Saturday, May 9, 2015

Movies – Avengers: The Age of Ultron

It’s weird to think Marvel Entertainment actually controls the world. Reading comics all my life, I secretly longed for the day when these characters would have universal recognition and appeal. That I wouldn’t be the only one in my class/job/a room who knew who Captain America was. It was a pipe dream, of course. Until it wasn’t. 

Marvel really has done the near impossible. The overwhelming output of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is outstanding entertainment, made by people who love comics and want to get the stories “right.” Avengers: The Age of Ultron is no exception. Writer/director Joss Whedon is another life-long comics lover. Although his online persona is that of an angry, bullying progressive, I tend to enjoy his actual work. And he can still make a dynamic action film that appeals to all audiences, despite their political persuasions. 

Avengers: The Age of Ultron is a truly epic movie. Somehow Whedon manages to balance plot, wild action/battle sequences, a zillion characters and quiet moments of characterization flawlessly in one two-hour spectacle. Is it bloated? A little. Is it over the top? Yes, as a sequel to The Avengers should be. Is it fun? Yes. Non-stop. 

The comic book Vision
I’ll always be grateful to Whedon for introducing one of my all-time favorite superhero characters, the Vision, into the Marvel Cinematic canon. When I was a kid I could totally relate to the Vision in the comics; an outsider, someone who felt he never belonged. I always loved the fact that, despite being an artificial man, he eventually gained acceptance from his peers, fell in love with and married the weirdo prom queen and had a generally happy life. In the comics, the Vision is a totally red-skinned android who wore a green body suit and yellow cape. Despite Marvel Entertainment’s general acceptance of superheroes and costumes, I believed that would never fly with a mass-audience, commercial movie. It was nice to be wrong about that.  Actor Paul Bettany makes the Vision a bit less of a freak outsider than in the comics, but it’s close enough that I’m calling it a home run. I loved seeing the character on screen and being treated respectfully. 

Paul Bettany as the movie Vision
The general plot is fun; it is astounding to see Ultron; whom I’ve read about for over 40 years, right there on screen, brought to scenery-chewing life by the great James Spader. Marvel didn’t spare a dime on this movie, and the money is well spent on Ultron’s super-villain antics. The superhero battles in this film come as close as I’ve ever seen to recreating the massive skirmishes featured in the actual comics. 

This is the last Marvel film Joss Whedon will direct, at least for a while. I hope the next Avengers director is someone who really “gets” superhero comics as Whedon does. He throws in so many Easter eggs for longtime comics fans and has such a deft hand with story and characterization, I’d hate to see things just go to a flavor-of-the-month who has never cracked a comic (like the new Fantastic Four movie). However, after this many great movies, my tendency is to trust Marvel Entertainment. Their movies are as good as their present comics are bad. More power to them. I’ve seen Avengers: The Age of Ultron twice so far, and will probably see it many more times on film and Blu-ray. I loved it. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

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