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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Ultron’ one of Marvel’s finest

    Marvel+Studios

    Marvel Studios

    “Avengers: Age of Ultron” has it all, and it has a lot of it: Characters, plot, action, humor, emotion. Though this can work against it, it’s largely effective and ultimately very entertaining.

    This sequel starts off treading in the familiar territory of its predecessor, for better and for worse. The better is that the first scene, an all-out Avengers assault on a snowy Hydra compound, wastes no time in showcasing what we’ve all come to see. You’d be hard-pressed to find finer action sequences in films today than when Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow/Nathasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) are operating on the battlefield in perfect harmony.

    Like in the alien invasion of New York finale in 2012’s “The Avengers,” there’s a spectacular tracking shot that bounces from member to member.

    The worse is that, even if it’s only for this film’s opening sequence, the film’s plot revolves around the team retrieving Loki’s staff from the clutches of evil organization Hydra. Loki’s staff was the main plot device in the first film, and it took a little wind out of the sails to see the same trope trotted out again.

    Thankfully, the scepter is just a means to an end and quickly gives way to something much more interesting: Ultron (James Spader).

    As Stark’s brainchild, the Ultron program was intended to create an army of Iron Man-suited robots outfitted with artificial intelligence to combat any large-scale threats to the world. There are two movies currently out in theaters about A.I.: the thinking man’s thriller “Ex Machina,” and this action-packed “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Despite their obvious differences, the films share a similar sentiment: humans are an outdated model.

    Ultron gains sentience, and it takes him all of half a minute of existence to reach a conclusion.

    “There is only one path to peace: … your extinction.”

    Without question, the 8-foot, bipedal metal harbinger of humanity’s reckoning is the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    Though his intent to rid the world of man and populate it with himself is a little rote — I mean, which advanced A.I. hasn’t deemed humanity a sickness unto itself? — Ultron’s plan is certainly impressive to behold once it reaches fruition. He exacts his master plan with personality, too.

    While Spader physically performed as Ultron in a motion capture suit, it’s his voice work that perfectly complements the style that’s characteristic of writer/director Joss Whedon: threatening, yet irreverently humorous.

    “I can’t physically throw up in my mouth, but if I could, I would do it,” he says in response to Captain America’s attempt at extending an olive branch.

    Again, in Whedon fashion, the humor peppers the action, with barbs between the various members flying as frequently as bullets and blasts.

    “They better not be playing hide the zucchini,” Stark quips when the Hulk and Black Widow are absent from one of the film’s big brouhahas.

    As you might imagine, the film is largely composed of giant action set pieces with some narrative sprinkled in between to propel us to the next one.

    It’s like a high-speed baton pass. If there was time to sit down and examine frame-by-frame, you might see that the baton is, even for a fraction of a second, mid-air between runners’ hands with no support. Likewise, some plot points seem slightly suspect. In real time, though, it’s all so much to comprehend that, even if the rationale doesn’t sound like it adds up, you’re shuttled along so quickly that you don’t have time to protest.

    The film is so stuffed to the gills that it has to clip along at this breakneck pace. There are the six Avengers, Ultron and the two supernatural twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, respectively) first introduced at the end of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” That’s nine distinct characters with nine distinct arcs. Even with a running time close to two-and-a-half hours, that’s a lot.

    There’s emotion and character development, but it comes in between, and sometimes in the middle of, the cacophonous flurry of battle. It’s hard for it all to land effectively and authentically. There’s just a lot of everything, and some of it gets lost.

    However, it’s due to this striving to make the film as much as it can be that makes “Avengers: Age of Ultron” pure popcorn entertainment of the highest quality.

    Grade: B+

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    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.

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