John Anderson: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Review: A Superpowered SpectaclePosted: April 30, 2015
Superheroes return in Marvel’s effects-and wit-filled sequel
John Anderson writes: Those truly committed to the Kremlinology of Marvel Comics will find “Avengers: Age of Ultron” a revelatory piece of 3-D entertainment. Who knew that the evil Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) had been working on the kind of robotics that would provide superhero/industrialist Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the groundwork for developing an artificial intelligence that could threaten the existence of all human life on Earth? Who knew The Incredible Hulk could be a romantic lead?
For those more concerned with what “The Avengers” movies do best—outsize spectacle and wry comedy—“Age of Ultron” has to be declared a victory. “Victory should be honored with revels,” declares hammer-throwing Scandinavian elocutionist Thor (Chris Hemsworth). “Who doesn’t love revels?” answers snark specialist Stark. “Revels” is a good word to describe it all, if one tends to revel in effects-driven mass destruction for the good of mankind.
Director Joss Whedon, under the auspices of the almost supernaturally profitable Marvel-Disney alliance, has brought back the core of 2012’s “The Avengers”—Mr. Hemsworth, Mr. Downey, Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), Chris Evans (Captain America), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye)—along with several subordinate supervillains and heroes to embellish the plot and set up the sequel (well on its way, to judge by the closing moments of “Ultron”). They include the brother-sister act of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen), whose superpowers are the result of Strucker’s experiments and whose antipathy toward the Avengers is rooted in the devastation visited upon their native Sokovia by now-reformed war merchant Tony Stark.
If any of this seems complicated—the fictional Sokovia, for instance, or that there was also a Quicksilver in “X-Men: Days of Future Past”—you really have to just let it go, the momentum of the movie being too much for cogitation.
Those calling Mr. Whedon a “pop-culture genius,” as some undoubtedly will in the wake of the unholy destruction and ungodly box office of “Ultron,” are blowing smoke. The film is a work of craft, from the actors like Mr. Downey, who can deliver a comic line with the timing of a mouse trap, to the editors, Jeffrey Ford and Lisa Lassek, upon whom so much of the movie’s very elegant fluidity rests: The way they dovetail a reaction shot, sight gag or casual bon mot with the stentorian declarations about mission, teamwork, unity and aliens keeps the movie buoyant, rather than bogged down by narrative baggage (as the 2012 movie often seemed to be).
Something like “Ultron,” whose closing credits include enough technicians and craftspeople to repopulate the sad land of Sokovia, is not a director’s or screenwriter’s movie, the formulas being far too confining, the story arcs steel-reinforced. It’s not a cinematographer’s movie, the visuals having been co-opted by the computers. It’s not even an actor’s movie, although the cast does what it’s expected to do expertly…(read more)
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