I know. I’m a day late and a dollar short on this one, especially as I saw it two weeks ago now. What can I say, It’s been a weird May.
Fan4astic(sic) – Saw the long version this time and it did not make me any more enthusiastic about the movie than the teaser did. They appear have committed the worst character crime against Johnny Storm. No, not making him black, who the hell cares about that? Making him serious. Johnny Storm should never, ever, ever be dark and/or brooding, although petulant has always been an option. I am also slightly weirded out by the fact that they are making his sister Sue adopted in order to cast a white actress in the role. If this is simply so as to give the movie a facade of being “inclusive” while simultaneously avoiding an interracial romance angle (in 2015, really!?!) it’s a fairly pathetic move.
San Andreas – I love disaster flicks, so I will definitely go to see this one, even though it is obviously way over CGIed (I love miniature work, which is rapidly becoming a lost art these days) and will probably piss me the hell off by presenting a disaster so over-the-top that it isn’t plausible to have a plucky band of survivors to follow. Don’t care, seeing it anyway.
Jurassic World – So we’ve reached the Abbott and Costello Meet the Monster phase of this franchise, have we?
Terminator Genisys – One of only previews I’ve ever seen that managed to actively piss me off. It was the moment that the apparently teenaged new/old Sarah Connor shows up in the bus to pick up Ah-nold while spouting his famous line about coming with [her] if [he] wants to live. Look, the second movie wrapped up the story in a logically consistent (by the laws of the movie’s universe) and emotionally satisfactory way. All the subsequent in-universe re-writing of history to continue the franchise reeks of money-grubbing contempt for the audience. (What, Hollywood showing contempt for their audiences to make a buck? Say it isn’t so!) Using this to help re-launch Schwarzenegger’s post-gubernatorial acting career just reinforces this perception.
Tomorrowland – Even having seen the trailer twice, I can’t figure out enough about what’s supposed to be going on to have an opinion about this movie. Pretty sure I’m not the target audience anyway, if there is any such thing for a movie based around a single section of a theme park.
Ant-Man (long version trailer) – I’m starting to warm to this one a little, now that I’ve seen a bit more. It definitely looks as if it will fall more on the humorous end of the MCU spectrum à la Guardians of the Galaxy. The trailer contains one blatant use of the disturbing ‘violence is funny if it’s female on male’ trope, which I find pretty hypocritical, but that alone isn’t likely to keep me from watching. I’m still waiting to hear the word of mouth on this one before making a final call as to whether I’ll see it in the theater or wait for it to stream.
And now on to our feature presentation:
I don’t want to get too deep in this for the half-dozen or so remaining folks that haven’t seen it yet, but I definitely enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron a lot. I studiously avoided any of the pre-publicity for this, including any of the trailers, so I was actually surprised by a number of plot points and character appearances and I would not deny anyone else the fun of that experience.
The basic set-up involves Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr.) attempting to make the Avengers obsolete by designing an AI that will coordinate a team of world-wide peace-keeping robots, intended to protect Earth from the sort of alien threat that we saw in the original Avengers. The AI (the titular Ultron) decides that the best way to keep the peace is to eliminate the Avengers (after all, they leave a lot of death and destruction in their wake), then decides that even that will not go far enough to protect humans from their own violent tendencies. We know that our heroes will prevail, the fun, as always, comes in seeing how they do it.
This is not as damned near perfect a comic book movie as the original Avengers was, replicating that is probably an impossible task, but I still may have enjoyed it more. It’s good to see our whole team working together from the get-go, and the opening action set-piece is spectacular, plunging you immediately into the world the movie creates. We also finally get some background on the main cast characters who have not had their own movies yet, which makes for some nice character moments.
The film’s weaknesses fall primarily into two areas. For one, there are just too many characters and subplots to follow each of them in depth, so some get far shorter shrift than others (I’m looking at you, Thor!). The other is writer Joss Whedon’s love for snappy comic dialogue, even when it’s inappropriate. This occasionally leads to characters speaking in ways that may be clever, but are badly out of character.
I was very pleased to see some of the libertarian themes first introduced to the MCU in Captain America – The Winter Soldier carry on into the larger Avengers universe. Once again, we see that peace, no matter how desirable, is not something that can be imposed upon people from the outside by a beneficent and powerful force. The result is inevitably genocide. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans‘ Captain America) gets perhaps the most powerful line in the film when he reminds Tony that “Whenever you try to win a war before it starts, innocent people die.” I can’t wait to see how this continues to play out in the upcoming adaptation of Marvel’s Civil War storyline.
For those who’ve been taking to the internet to whine about Tony’s “Prima Noctis” joke, I really want to say grow the hell up. Yup it was tacky, yup it was sexist and offensive, it was also an establishing character moment for a man who is not really supposed to be a good guy (and definitely not a nice one). In fact, while Ultron may be the antagonist, it is Tony who is ultimately the villain of the piece, the character whose hubris and arrogance drive every bad thing that happens after the first scene of the film. Viewed in that context, it is clearly a judgement on Iron Man’s character that he would make a joke like that, rather than a reflection of the views of the filmmakers. The fact that folks can’t seem to separate those two concepts is worrying and makes me fear for the future of film-making as it drives ever more banal and characterless writing for fear of causing offense to the perpetually offended. If you are tired of seeing the perpetuation of big, dumb action films where no one has an identity, but everything blows up real good, this is exactly the sort of thing you should be worried about.
In the end, it isn’t great art, but it is a smarter-than-average action film with a lot to offer both the casual fan and those who are steeped in the MCU.