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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

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

Written and Directed By: Joss Whedon

The Shot

Avengers: Age of Ultron is exactly the visually spectacular action effects extravaganza you’d expect Hollywood to drop a quarter billion dollars on; expect nothing less, expect nothing more, and just have fun.


The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

MOVIE THEATRE 

NACHOS.

Of course they need to cost that much!  What?  They’re tasty, aren’t they?


Pairs Well With...

HEINEKEN.

Hmm.  Same thing I paired the first one with.  Imagine that!

“Language!”


So, here it is: the film that the majority (but not quite all) of the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) flicks – and at least one TV series (which, oddly enough, writer/director Joss Whedon has stated does not share a consistent reality with the MCU and therefore technically doesn’t exist here, never mind the setup) – have been leading to.  Avengers: Age of Ultron is by no means a standalone movie (though fresh audiences could probably follow enough to enjoy it); it is, rather, the After Party that was its “secret” working title during filming.  And a Pre Party for stuff to come later.  Come to think of it, this Party is definitely more Pre than After, but you don’t mind that, do you?

Of course you don’t.

Let’s be honest: you already know whether or not you’re going to enjoy Avengers: Age of Ultron without a single frame flashing before your eyes.  This flick is a dividend paid on a collective investment made by audience members on the dozen movies that have come before and on the dozen that will come after, and the studio dropped a quarter of a billion dollars plus to make sure that every investor gets some satisfaction from it.  It is less a work of art than it is a transaction, and all things considered, that’s just fine here.

For my own part, I invested, and I got paid, which means that I enjoyed the movie.  Sure, I’ve got some gripes with Avengers: Age of Ultron (hold that thought), but overall, it gave me exactly what I went to the theatre expecting and it threw in a nice surprise in the process.

On the expectations side, I expected a whole lot of massive action sequences with at least one signature moment from each of the established characters, and that’s what I got.  Sure, that quarter billion is more apparent in some sequences (the African beat down) than others (the occasionally goofy opening melee), but everything’s fun and nothing’s embarrassing, and that’s what counts.  The intensity to humor mix is once again pretty well spot on, and even though there’s no such line of dialogue this time around, the Avengers are definitely bringing the party to the audience here.  The action fan in me is very pleased with the results.

I also expected James Spader to knock his performance as Ultron out of the park, and sure enough, that’s exactly what he does.  His nastiness is very matter-of-fact, akin to that of Hannibal Lecter or Agent Smith, which not only matches the A.I. nature of the character perfectly, but also makes him a superb nasty mirror to the character most responsible for Ultron’s creation: Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark.  Those exchanges are definitely good for some popcorn.  (Or nachos; whichever.)

On the surprise side, I was leery about the introduction of the Scarlet Witch, whose history in this film had be rewritten to accommodate those annoying licensing issues that don’t allow any MCU flick to acknowledge either the X-Men or the concept of Mutants existing alongside other superheroes and villains.  But thanks to a great turn by Elizabeth Olsen and some of the only truly deft storytelling in the movie, the Scarlet Witch turned out to be my favorite character in all of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is pretty impressive considering how overloaded the slate already was to begin with.

Speaking of…

Though Avengers: Age of Ultron is lots of fun and I certainly enjoyed it, that’s not to say that it’s a great movie.  For all the claims about how “different” and “game changing” this flick would be, it often feels like a rehash of the one that came before, with new details thrown on top of the previous frame, only with even less of an independent existence.  (As previously noted, the majority of this movie’s components are either the fulfillment of hints dropped earlier, or the dropping of hints about films yet to come.)  The heroes are made to question themselves and each other yet again due to the machinations of a villain whose presence they attracted to begin with; it’s just magnified this time.  Things progress less by logic than by timetable, and the character development is hit and miss.  (On the one hand, I do like Paul Bettany’s transition to becoming Vision, but the payoff feels flat.  On the other, Scarlett Johnasson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye each get some focus time, but it’s the sort that suggests that they will once again be passed over for solo films, which frankly bothers me more with regard to Black Widow than it does for the farm boy. And for a movie featuring several powerful women, this isn't exactly empowerment's finest two hours and twenty minutes ever.)  And when it’s all said and done, it feels less like the satisfying wrap to an awesome conflict than it does a sideshow preparing for what not only this but even several previously released MCU flicks have been foreshadowing as the real showdown… a showdown that Avengers: Age of Ultron only makes audiences sit through a minute or two of credits to further advertise, completely forsaking the post credits treat that fans have come to expect from these movies.

Come on, guys.  Not even Ant-Man?

And yet, being honest with ourselves, the disappointments hardly matter.  I’m invested; you’re invested; we’re all invested.  The expensively produced action snack is satisfying for the comfort explosion that it is, and really, that’s all anyone could reasonably have asked from Avengers: Age of Ultron to begin with.  Just kick back and enjoy the show. 

Beyond that… we’ve all learned by now that the real story progression comes from the Captain America flicks anyway, haven’t we?

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, May, 2015


More From The Bar! | Iron Man 3 | Thor: The Dark World | Expendables 3 |



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