Friday, May 1, 2015

The Avengers: Age of Ultron [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

REVIEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD (E. Bartlová) review* (B. Lloyd) review (M. Valdemar) review* (J. Popielecki) review* (B. Pradhan) review (Andrew) review* (C. Diekhaus) review*

Brazil ( viewer comments*
Czech Rep. - ( viewer comments*
France ( viewer comments*
Germany ( editorial comments*
Italy ( viewer comments*
Japan ( viewer comments*
Russia ( viewer comments*
U.S.A. ( viewer comments

The Avengers: Age of Ultron [2015] (screenplay and directed by Josh Whedon based on the Marvel Comics Avengers comic books by Stan Lee [IMDb] and Jack Kirby [IMDb]) continues this wildly successful sci-fi, super-hero franchise.

Most of the characters from the previous Avengers [2012] movie return for this installment, and of course there have been several installments that have focused on individual Avengers / members of the Marvel Universe in the meantime, notably Iron Man 3 [2013], Thor: The Dark World [2013] and Captain America: The Winter Soldier [2014] even Guardians of the Galaxy [2014].  So developments from these films inform the storyline here, which, in truth, IMHO is not particularly complicated.

What I found impressive, however, has been Marvel's truly REMARKABLE attempt at inclusivity in its story-telling.  Hence my attempt above to allow Readers here to follow what's being said about THIS FILM / FRANCHISE worldwide.  (Part of the original mission of my own blog here has been to promote dialogue and mutual understanding between people through the common experience of watching/experiencing films).

The film begins with the team of Avengers from the previous film -- Tony Stark/Iron Man [MarvU] [IMDb] (played by Robert Downey Jr), James Rhodes/War Machine [MarvU] [IMDb] (played by Don Cheadle), Steve Rogers/Captain America [MarvU] [IMDb] (played by Chris Evans), Natasha Romanova/The Black Widow [MarvU] [IMDb] (played by Scarlet Johannson), Thor [MarvU] [IMDb] (played by Chris Hemsworth), (Dr.) Bruce Banner / The Hulk [MarvU] [IMDb] (played by Mark Ruffalo) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye [MarvU] [IMDb] (played by Jeremy Renner) -- on a mission to storm the Balkan (think Eastern Europe, former Yugoslavia, Transylvania) citadel of an evil scientist named Dr Wolfgang von Strucker [MarvU] [IMDb] (played by Thomas Kretschmann).

Strucker had apparently gotten a hold of the scepter wielded by Thor's evil step-brother Loki [MarvU] [IMDb] (from the first Avenger [2012] movie) and was using the crystal powering it for all sorts of nefarious purposes.  Specifically, Strucker was using the the crystal to power genetic alterations in "local people" converting them into "super soldiers with super powers" (a la a similar WW II-era "procedure" that converted the ever "good hearted" but physically weak Steve Rogers into the super-strong Captain America).

We soon encounter two of his genetically altered recruits, the orphan twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen respectively) who became Quicksilver [MarvU] [IMDb] (endowed with lighting speed) and the Scarlett Witch [MarvU] [IMDb] (endowed with the gift of mind control over matter, including therefore mind control).  We ALSO learn soon enough WHY they came to Strucker, willing to become genetically altered fighting machines: In keeping with Marvel Comic's IMHO _remarkably sensitive / inclusive_ philosophy of insisting that NONE of its characters be completely Good and almost none of them completely Evil, we learn that Pietro and Wanda had good reason to hold a murderous grudge against Tony Stark / Stark Industries (Readers remember simply that in the late 1990s, the U.S. / NATO had finally bombed the Balkan nation of Serbia into submission, ending ten years of ethnic conflict in the region, and in the Marvel Universe Stark Industries is basically "a super-sophisticated American defense contractor on steroids").  So we're told that poor Pietro and Wanda Maximoff did not have exactly "the best" introduction to American / "Stark" technology ... something that (in the film) even the ever "good guy" / righteous 1940s-era Captain America was able to quickly understand.

But as conflicted / interesting and even sympathetic that the Maximoff twins were, they were only a part of the story here:

After recovering Loki's Scepter and the stone powering it, Tony Stark [MarvU] [IMDb] simply can not help _but try to exploit this "sorcerer's stone" himself.  As Stark Industries' head FEELING "RESPONSIBLE" for providing the United States and even the world the best in defense technology, and FEARING that they (the Avengers) / the world "were lucky" to have defeated attempted "invasion from outer space" by Loki and his minions in the the first Avengers [2012] movie, Tony Stark [MarvU] [IMDb] decides to use the stone from Loki's Scepter plus some of Dr. Strucker's [MarvU] [IMDb] captured computer code to improve upon an artificially intelligent defense shield that he (Tony Stark [MarvU] [IMDb]) had been working on.  That program was called ... Ultron [MarvU] [IMDb] (voiced in the film by James Spader)

Well ... after uploading the evil Dr. Strucker's programming, connecting the the stone from Loki's scepter and even interfacing it with his benign/non-militarised/artificially intelligent "administrative assistant J.A.R.V.I.S. [MarvU] [IMDb] (voiced by Paul Bettany) to his horror, Tony Stark [MarvU] [IMDb] discovers good old Ultron, artificially intelligent as he is, has quickly determined that the world would be "best protected" by ELIMINATING the Avengers and MOST OF HUMANITY along with them ;-) ... that WE OURSELVES are the cause of most of the world's problems (that's actually not a particularly original insight, but IMHO amusing nonetheless ;-)

And so the rest of the movie involves the Avengers spending a good part of their time trying to first find and then fight this Ultron [MarvU] [IMDb] program, which has both hidden itself across the internet and assembled for itself an Iron Man-like robotic physical form.

Indeed, perhaps Ultron's most evil gambit was to try to utilize a Korean scientist, Dr. Helen Cho's (played by Claudia Kim), "tissue 3D printing technology" to create a human-like body for himself.  Instead, (minor Spoiler Alert) the previously mild-mannered J.A.R.V.I.S. [MarvU] [IMDb] program comes back to block Ultron in this gambit and uses the same technology to create an human-like body for himself (Note that in the ORIGINAL Marvel Comic book conception Jarvis was a Tony Stark's mild-mannered human butler Edwin Jarwis [MarvU] ;-)

Thus, frustrated in his attempt to incarnate in a fully human form, Ultron [MarvU] [IMDb] then decides to go with "Plan B" -- basically try to destroy humanity (again in order to protect the world ;-).  And here the Avengers have to go out and defeat Ultron before he can succeed.  Much, ever quite AWESOME still ensues ...

Anyway ... I find remarkable about this film, indeed about the whole current Marvel project, is the attempt to transform essentially an American comic book series into something that the whole world could embrace.

WILL it succeed?  SHOULD it succeed?  WHAT WOULD IT TAKE for this Marvel project to succeed?  This is why I included all those review links from all over the world at the beginning of my review here.  It's clear that the Marvel Comics movies are popular across the globe.  The question is how popular?  And to what extent, will the rest of the world (be allowed to) participate in the future direction of the series.

In any case, I find the project fascinating and potentially BENEFICIAL in making a better world: Young people / comic book geeks of the world unite ;-)

* Decent enough (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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