Thursday, April 30, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron ★★★

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    As "Avengers: Age of Ultron" descends into theaters with no regard for one's financial stability, it only alludes to the notion that Hollywood blockbusters are still very much in demand, especially if they contain characters of superhuman capabilities and costumes that utilize the synthetic fiber of Spandex, among other aspects. Although the film hits on several key notes that were regrettably forgotten in the first installment, "Age of Ultron" does little to make that progression towards something that is more sophisticated than what it actually is: An adequate action film, with a central concern of plot and character, whose CGI is as overbearing as the picture's reign on the weekend box- office.

    After Loki's plans for world domination were derailed in the first go-round, his all powerful scepter was taken by an organization that goes by the name of Hydra, a group who does little justice to the creature of Greek mythology and whose appearance would certainly conjure the distinction of unintimidating. In an opening scene that would surely make any action picture grimace with envy, we are taken through a snow filled terrain, as our ensemble cast of characters proceed to dismantle any resistance with relative ease. The scepter is retrieved for safe keeping and the heroes retire back to their glamorous base, which also seems to double as a penthouse.

    In a plot line similar to that of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," Tony Stark, our resident egoist maniac, indulges in a scientific study of the jewel that powers this weapon, ultimately finding an intelligence that can be utilized for personal gain. (Stark has created a line of robotic beings, which he believes can be infused with this intelligence, all in an effort to provide the world with a united defense program, so that The Avengers can take a permanent leave of absence.) This backfires, however, and the group is confronted by Ultron, a personification of the foreign intellect who found refuge in the battered frame of one of Stark's creations.

    This leads to a complication of relatable proportions, as Ultron essentially adopts a Manifest Destiny approach to contemplation, as he believes that the world must be allowed to kill and expand in order to evolve. (This can also be seen as a satire of today's foreign relations, as The Avengers take on the image of the United States, with their worldwide policing intentions, and Ultron comes to reflect a short list of countries who want to rid the Earth of this obstruction--i.e., Iran and North Korea.) Our heroes must stop this irrational enemy in order to keep the peace once more.

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    If there was one facet of "The Avengers" that I heavily scrutinized, it was the lack of humanness attributed to the cast of heroes. This is not only important for basic characterization purposes, but it appeases the notion that these characters aren't immortal (outside of Thor), and that they can become vulnerable and relatable to the average joe. In essence, it recalls the virtue of courage discussion conducted by Plato, in which it becomes evident that an individual that projects himself in a life-threatening circumstance is only being courageous and brave if they are not skilled in the matter at hand. (Superpowers certainly come in handy when one is bashing skulls, and if no weakness is conveyed, then the picture not only becomes predictable, but it would relish in tediousness.) Yet, the film brilliantly executes this much-needed quality in two particular sequences, which not only gives us an insight into the man or woman behind the costume, but it gives the film a sense of authenticity.

    Nevertheless, this newest installment, in what is surely a beloved franchise, continues to falter in several areas, namely the treatment of the villain and the atmosphere. Sure, Ultron is rather menacing in appearance and promotes that distinctive witticism that all comic book villains strive to achieve, yet his formidability is completely lagging, and he essentially becomes nothing more than an extension of his henchmen, which seem to be our heroes' main focus for both films. (Can we see an Avengers picture in which the characters actually fight the central antagonist for more than a handful of minutes?) I am assuming that this Thanos character, who has been brought to our attention several times during mid-credit scenes and over several different comic book universes, will rectify this imperfection.

    As far as the ambiance is concerned, there is no doubt that Marvel caters to younger audiences with its lack of gore and the nonexistence of a comfortless mood, yet these things are direly warranted. If they ever hope to compare to the likes of Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, then these aspects must be included--not only to give the film a hint of poignancy--but to relinquish art in its most purest form; Marvel is ultimately robbing us of a key attribute of masterful filmmaking: an indulgence in human emotion, which basically stems from a dreary and unforeseeable tone.

    There is a scene in the latter portion of the film when our heroes boldly circle and defend a vital ingredient to Ultron's sinister scheme, that ultimately brings about a feeling of disappointment. As Captain America indulges in a "Matrix-esque" set of moves, the overbearance of the computer generated imagery rears its head and becomes quite laughable to a point. (This is in addition to a previous sequence littered with rescue attempts, where it is blatantly obvious that the film's events were created in front of a green screen.) When it comes to a picture of this stature, CGI becomes the ultimate paradox. Of course, it is needed in an effort to replicate the actions at hand, but if not used in moderation, it simply becomes forced and rather ludicrous. If anything, however, it is a disheartening feeling to know that the majority of a film was created by a computer.

    The financial success of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (I wholeheartedly expect the film to break the record for fastest to one billion dollars revenue worldwide, recently set by  "Furious 7") can be attributed to numerous individuals, but one group in particular stands firm and this would be the marketing and public relations team. There is no question that branding plays a major role with triumph here, and it is no coincidence that the global empire of Disney plays the role of puppet master. For, they are the quintessential branding machine.

    Although there is nothing politically incorrect with this sentiment, there is a rather annoying ramification of this process. Millions of individuals will flock into this screening already loving the picture, and it certainly clouds their minds during the viewing and afterward. What ultimately takes place here is a democratization of talent. Does this picture deserve the recognition it has received or is this just a consequence of placing several beloved heroes together, accompanied by promotional ties and action figures? I guess only one question remains: Why has it taken so long for DC to catch on to this formula?

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