though, the film will click in its own right. Seems like a fair sum of thought does go into making the installments work within the movie expanse.

  3. Here's another little side note: Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are also featured in another fantasy film released about a year prior..."Godzilla '14". How's that for blockbuster magic striking twice! Wonder how many folks have taken note of this...

  4. Saw the film again in the IMAX 3D format: very spectacular, indeed. Thought the opening scene looked somewhat too CGI'd, though, the second time around, but still empowered with zest. The motorcycle-chase scene was also breathtaking on the second round, and the Hulk Buster scene more rousing and funnier. Anyway, still a damn impressive movie in my estimation. Happy to have given it the revisit.