Avengers: Age of Ultron

Posted on April 30, 2015 at 5:17 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments
Profanity: Some strong language and jokes about swear words
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Extensive and intense sci-fi/comic book violence, some disturbing images, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 1, 2015
Date Released to DVD: September 28, 2015
Amazon.com ASIN: B00WAJ8QXC
Copyright Disney Marvel 2015
Copyright Disney Marvel 2015

Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) sums it up best. Speaking pretty much to himself but also to us in the audience, he notes that he is on a floating city trying to fight off a robot army with arrows. “It doesn’t make sense,” he concedes. And yet, that is where we are, and we’re okay with it.

Writer/director Joss Whedon knows that we know that this is some superhero silliness, and once in a while we get to see that the characters know it, too. But he never treats the stories or the fans with anything less than respect. We get wisecracks. We get romance. But most of all, we get rock ’em, sock ’em, 3D action involving super-arrows, a super-strong shield, a super-heavy hammer, a cool bang-a-gong hammer hitting shield moment, a super-big, super-angry green guy, a super-assassin, and that genius arms-dealing billionaire philanthropist, Tony Stark.

In the first “Avengers” movie, we had the fun of seeing the team come together, a sort of Traveling Wilburys supergroup made up of heroes each more than able to carry a movie alone. Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), the Incredible Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow/Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) joined forces to defeat Thor’s brother Loki and retrieve the source of his power, one of the six infinity stones (yep, you saw another one in “Guardians of the Galaxy;” feel free to have your mind blown with Marvel universe awesomeness).

Then they had shwarma.

No time for getting acquainted here. We start smack dab in the middle of the action (thank you, 3D), as our merry band is battling the forces of Hydra, but of course not missing a beat in the quip department, even from the bad guys: “The Americans sent circus freaks to attack us.” Burn! (Both literal and metaphor.) Secret weapons hiding out with Hydra include twins who are very angry and damaged because their parents were killed (by weapons from Stark’s company). Now, thanks to some Hydra tinkering, they have superpowers, best summed up as “He’s fast and she’s weird.” He is Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and she is the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson). They both have bad Boris and Natasha accents and look like one of the Diane Arbus-like visions in “The Shining.” Her weird powers involve waggling her fingers and red smoke, with some sort of force field and the ability to impose what looks like a very bad acid trip on anyone with a biology-based brain.

But that’s not the problem. The battle with Hydra lasts just long enough to re-introduce us to everyone and not a few updates, especially a new tenderness between the Black Widow and Bruce Banner. Soon, they’re back at their clubhouse/headquarters and Tony asks for three days to investigate Loki’s stone before Thor returns to to Asgard. What could go wrong?

Pretty much everything, as Tony’s hubristic attempt to create a new artificial intelligence to protect humanity ends up as Ultron (James Spader, using that same tone of languid contempt we first heard when he played Blaine’s snooty rich friend in “Pretty in Pink”). Ultron takes one look around and decides humanity is in need of a major reboot, starting with extermination. Anyone who hates the Avengers has a couple of friends in the twins. And, given the little Hydra infestation problem in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” our group no longer has access to the massive government tools and technology, while Ultron is tapped into all digital data. It’s tough to come up with a bad guy who can be a credible threat to superheroes, but Ultron and the twins are scary and crazy, so they qualify. “Is this your first time intimidating?” Ultron asks with an arrogant robot sneer.

Yep, another big, big battle lies ahead, and yep, it includes a floating city and an army of robots and awesome stunts. It also involves evacuating civilians, often overlooked in superhero films. It also involves some group dynamic governance issues, as you might expect with so many Alpha males in the room. Shwarma, maybe, revels, now and then, but kumbaya, no, not even Robert’s Rules of Order or majority vote. “We don’t have time for a city hall debate,” Stark says as he doubles down on a bad decision. “I don’t want to hear a ‘man was not meant to meddle’ medley.” Perhaps only Downey could give that line the right zhuzh, but that’s why they pay him the big, big, big bucks, and he nails it.

The interaction is a treat, especially when everyone (with one notable exception) tries to lift Thor’s hammer and no one (with one notable exception) succeeds. There is sparkling banter with a refreshing Whedoneseque twist. Given the challenges of making sure at least nine lead characters get their due in dramatic arcs, quippy zingers, and superhero showmanship, it is inevitable that it will be cluttered. It is perhaps a little less inevitable that the ladies will be squeezed out, entirely off-screen Jane and Pepper dismissed with a couple of lines of dialogue about how busy and important they are, Natasha all nurturing and flirty and beauty taming the beast-ish, though she’s dynamite on a motorcycle. But his willingness to grapple with the existential dilemmas of superheroes and his ability to make those questions so much fun is what superheroes — and movies — are for.

NOTE: Stay through the beginning of the credits to find out who the villain will be in the next chapter. But you don’t need to stay after that as there is no shwarma this time.

Parents should know that this film has extended and graphic sequences of superhero peril and action-style violence with some disturbing images, characters injured and killed, some strong language, and brief crude humor.

Family discussion: How can the Avengers find better ways to resolve their conflicts? Why was Stark so wrong in his design for Ultron?

If you like this, try: the other Marvel movies and the original comics

Related Tags:

 

3D Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel Superhero

4 Replies to “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

  1. One might argue that people should stay all the way through the end credits anyway, as thousands of people worked hard to get this (and any) film in front of your eyeballs, and they deserve a little recognition.

    Unless you have to go to the bathroom. Then by all means, class dismissed. 🙂

  2. This is a really great review! I just have to correct you on one thing though. You said that the Hydra infestation of S.H.I.E.L.D. came up in Avengers 1, but that actually happened in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Otherwise, a very solid article. I like your writing style.

    1. You are right, of course! Thanks for the correction! I apologize. As a fangirl, I should know better. I will fix it right now.

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