Avengers: Age of Ultron – Furious Seven in Spandex

There’s a whole lot to Marvel at in this second installment of the Avengers series. No short of action, 3-D enhanced stunts, and insider quips to keep most viewers alert through most of the films 141 minute run. But there is some discourse in the ranks of Avenger fans – a kind of harrumph from a few steadfast patrons who find the smart-alecky exchanges between the super-heroes not all that smart and the heroes not all that super. -4-5Age of Ultron will be a dividing entry into the Marvel pantheon with some viewers simply giddy that the whole gang’s back and they’re a tighter unit (spandex included) than ever before. Others will moan under the weight of the film’s frat boy (sorority girl) one-of-the-gang bantering and its strained efforts to be liked. Avengers: Age of Ultron works and it doesn’t work. Josh Whedon who still holds the helm as writer and director might well feel he can short-cut the introductions and character build-up he established in the first Avengers. Unless you’re a complete newbie, there is little chance of not recognizing the main players but even for those in the know there is a bit of keep-up between the audience and the story. The first sequence – a forest run battle reminiscent of a similar scene from Return of the Jedi (1983)– crams in as many character cues as possible – Captain America is the patriotic one, Black Widow is the sarcastic one, Hulk is the muscle, Thor is classic and the cast list goes on. By the end of it – and it’s a lengthy sequence – it’s expected that we have fallen comfortably back to where we last left them. But then Whedon needs to take the story some place it hasn’t gone before and so we get moments of reveal that scramble beneath the characters’ layers of phenomenal strength to find their true heart and soul: Hawkeye (perhaps the least devoted member of the team) gets his moment to surprise (sort of), a clash of morals erupts within the team and there’s a harder push on an unlikely romance. None of these are really necessary given that an earlier scene – The Avengers relaxing out of costume at what looks to be a private-club for superheroes and recognizable comic book artists – pretty much covers it all. Conflict, camaraderie, and competition come across effortlessly and with heart and humour. It’s a perfect Whedon moment to cancel out all other Whedon moments in the film.

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Ultron, the film’s super villain, voiced by James Spader is the materialized version of good intent turned malevolent is the film`s most complex and intriguing character. You`ll hear the opposite from others who find both Ultron and Spader weak and expendable – a curious response to a character and performance that balances a naïve sarcasm with a bridled sense of mayhem and danger. Avengers 2: Age of Ultron is a bit of a misfire for Whedon – but it`s not entirely off the target. The film might have played better if it was released before Furious Seven. There are enough similar scenes between Furious Seven and Ultron to suspect that there was a spy bouncing back and forth between sets. Even so…for all of the Avengers star power, director power and name power – Furious Seven  -1  is the better film.

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