'The Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Review: A worthy sequel

All photos courtesy of Disney

Unburdened by any need of introduction of its already spectacularly popular superheroes, the second Avengers flick dives straight into the action, showing each of the protagonists battling baddies with their chosen modes of destruction. (READ: What critics are saying about 'Avengers: Age of Ultron')

Shields and hammers are thrown. Exploding arrows are shot. A leather-clad lady unleashes karate chops and flying kicks on her oppressors, while an oversized green man goes on a rampage. Meanwhile, a man in an iron suit hovers in the sky, dodging bullets while figuring a way to get past an invisible force field that shields the location of Loki’s scepter, which in the previous film nearly totalled New York City.

While performing their personalized stunts, they joke around, revealing the humanity director Joss Whedon attempts to squeeze out of the beloved characters amidst all the on-screen noise, and off-screen hype. 

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Fine as entertainment

Yes, Avengers: The Age of Ultron is pretty much a comic book flick, the same way its predecessor and its many spin-offs were. All of its action scenes are consistently spectacular, staged in a way wherein explosions and everything that is to be expected from a big-budgeted summer movie is punctuated by short moments of comedic banter.

Whedon never loses sight of the fact that he is still directing a film that is to be watched not for its political and moral complexities but for plain escapism. The filmis more than fine as just entertainment, especially if extravagant depictions of carnage give you flutters of delight. 

The film has more than enough buildings collapsing, faceless hooligans dying, and other computer-generated demolitions to satisfy even the staunchest of Michael Bay fanatics. Thankfully, Avengers: The Age of Ultron is as invested in its characters as it is in its expensive arsenal of bells and whistles.

Less super, more human

Avengers: The Age of Ultron has the team of seemingly incompatible allies going against Ultron (voiced delicately by James Spader to emphasize more of the villain’s pitiful lack of humanity), an artificially intelligent creation of Tony Stark’s brash genius.

As with almost all superhero flicks, Avengers: The Age of Ultron is adamantly a tale of good versus evil, woven from threads of familiar tropes and stereotypes of the genre. 

Whedon however manages to give focus on the greys that blur what are supposedly clear sides. His heroes are all damaged. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is brash to the point of irresponsibility. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is light years away from the kingdom he is bound to protect. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is brimming with virtues that are too old-fashioned for the present era. 

The Maximoff twins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen), who briefly appeared in the Russo Brothers’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier, are fully revealed as wartime victims with superpowers fueled by vengeance.

More importantly, Whedon finally shapes characters out of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Remmer), figures who were previously relegated as tokens in an already overcrowded gang.

The Russian assassin’s been given a wobbly romance with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who is still at odds with his destructive split personality.

The talented archer, on the other hand, is revealed to be a family man who has everything to give up for a job that now seems to be beyond his capabilities. 

Whedon enlarges the drama, perhaps to the detriment of what should have been a breezily paced actioner. Avengers: The Age of Ultron is careful not to overpower its comic book roots with too much humanity. The film keeps the drama within juvenile reason, with nothing overreaching to drown the fact that the film is still meant to link to future blockbusters. 

The Whedon touch

Avengers: The Age of Ultron, despite its stubborn adherence to humanize its iconic characters, moves and feels like a blockbuster. At the end of the day, its partial romances and shallow questions on morality are but ornaments to the grand plan of creating this virtual universe where superpowers are real and complex emotions are not. 

Whedon seems to acknowledge this. The film feels like it is a product of a mind made tired by surreptitiously complicating film products to be consumed like junk food by fans  who are easily tickled by teasers of films that are still to be released in two to 10 years. The flick is sufficiently enjoyable, but its blockbuster elements are not what would make this sequel truly memorable.

It is how Whedon sprinkles into the flick slivers of his political views, how the immaculate superheroes, after seeing Manhattan nearly demolished by invading aliens, are forced to wreak earth-saving havoc in fictional cities that resemble real-life ones that often hog the news as settings for American intervention. It is how Whedon stays true to his thematic obsessions despite being boxed into creating a very expensive commodity. 

What separates Avengers: The Age of Ultron  is how despite all its imperfections, it manages to be deeply intriguing. It is such a strange movie, replete with all the requirements of a superhero movie, but beautifully disfigured by an eccentric sense of humor, an unwieldy focus on corny but essential human drama, and subtle politics. Warts and all, this sequel’s a keeper. – Rappler.com