[Movie Review] ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Is Beyond Epic
The Avengers are back on the big screen for Disney’s latest all-star superhero adventure set in the ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but more than the Age of Ultron, this sequel is the ultimate example yet that this is truly the age of limitless ultra-spectacle.
The technologically enhanced bombast is on full display in this two-hour-and-twenty-minute epic, where the attractive heroes are now questioning their own motivations, the new villains are righteously angry and at times hard to disagree with, and the stakes are higher, albeit only hinting at the universal troubles sure to come in the next Avengers movie.
Robert Downey Jr. shows more depth to his Iron Man alter ego Tony Stark, who in the comic books is actually an alcoholic, a subplot so far left out of the films. He displays vulnerabilities and internal fears that he may in fact be the world’s worst Dr. Frankenstein, because while Stark wants to build a proverbial “suit of armor around the world”, what he unleashes instead is an artificial intelligence called Ultron, voiced with deep menace by James Spader.
Ultron quickly downloads every single bit of information on the internet and then determines that the only way create peace on Earth is to eliminate all humans, super or not. With the help of a new character named Wanda Maximoff and better known in the comics as Scarlet Witch, who is able to seriously screw with people’s minds, our team of mighty heroes are fairly easily sidelined when they each experience intense visions of their worst possible fears coming true.
It’s quite commendable that a summer-sized blockbuster action movie invests some time in exploring the damaged psyches of its heroes, before throwing them back into the line of fire for a heart pounding climax that hits home the overall message that the only way to win at the end of the day is to win together, though they may be grumpy about it.
Of course grumpy’s not exactly the word for The Hulk, who once again steals each scene he smashes his way into. Meanwhile, Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo, is flirting with a romance with the team’s kick-ass female assassin Black Widow, played here for the fourth time by the always enjoyable Scarlett Johansson. I won’t spoil how that romance pans out, but I will say that I really wish it had happened differently.
Chris Evans is also back as the unofficial leader of The Avengers, Captain America, the soldier from another era who just can’t get with today’s tech-heavy government policing of his country’s own citizens, with arguments over the matter simmering constantly between Evans’ Steve Rogers and Downey’s Stark, drama that will undoubtedly play out in next year’s Captain America: Civil War.
Chris Hemsworth and Jeremy Renner ably round the primary cast as Thor and Hawkeye, respectively, and they are joined this time by Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Scarlet Witch’s speedy brother Quicksilver, as well as Paul Bettany, who is transformed from Stark’s A.I. helper Jarvis into an entirely new form known as The Vision.
Marvel has mastered their formula, and Age of Ultron doesn’t deviate much. The villain is certainly timely, with real life artificial intelligence on the verge of becoming reality and a global debate on tech protection/invasion raging, and Spader gets some funny one-liners (another Avengers staple), but I never truly felt like the good guys were in real mortal danger.
The problem is we have already watched each of these characters overcome seemingly insurmountable trials to save planet so many times before that it’s almost a foregone conclusion that they will win, but this time at least there is a new question of what kind of mental shape they will each be in when the battle is over.
I liked the underlying truths that fighting aliens, killer robots, and evil mutants hellbent on domination or destruction can leave scars that go beyond physical wounds, and I loved watching the colorful panels drawn by so many talented comic book artists over the decades come to life in a blazing, relentless movie experience that reminds us all to always fight the good fight, no matter the odds.
There is no “I” in “team”, but the Avengers prove there is room for more than few superheroes who don’t stop fighting to save an often misguided human race even when their own scars seem too much to bear, in the new era, the age of awesome.
Official Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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Avengers: Age of Ultron (rated PG13) is now playing at the Pioneer Theatre in Manteo and R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills.