“Sequelitis” Plagues “Avengers 2” Film

poster LOGOThe eagerly awaited “Avengers: Age of Ultron” sped, roared, smashed, exploded, and hammered its way into theaters nationwide last week, and although its impressive box office take of $187.7 million qualified it for second place on the list of largest debuts ever, it wasn’t enough to surpass the record of $207.4 million set back in 2012 by “Marvel’s Avengers.” Of course whether or not the sequel surpasses the original at the box offices remains to be seen, but it should come as no great surprise that while this film is entertaining in places, it definitely is not superior to the first one. In fact, this one actually drags a bit in spots, and at other times there’s almost too much going on at once. Putting things as simply as possible, the plot of “Ultron” is the story of a creation gone awry. In an attempt to maintain peace in the world, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) has created a powerful Artificial Intelligence named Ultron (James Spader). However, despite Stark’s good intentions for Ultron, the stubborn A.I. has a mind of its own, and in addition to thinking for itself, this A.I. becomes very naughty and independent. Thus, it decides the main problem on Earth is the people who inhabit it and that the best way to achieve lasting peace is to wipe out humanity. 7 Now it certainly doesn’t take a Stephen Hawking to figure out where the film is headed at this point. Of course it’s going to be up to Iron Man and his Avenger buddies – Steve Rogers/Capt. America (Chris Evans), Thor (Peter Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – to put Ultron in his/its place and save the world from destruction. But this isn’t going to be an easy battle, and at one point things get so out of hand that the Avengers begin fighting among themselves. In fact the monumental conflict between Iron Man and the Hulk is one of the best sequences in the film. As you would expect, the special effects in the movie are nothing short of dazzling, and the fight scenes definitely are exciting, but overall the this film suffers from what I will call “sequelitis,” meaning that it simply does not live up to the original. However that doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing because it has several things to recommend it, and the main one is the presence of Spader as the voice of Ultron. In a recent online interview with Empire, director Joss Whedon spoke about Ultron and explained why he chose Spader for the part. “For me what was interesting is that he (Ultron) is this angry, and I hired the smoothest talker in Hollywood to play him. I did it on purpose. I needed a guy who can give you the Morpheus but then can just LOSE HIS SHIT. Spader’s really good at that, and he’s really good at finding the darkness, but also the comedy. The comedy is always a huge thing for me. Tom Hiddleston (Loki) is hilarious. Hiddleston can turn on a dime, which is my favorite thing. He can be absolutely apocalyptic and then, ‘Um, point of order?’ Ultron has the same thing. He is very different, obviously, in his rhythms and his concepts, but for me it’s a guy who’s that angry and who hates the Avengers that much and is also a robot and is therefore going to have every issue that a robot’s going to have with humanity anyway…there’s a lot to play there. For me, he’s an iconic figure.” 2 Although this film is a veritable showcase for special effects, pyrotechnics, and CGI (The Hulk is truly incredible.), what I found most interesting about it was the way the major characters evolved in the sequel. Gleaned from various online sources, here is some interesting insight from the actors about their respective super alter egos. Downey Jr./Iron Man: “It kinda reminds me of like all that stuff particularly as you get a little older or if you have any existential queries whatsoever. It’s like why aren’t I dealing with that which is going to destroy me any second anyway? And then the armor was kind of an extension of that. And also there were just so many suits, but I think he realizes that tweaking and making all the suits in the world—which is what he has been doing—still didn’t work for that thing of his tour of duty that left him a little PTSD. So his focus is more on how can we make it so that there’s no problem to begin with. That, you know, there’s a bouncer at our planet’s rope. That’s the big idea.” Hemsworth/Thor: “Well, Thor stayed on Earth from. Thor: The Dark World.’ So he’s here. He’s part of the team. This is his home for the moment. So the initial threat of attack from Ultron is personal. Thor then begins to see a bigger picture about what this threat could potentially be, and it begins to tie into all of our films. What becomes a challenge is trying to not repeat the same thing all the time. So you’ve got to work that bit harder to see what else you can do with the character.” 3 Ruffalo/Bruce Banner/Hulk: “My role’s even bigger than last time, and it’s more complex, and it has more layers and a bit more arc. I think there’s a whole relationship with Banner and Hulk that needs to be discovered. There’s a very cool thing happening: Hulk is as afraid of Banner as Banner is afraid of Hulk. Both of these guys are obviously the same guy, and they have got to come to peace somehow with each other. And I think that this confrontation is building along the lines of this film.” Evans/Capt. America: “He’s still looking for a home, probably a metaphorical home. He’s always felt comfortable as a soldier. And he likes structure. He works well taking orders. But when that dynamic turned on him, he’s now left to depend upon his team, the Avengers. There really is no one above them telling them what to do. They’re kind of having to operate independently. So there’s a lot of leaning on one another, but there really isn’t a kind of clear chain of command. And I think Cap looks for that. I think he’s looking to understand where he belongs, not just as a soldier, as Capt. America, but as Steve Rogers, as a person.” 5 Johansson/Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: In ‘Avengers 2’ we go back. We definitely learn more about Widow’s backstory, and we get to find out how she became the person you see. All of these characters have deep, dark pasts, and I think that the past catches up to some of us a little bit.” In addition to all of the action sequences, the film offers some interesting “human” moments, and among the best of these is when the Avengers are sitting around enjoying a beer, and they all try their hand at lifting Thor’s hammer. And Johansson and Ruffalo take the acting honors for the tender and emotional encounters they create between their characters. Could it be that beneath all those massive green muscles there beats a soft red heart?9 Although “Ultron” doesn’t outshine the original film, it still offers plenty of action and satisfactory entertainment. Thus it earns the final score of a very respectable seven. And for me The Hulk definitely rules! https://youtu.be/tmeOjFno6Do


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