New Avengers, Same Old Story
Marvel's flag-ship franchise has a second installment, but little that we haven't seen before.
A popular line of questioning for Hollywood entertainers these days goes something like this: When will the ‘superhero’ genre wear out its welcome with moviegoers? How much longer can this comic book craze last?
This is what we do best in American pop-culture. We help to build and hype something, the industry milks every last nickel it can out of the concept or movie star involved, and then we spend the next few years discussing how it all came crashing down (and pretend we knew it wasn’t that great all along).
Well, I am here to tell you that it is already over for the all-consuming comic book, superhero juggernaut. I do not mean to imply that the studios will stop making them anytime soon, but for those with any semblance of artistic taste (and old enough to have a driver’s license), the genre is creatively dead.
Director Joss Whedon’s latest effort, Avengers: Age of Ultron, is undeniably a well-crafted film. It is worth seeing. It’s a lot of fun and action-packed. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.
You have heard and seen all of this before. Many times over. Perhaps Whedon and his star-studded cast brought this upon themselves by making such a great Avengers movie last time around, but the end result this weekend was a theater filled with people who could be almost unanimously overheard saying “Decent, but basically the same as the first one” as they left my local Arc Light Cinemas.
I hope you are sitting down, but the plot for Age of Ultron involved a villain who wants to destroy the world and a lot of internal tension between our superheroes. Throw in a couple of snappy one-liners (although not as many as the first one), some references to how humans are their own worst enemies, and Jeremy Renner crowding the screen with his character’s incredibly boring storyline, and you have got yourself a $187 million dollar opening weekend picture!
One of the biggest let-downs in Age of Ultron was none other than the aforementioned Ultron. The “bad guy” in this movie is not a guy at all. He/It is an artificial intelligence app gone horribly awry. Voiced by James Spader, and resembling nothing memorable or interesting, Ultron was designed to protect humanity from alien invaders. Problems arise when he/it decides that to save mankind he/it will need to destroy mankind.
Who stands in his/its way? A couple of 50-year-old actors (Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo), and a pregnant Scarlett Johansson!
For all of the “humans are the only thing we really should fear” talk in these superhero movies, isn’t it odd that actual human beings are rarely the villains? At least in Age of Ultron, I found myself wishing that Lex Luther or Magneto would appear to put some tangible evil and depravity into the opposition. Or at the very least, give Ultron a flesh-and-blood looking body (see: James Cameron’s The Terminator) to emotionally connect us to the fear and hatred of the enemy that our heroes face.
This weakness aside, Age of Ultron has plenty to like. Its PG-13 rating is appropriate, but it stays within the confines of what most parents will be comfortable letting their tweens/teens see. The casting is pitch-perfect and all of the actors (not named Jeremy Renner) are fun to watch in action. You certainly won’t be bored during this movie and, by now, you do care what happens to the various main characters.
I give this movie a solid “B” grade and recommend that if you are going to see it, see it in the theater. Don’t waste all of the stunning technical work that went into something this big and impressive by watching it on your smart phone while in line at the bank.
But this joy-ride cannot last much longer. You can see it running out of (creative) steam on the screen before your very eyes. Marvel may be able to ask a committed, loyal fan-base of comic book readers to get excited about the same characters over and over again, but the rest of us want something more. And for now, it’s called “all of the amazing dramatic and comedy series on HBO, AMC, BBC and Netflix.”