Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Avengers charge into Eastern Europe to retrieve Loki’s scepter in war-torn Sokovia, where they come face to face with Hydra’s secret weapon, the twins Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). To quote Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), “He’s fast and she’s weird”, and she effectively utilizes this weirdness to play a key role in manipulating the team by giving them a glimpse of their greatest fears. So strong is that of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) that it prompts him to pursue his Ultron initiative, an AI defense system that will put the weight of the world’s worries out of their shoulders. Proving to be hostile and overwhelming JARVIS in the process, Ultron goes rogue and decides that it’s time to cleanse the Earth of what has been plaguing it since forever: Humans. But first, he must get rid of everyone in his way, mainly The Avengers.

The first Avengers film is a real success in all aspects, and overtaking what it has achieved is a tall order. Age of Ultron does deliver the goods, but lacks the oomph that the first film had, which is perhaps just normal for a sequel. But to look at the film from the sole perspective of comparing it to the first one is a tad too unfair, for it has its own strengths and weaknesses. Besides, it’s not as if it would flop at the box office anyway. Maybe some people just miss Loki, because Ultron is a bit weird as the main villain.

Ultron cracks jokes once in a while, sings about strings, and is blatantly childish in several scenes. Perhaps the strange thing is that he is nowhere near the vicinity of “adorable” or “cute”. We are talking about a giant AI in steel humanoid form here, lest we forget. But how else would you personify a highly technical and intangible concept such as Ultron? At least he is menacing for sure, which is a good start, despite his motives being unclear. Hatred is something innately human. Where is Ultron getting all of his?

But nothing can’t be solved with a plethora of fight scenes that make you marvel at the ingenuity of today’s CGI, from Wanda’s pink hex bolts all the way to the bluish streaks of dust left in the wake of her brother’s super-fast reflexes. Being an ensemble film, heavy stress is placed on teamwork, and you really get to appreciate the effort to turn everything into a group project even in the midst of an Asgardian god who can probably annihilate almost everyone and everything in one fell swoop if he wanted to.

The introduction of new characters does not derail the film in any way. The motive of the twins is clear, and Disney has found a way to create a convincing backstory for them that wouldn’t require even a single mention of Magneto. Vision is quite tricky because there is more imagination needed to explain his very existence, which is not at all unjustified since he is necessary for the development of the infinity gems subplot.

Everything unfolds in a predictable pace, throwing in a surprise or two along the way that you wouldn’t see coming, pun intended. Perhaps the greatest contribution of this sequel is the preview that we get of some characters’ backstories, particularly that of Black Widow, given the scarcity of information that we have as far as her background is concerned. They also get to pay some sort of tribute to Hawkeye, proving that he is just as essential an asset to the team just like everybody else.

Yes, there is an after-credits scene so you better stay put. I’d say it is an exciting one, although nothing that would really surprise you with everything that is happening so far. Infinity War will not be coming out until 2018, but we have Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok to look forward to as fillers in the next two years, which makes me think that it’s not going to be that long a wait. All in all, Age of Ultron is a decent sequel that you will enjoy as it propels the story forward for the future installments.

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