Thursday, April 30, 2015
Guest Post: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Good Adventure Fun...But Not Great
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
By Jonas Schwartz
It’s ironic that the theme of Frankenstein and his creation runs through Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron because the plot has been cobbled together by old tropes like Ghost in the Machine, Lawnmower Man, Stephen King’s IT, Mary Shelley’s classic, and several episodes of the film’s director Joss Whedon’s landmark Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
There’s a lack of inspiration in the second Avengers, or at least that patented Joss Whedon genius that made the first film so lively is missing. The action scenes lack punch. Luckily the script still contains Whedon’s witty dialogue, and the film contains a wicked performance by James Spader.
After a complicated mission leaves the team frazzled, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) decides this is the perfect time for a robotic savior, one who can keep the planet safe. He and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) bring Ultron on-board, but immediately, the Artificial Intelligence (Spader) declares war on The Avengers. Believing that the world would work better without humanity, he makes it his mission to destroy the planet. His army of robots put each member to the test.
The film’s energy cranks up every time Spader speaks. His voice -- knowing, angry and a bit afraid -- is both menacing and childlike. The animation and mechanical engineers responsible for Ultron’s look and movement capture Spader’s subtleties. The robot’s features moves like Spader’s would, so that the audience forgets there is no man in the machine. Though only a voice and scrap metal, Spader’s Ultron towers over all the other characters.
Ruffalo and Downey Jr. have always brought realism to their characters, not allowing the comic book tales to dissolve into cartoon. They bring that same aplomb to this film. The rest of the cast seems tired in their roles. Their line readings are wooden. Of the newcomers, Elizabeth Olsen brings pathos to Wanda Maximoff, the medically enhanced agent filled with hatred for the Stark family, who can manipulate memories, yet her Eastern European accent wavers.
Whedon directs the many battles with clever camerawork and editing, but the scenes get monotonous. The plot feels inconsequential. Even with the human race in jeopardy, the stakes have no gravity. On the positive side, Whedon’s trademark quips and asides brings levity to even intense action sequences. He allows his characters to be silly without selling them out.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron can claim to be one of the better Marvel Sequels. With the exception of Iron Man 3, which may actually be better than the first Iron Man, most of the sequels were directed by second-string directors (like Thor 2’s Alan Taylor). Avengers 2 has more spark than those films. However it also lacks the fan boy euphoria that Joss Whedon usually brings. He normally creates a new universe but here he’s retreaded old territory. It’s enjoyable a first time, but it doesn’t make you want to rush back and see it again. Grade: B
Jonas Schwartz is a voting member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics, and the West Coast Critic for TheaterMania. Check out his “Jonasat the Movies” reviews at Maryland Nightlife.