By Bill Arceneaux
This past weekend, Marvel/Disney released one of the many blockbusters coming this year—Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s the second major culmination of the cinematic universe of superheroes, featuring an exciting team-up of conflicting personalities in the face of vast destruction. It’s amazing how a new franchise can rival and challenge the original Star Wars Trilogy in terms of pure entertainment value and whimsy—especially considering that both properties are owned by the same people, and that a new Star Wars is on the way. But here we are, in the midst of a renaissance of heroic adventure movies. And Avengers are leading the way.
I got the chance to catch Age of Ultron early, and have had some time to think on it. With almost a week to chew on that viewing, I’d like to share a few bullet points on this film. Enjoy!
Avoiding Man of Steel pitfalls
Near the middle of Age of Ultron, there is a fight between Iron Man and The Hulk. The green rage monster has flown off the handle via mind trickery, and Tony Stark has to contain him for the sake of civilians. What follows is a battle that crushes buildings and streets, yet manages to watch out for people. The danger is real, as Hulk can’t be controlled. Iron Man saves others when he can, while strategizing his attack—unlike a certain caped alien.
In the Superman movie Man of Steel, our hero makes no attempt to save anyone when fighting the villainous General Zod. They fly through and take down skyscrapers, throw vehicles at one another, presumably killing large numbers of “collateral damage.” This makes it hard to root for Supes. Meanwhile, Iron Man is taking the time to stop an elevator from collapsing, even when he’s focused on some Hulk Busting.
A tiny bit of Her
The big bad guy here is the titular Ultron, an artificial intelligence created to deter potential alien invasions. While not really about the mechanics of A.I., there are some nice details on their functions. For starters, when Ultron comes alive, he immediately accesses the information superhighway (our “world brain”) and determines that, based on his programming to save humanity, Earth must be cleansed. Faster and faster, he devises his plans, becoming increasingly more dangerous and unhinged. Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil has made mention that technology is updating and evolving so quickly, that A.I. will not only happen soon, but will itself expand beyond human brain processing, accomplishing amazing things. Or terrifying things, if Age of Ultron is seen as a prophecy.
On the flip side of this maybe-evil, is the new hero The Vision, an expansion of Iron Man’s own A.I. system Jarvis. Vision can fly, change appearance, and even lift Thor’s hammer—a stunning moment following a scene earlier in the movie in which each of the Avengers try their and fail to lift it. And, thankfully, is on our side. In the end, he converses about humanity, seeing the good in them while acknowledging our eventual fall. At least he’s polite and kind…
Made for the Third Dimension
My early screening was a 3D one. Normally, I don’t put much stock in this “gimmick,” as it is rarely used to provide story or thematic depth. In the case of Age of Ultron, this visual trickery is executed to the fullest entertaining capabilities. This is no Goodbye to Language, providing some thoughtful images and manipulation, but the cinematography and eyewear at play here are balanced to the point of pure joy. Badass shots of our heroes whizzing in and out of frame are given higher life, making us appreciate the skill and craft put in to this work. The best 3D I’ve seen from Marvel was Guardians of the Galaxy, partially due to all of the alien colors and space stuff, but more than likely because of the pin point directorial decisions to enhance specific parts of a shot with depth and focus. It was amazing. Age of Ultron? Joyful and fun.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is now playing everywhere. For more from the author, visit his site CriticalNO.com and follow him on twitter @BillReviews.