You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’: That is one angry robot


There aren’t too many obstacles more daunting for a filmmaker than colossal expectations. Joss Whedon has to deal with a whole lot of them in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

After all, his 2012 flick “The Avengers” was one of the most popular movies in recent memory, scoring excellent reviews, grossing $1.5 billion worldwide and establishing Whedon as the A-list director long-term fans of his early work (the groundbreaking TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the quixotic sci-fi show “Firefly”) always assumed he was.

Now for the follow-up, which — while being well-paced — can’t help but feel a little overstuffed and a bit long. Iron Man even makes a joke about a particular situation feeling “Eugene O’Neill long” — no kidding, dude.

A host of new characters are introduced, including the robot baddy Ultron (a motion-captured James Spader), the enigmatic android the Vision (Paul Bettany, formerly the voice of Iron Man’s computer, Jarvis), the Eastern European “enhanced humans” Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, still the best Olsen) and her twin brother, speedster Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

The plot threads get a bit tangled, but “Ultron” opens in midbattle, as the Avengers — Tonk Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.); Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); Thor (Chris Hemsworth); Bruce Banner, aka the rampaging Hulk (Mark Ruffalo); Captain America (Chris Evans); and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) — take down another base belonging to international terrorists HYDRA.

In the process, they free Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who have a beef with Iron Man from back when their country was bombed with Stark-manufactured arms. Quicksilver runs really fast, while the Witch can, well, there’s an energy bolt thing and she can control minds. It’s a little confusing if you don’t have a decent grasp of Marvel comics B-listers.

But you can’t say “Ultron” is not Whedon-esque. As Whedon noted in an interview with the American-Statesman in 2009, dysfunctional teams are his thing: “I’m only interested in people in the way that they play off each other, the way they connect and don’t, the way that they band together and fail to — all my stuff sort of ends up being about that.”

To wit: We have a developing romantic relationship between Hulk and Black Widow, Stark and Banner working on a next-generation artificial intelligence, and someone on the team has not been entirely honest about their private life.

Of course, the AI goes nuts, stuffs itself into an indestructible robot body and judges humanity too messed up to be worth saving, so maybe it’s time to blow up the world and start over. Time for some punching.

Whedon is in a tricky spot, having to make a decent stand-alone movie and advance the larger story-ball down the field, a ball that will allegedly culminate in “Avengers: Infinity War” parts 1 and 2, due in 2018 and 2019. Whedon has passed the directorial torch for those to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” filmmakers Joe and Anthony Russo. There is a mild exhaustion to “Ultron,” as if Whedon is frustrated he has to hit all these beats rather than making a tight story.

And Ultron the character is the exact point where CGI fails Whedon a bit. Whedon writes tortured, depressed villains quite well — Ultron’s sadness at the state of things manifests as genocidal rage. But while Spader does his level best, his voice-acting can only do so much if the CGI can’t quite “act” the character’s pulpy complexity.

But Whedon is still Whedon, and the grace notes — the snappy patter, the team dynamics, the “man, that was cool” moments — go a long way. A smart, goofy scene involving nobody being able to pick up Thor’s hammer but Thor (as only “the worthy” may lift it) pays off so brilliantly down the line that it induced actual fist pumps in the audience.

And the film pops to life when Bettany shows up as the Vision, an android cut from the same thoughtful cloth as Data on Star Trek if Data were less wide-eyed and a better puncher. With his red face and green body, Vision looks good and comic-booky while possessing a fascination with humanity that translates as a singular nobility and morality.

That sort of thing is always welcome in superheroes.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

How a common meditation technique can help you eat more healthfully

What if all the wisdom we needed to learn how to eat came from one little raisin? Nutrition will forever be a hot debate, with new science, and new fads. The value of each macronutrient (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) is always being disputed, and one is often looked at as the hero or enemy. We play with vitamins and minerals and discuss miracle...
Got Amazon Prime? You can now watch this top Oscar winner
Got Amazon Prime? You can now watch this top Oscar winner

Here’s a look at a few interesting new releases available to rent from cable and digital providers and a groundbreaking title recently available to stream. Video on Demand “Buster’s Mal Heart”: Sarah Adina Smith’s second feature film stars Rami Malek in a captivating go-for-broke dual performance as a man on the run in...
People think juice is good for them — they’re wrong
People think juice is good for them — they’re wrong

Mrs. G. came to our offices distraught: Her primary care doctor had just diagnosed her with diabetes, and she was shocked. She had always been overweight and had relatives with diabetes, but she believed she lived a healthy lifestyle. One habit she identified as healthy was drinking freshly squeezed juice every day. We asked her to stop drinking juice...
What we can learn from old nutrition books about eating healthy today
What we can learn from old nutrition books about eating healthy today

It’s too bad that the word “diet” has come to mean restricted eating. The broader idea of a diet — all the foods you eat — is a wonderful idea. It’s our personal landscape of the tastes, smells and textures that, over a day, a week, a month and beyond, keep us alive and determine much of our physical and mental health...
More events for Wednesday, May 31, and beyond

Music The Wine Down at 3Ten. The popular downtown music series has returned for another summer of live tunes, happy hour bites and drinks, and pop-up shops from local retailers. Held at ACL Live’s 3Ten venue, the monthly Wine Down has become a way for people to experience the Second Street District’s lively nights of shopping and dining...
More Stories