Wednesday, May 20, 2015

AVENGERS: AGE of ULTRON does not DISAPPOINT but doesn't really SATISFY either!

Hammerheads and Harlemites, let me kick this joint off by saying the sheer joy of just having the privelege to view a sequel to the best superhero team movie in history is a delight in and of itself. Forget the story, character development, subplots and all that business...the fact that I got to sit down with my three kids and watch an action flick starring the world's mightiest heroes is a pleasure I never thought I would realize in my lifetime. But unfortunately, I have been blessed with the power of observation. Every piece of artwork that I choose to partake in is subject to my "eye of discernment", if there is something amiss or intellect makes a mental note of it, no matter how beloved the subject matter may be. I often wish that I could shut down that faculty of mine in situations like this.

AGE OF ULTRON is a bloated, sometimes nonsensical, beauty pageant of special effects and superheroic skirmishes fanboys have been begging to see since the dawn of the Marvel Age. Storyline is a simple one; Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Banner (The Hulk) use the recovered staff of Loki to aid them in the process of creating a sentient global defense system they call Ultron. Sounds like a really bad idea that begins an avalanche of poor choices and missed opportunities that Joss Whedon is responsible for helming. The heroes spend the rest of the flick trying to unspill the milk and in doing so...they almost kill as many folks as Superman did in the infamous Man of Steel. Why would two uber-intelligent wonderkinds like Stark and Banner use an alien technology to jumpstart a super program that they know will become sentient? They just got finished opening up wormholes over New York and beating back alien conquerors...why would they re-open the can of worms with Loki's sceptre. This is the main problem that plagues AGE of ULTRON for me. It's a major lapse in character logic. I cannot believe these incredibly responsible and fatigued individuals would allow this shit to happen.

The first scene pulls us into the action full throttle as we see the Avengers pouncing on a castle in the fictional country of Sokovia. The action scenes are glorious stop-start motion still lifes that will cause fanboy hearts to flutter. Captain America bucks down scores of soldiers with his newly enhanced boomerang shield. Hawkeye is straight knocking fools out with his bow and arrow and superior wrist action. Black Widow becomes more entertaining and enthralling with each appearance...she glides through the battlefield like Trinity from the Matrix. The Hulk was entertaining in the last movie although I felt at times he was there for comic relief and fear factor. But he is amazing in this film...not just his CGI which is breathtakingly brilliant...but Mark Ruffalo's performance is hitting on all cylinders...his Bruce Banner is truly filled with the pain and sorrow that accompanies his ability to turn green and destroy everything in his wake. I read in many different critiques of this movie that the budding romance between Black Widow and the Hulk was contrived and felt forced. I didn't feel that way..I was actually interested in seeing their story be fleshed out more. I wonder if they will ever consider doing a Hulk/Black Widow road trip movie? The scenes in which Scarlett Johannsen interacts with the Hulk to quell his primordial fury are riveting. Iron Man is back again doing his arrogant, too cool for school, billionaire playboy CEO schtick and he is still the glue that holds the frame together. But to be totally honest, the quips and inside helmet perspectives depicting his Iron alter ego in action can get dull and make you wonder do these cats ever stop cracking jokes? I enjoy good banter but are trying to save the world, enough with the jokes. Can you imagine if they had included Spiderman in this movie? They would have had to rename it The Avengers Play
The Dozens!

Ultron like the Red Skull is a massive disappointment. Ultron, to me, is possibly the mold from which the Terminator was cast. So he should be every bit as formidable as that sci-fi icon if not more so...but his immediate plans for human extermination seem contrived and not well thought out. He looks great and sounds like the devil himself except when he's trying to compete in quip fest 2015 with the rest of the characters in this pop culture melange. His attack comes down to building a rag tag swarm of half constructed drones who can be easily swatted like gnats at a summer cookout...but there's so many of them that they eventually they become...annoying. I feel like Ultron had the potential to be one of the most frightening and relelvant big screen villains we have seen in a long time, the subtext behind the character has always been the stuff of science fiction nightmares. But in this technicolor superherogasm that is built for summer speed...Ultron's greater virtues are left in the dust in lieu of Happy Meals and action figures. I feel you Marvel. Get that money but don't forget that we love your characters and nothing can make your fanbase turn on you quicker than...inaccurate portrayals of your characters!!!

