Remarkable Heroes Remarkably Human in Enjoyable Avengers: Age of Ultron
Release Date: May 1, 2015 (some earlier screenings on Thursday, April 30)
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments)
Genre: Comic Book/Action-Adventure/Sequel
Run Time: 141 min.
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackle, Hayley Atwell
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
While this probably sounds like sacrilege to the comic book faithful, I’m just going to say it anyway. After revisiting 2012’s The Avengers and screening The Avengers: Age of Ultron earlier this week, I actually enjoyed the second chapter so much more than its predecessor, with the notable exception of Loki’s absence (imagine Harry Potter without Professor Snape, and you get an idea of just how good Tom Hiddleston was at being bad).
Writer/director Joss Whedon (Much Ado About Nothing) seems so much more at ease this time around. With the deadly serious, highly anticipated origin story out of the way, Whedon clearly gave himself license to (gasp!) have a little fun, and it pays off in a big way for the viewer.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is just what a big summer blockbuster should be—two-and-a-half hours of eye-catching escapism that not only advances the story but celebrates its much-loved protagonists. While not exactly the easiest of feats with so many characters involved, Whedon does a masterful job of not only pulling the narrative threads together in a cohesive fashion but allowing each hero to shine in his or her own right. Where The Avengers occasionally felt a little bloated by making sure everyone was given adequate screen time, Whedon found a way to trim the fat here, a remarkable accomplishment considering Age of Ultron still clocks in at a hefty 141 minutes.
The script is fast and loose with a sense of humor.
Saving the world is serious business, but that doesn’t mean that Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., Zodiac), Captain America (Chris Evans, Sunshine), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Begin Again), Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Blackhat), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, Don Jon) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker) can’t have a little fun in the process, right?
Jokes certainly come easy when each character has such marked characteristics, but whether it’s the hammer-lifting match with Thor, the burgeoning romance between Hulk and Black Widow, or Hawkeye’s interior design epiphany in the midst of battle, Age of Ultron’s script doesn’t take itself so seriously. With several knowing winks and nudges along the way, it’s as if Whedon wants to remind everyone that despite moviegoers’ epic expectations, we’re still dealing with fictional reality here, thank you very much.
Still, a superhero movie without stakes wouldn’t be much of a superhero movie, so The Age of Ultron is plenty dark with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. As it turns out, the brilliant-but-arrogant Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man), with the help of the gifted but desperately-in-need-of-anger-management-scientist Bruce Banner (a.k.a. The Hulk), invented an intuitive artificial intelligence creature named Ultron (voiced by TV’s The Blacklist star James Spader, in reliably fine form). Designed to be a forward-thinking agent for peace, Ultron’s methodology doesn’t exactly match what his creators intended. Ultimately deciding the key to a peaceful planet is destroying humanity, Ultron’s rebellion is the perfect excuse for the Avengers to unite once again.
As expected, the special effects, which reportedly boosted the film’s price tag to $250 million, are nothing short of dazzling in The Age of Ultron—especially in the opening battle sequence. But while pleasant to look at, it’s ultimately the characterization that winds up stealing the show. Whether it’s glimpses of the demons that haunt each Avenger or how tricky the interpersonal relationships become when everyone is driven apart through mind control (don’t ask), these wisecracking action heroes still feel remarkably human. And it’s that connection that elevates The Age of Ultron from mere popcorn entertainment to something more intriguing.
Not For Younger Viewers:
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking. A scene where several of the Avengers get tipsy.
- Language/Profanity: Not pervasive but a few expletives including sh–, as-, da–, h-ll and bit–. One exclamation of God’s name, plus someone is called a di–. Captain America is often teased about his disdain for bad language.
- Sex/Nudity: No sex or nudity, just a handful of sexual innuendos (a reference to playing “hide the zucchini,” for example ) and slightly suggestive comments. Hulk also accidentally falls into Black Widow’s cleavage. Black Widow explains why she can’t have children (sterilization was required as part of her training). A couple of kisses are exchanged. References to Thor’s “hotness.”
- Violence/Thematic Elements: If you’ve seen any of the previous Marvel movies, the violence in Avengers: Age of Ultron is on par with those films. Ultron itself is a bit on the creepy/dark side, so between that and Hulk’s fits of rage, it could be a bit much for younger viewers.
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