After sitting through an IMAX 3D showing of the new Joss Whedon adventure, Avengers: Age of Ultron, you don’t exactly walk out of the theatre, you stagger. At an overstuffed two hours and twenty-one minutes of almost nothing but dazzling special effects, plus a non-stop, ear-pounding soundtrack that continually goes flash-bang-wallop and finally BOOM, then for good measure, another BOOM, over and over and over again, getting through this eleventh episode of the big screen Marvel adventures is like having your head continually pummeled by Thor’s hammer with no end in sight. You don’t watch Avengers: Age of Ultron; you survive it.
From the opening seconds, there’s no wasting time – if wasting time for you are the basics of setting up a scene or establishing characters – we dive head-first into the action like an episode of something on TV. Somewhere in the snow laden country of Sokovia, all the Avengers are busy racing around, throwing quick one-liners at each other as they attempt to reclaim the stolen scepter of the sadly absent villain of the last adventure, Loki, from the clutches of the dastardly Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann). Who remembered it was even missing? “The Americans have sent their circus act,” shouts the Baron, evidently forgetting that he has two freaky Big Top performers of his own standing nearby; Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). “He’s fast and she’s weird,” the Baron explains.
This second chapter in the Avengers series capitalizes on what it perceives to be the strengths of the first by upping the snarky comments, adding more costumed characters and making everything else bigger, louder and infinitely more frantic packaged with the notion that everyone watching has ADD. Imagine loading your plate at an all-you-can-eat restaurant, then piling up again, then going back for thirds for an even bigger pile, then considering going back for maybe one more just because it’s there. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the big screen equivalent.
The super villain this time around is an artificial intelligence initially intended to be something that aids global peace. It’s called Ultron, but once the programme questions its own existence and how it relates to all the bad things going on in the world, it manifests itself into something more tangible than just software and decides to cure all the world’s ills by blowing everything up. As Quicksilver explains, “Ultron can’t tell the difference between saving the world and destroying it.” Come to think of it, maybe that’s something on which our own leaders should ponder.
Ultron, voiced by James Spader, goes about doing its evil thing by becoming an oversized, intimidating, metal monster. In fact, not satisfied with simply being a stand-alone robot, it becomes several, all with one mind-set. As Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) puts it, “The guy’s multiplying faster than a Catholic rabbit.” That has to be the film’s best line.
Amid the mayhem there’s a few nice character touches that seep through cracks in the action. A suggested love connection between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the green Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) rears its colorful head from time to time. In the middle of another lengthy action sequence, the widow kisses Bruce Banner while he’s still in his regular human form, telling him that, “I adore you,” then pushes him over a cliff in order to make him see green again, adding, “But right now, I need the other guy.”
There’s also a running joke throughout regarding Captain America (Chris Evans) and cussing. When the first word to come out of Iron Man’s mouth is an expletive, the clean spoken captain with the 1940’s mindset admonishes the metallic superhero for bad language. Later, in a moment of anger when the captain exclaims, “You son-of-a-bitch,” Nick Fury glances aside with his one eye and tells the American hero to, “Wash your mouth!”
But it’s the action that fanboys will be going for. If a trip to the movies means noise, explosions, and destruction propelled by fast edits that actually cut so fast you’re not always certain what it is you’re looking at or where anyone is in relation to each other, Avengers: Age of Ultron is yours, and you’re welcome to it. But if, for you, the never-ending glut of all those costumed, superhero characters is simply adolescent, mind numbing nonsense, then the cynic within won’t see this as anything resembling a real film. It’ll seem like a corporate financial investment disguised as a cinematic roller coaster ride waiting to rake it in at the world-wide box-office, with a few extra million generated by unnecessary 3D plus several more from Continental Europe where many theatres charge extra for movies longer than two hours and shoehorn an intermission to boost their own concession sales.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 141 Minutes
Overall Rating: 6 (out of 10) Fanboy Rating: 11 (out of 10)