Next....Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch! Back in the day when I was a young buck copping the latest issue of the Avengers at the corner store, I used to wonder about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Flash was the signature superhero possesed of preternatural speed. He also had one of the dopest costumes in the history of comics so what chance did this white haired, elf looking cat have in the swelling marketplace of long underwear crimefighters? He was different. In addition to his superspeed, he had this Sub Mariner/Prince Namor attitude about him, he didn't care about being a"hero", He was always annoyed and looked like at any minute he may snap on you. He had no love for regular folks and was a bit stuck on himself...the only person he gave a damn about was his sister...The Scarlet Witch. Now in proper Marvel canon...Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are mutants and are the children of Marvel Big Boss, Magneto. They are both really wanderers in a world of heroes and villains and because of their lineage are stuck in the middle. In the comics they ranged from being obligatory b-listers who couldn't support their own books to mainstays on the permanent Avengers roster. Scarlet Witch was always very interesting and offbeat to me. Her powers have never been really clear to me but they have something to do with being able to alter reality. She's Jean Grey with a dash of the occult. I enjoyed her in AGE OF ULTRON, she was appropriately creepy and fascinating at the same time. I look forward to see how the MCU positions her as a character of increasing danger and power. SPOILER: We won't be seeing any more of Quicksilver and that is unfortunate because I really enjoyed this incarnation of the hero as opposed to the Days of Future Past version.

And then there was THE VISION!!!! Whoever thought any studio would be ballsy enough to bring the Vision to life on the big screen? Not I. Some things are just to outlandish to expect in tentpole productions such as this. The Vision has to be the least marketable of all the characters in this movie because he is perhaps most difficult to explain. I always loved him but here again like Scarlet Witch, his powers and origin story are a bit tough to swallow. The Vision in Marvel Continuity used to be the android version of The Human Torch (Not the famed Johnny Storm of FF)..his android body was created by scientist, Phineas Horton. When this original human torch was deactivated, Marvel canon asserts that the Vision was built by Ultron using the android's spare body parts. Whew! See what I'm saying? Ultron does wind up building the Vision as a more flesh like receptacle to house his artificial consciousness but whatever the was great to see this character brought to life on screen. He struck me as a more vibrant and curious Dr. Manhattan.

Hulk versus Iron Man in Hulkbuster Armor...this could have been its own separate film!!! Stunning. Breathtaking. Pulse-pounding!!! I only wish that I hadn't seen most of it already in spoilers. If they ever get around to doing a HULK solo flick this is what it should be like.

Falcon and War Machine...Don Cheadle finally makes me forget Terrence Howard as War Machine. And Anthony Mackie still holds it down as Cap's fine feathered homie, The Falcon. I could say that I was annoyed by the fact that these brothers got very little screen time and the movie takes us all the way to Wakanda but neglects giving us a single whiff of The Black Panther...but I'm just satisfied that Marvel has included brothers in their cinematic universe. I can't wait to see if the new Iron Fist Netflix Series includes Misty Knight!

So did I like it? Yeah, of course I did. Who doesn't like a screen full of rampaging superheroes trouncing bad guys and saving the world? I just felt like this one was a bit off beat unlike the first Avengers which was pitch perfect. How many times can we watch the Avengers hold off hordes of automated drones and/ or alien stormtroopers? Marvel's key ingredient seems to be the continuity and character development they pack in to each of their films. They sorta forgot their recipe with this one...or willfully ignored it. Either way...bring on the Russo Brothers and the Infinity Gauntlet! There's still time to save the universe! Make mine Marvel.