Marvels Avengers, directed by Joss Whedon, is the third largest worldwide grossing movie of all-time, reaping in over $1.5 billion. As such, it was a no brainer to bring in the Marvels team for a second go around.
The problem facing Whedon and the producers of this sequel is the problem always faced by Hollywood with action sequels: “What’s bigger and badder?” What threat to humanity could invoke more emotion and anxiety?
In our first movie, do recall, aliens invade Earth in order to subjugate all of mankind, only to be stopped after the absolute destruction of Manhattan.
So how do you possible elevate the game?
Whedon chooses to try to go small first. The movie largely begins by going back to the characters themselves, each with their own lives and goals. Joss Whedon does try to make this a more intimate get together, although that was likely always impossible in a film like this.
Whedon never seems to take himself too seriously, and that ultimately lets the viewer ‘go with the flow’ with sometimes silly, occasionally outrageous plot lines. The scene with the Avengers playing with Thor’s hammer is a perfect example.
What’s fascinating is how Whedon uses Hawkeye and Black Widow, our most ‘human’ Avengers, to play prominent roles, in many ways as the viewers’ surrogate participants among their ‘God-like’ partners. In many ways, Whedon uses their experiences as a window into how average, normal humans would react to this war among the erstwhile immortals that rule over us.
In a sense, the destruction and the reality of humanity teetering on the verge of planetary apocalypse is almost a backdrop to the characters themselves. Literally any ‘end of the world’ scenario would work here…because that ultimately isn’t really even the focus of the movie.
That said, the big new bad guy is Ultron…an artificial robotic lifeform (voiced by the impeccable James Spader) who Tony Stark initially envisions as a protector for the planet. That plan does not go so well…as Ultron gains a newfound hatred for the species that created him. Spader brings a level of charm (dare I say, a level of humanity?) to the character that makes him seem somewhat more foreboding than a robotic voice would do.
The movie ultimately does pay off, but in a sense…we have been here, done that. The actions scenes are fantastic, as you would come to expect in any Marvel movie. But at this point, is there any action that could ‘wow’ us anymore?
This doesn’t mean it isn’t worth seeing. It simply means no new ground is broken here, there is nothing we haven’t seen before. Whedon has said he wanted to make Age of Ultron a shorter, more intimate film than his first Avengers movie. In that, he failed completely; in many ways, this is a louder, less personal film, largely because of the necessities of commercialism and the need to expand the ever growing Marvel Universe.
But that said, intimate is not what comic books are about. They are about action scene to action scene, about global threats and heroes at the edge of their limits. This movie does certainly deliver on that.
There are scenes that will initiate nerdgasms (especially the introduction of Vision to the series, but that discussion I’ll leave for another day), but for the average viewers, this is your usual, summertime romp. Not evolutionary, but still a blast. It does sets up the future Civil War plot line nicely, and I can’t wait for the potential of an all out war among heroes, with Spiderman joining the fray.
For the comic book devotee and science fiction fan, however, this is just another episode in one of the great gifts Hollywood has presented us in the modern golden age of science fiction of the past two decades. Enjoy it while it lasts.