Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Review #1,162

Director:  Joss Whedon
Cast:  Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson
Plot:  When Tony Stark tries to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  141min
Rating:  PG13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments.
Distributor:  Walt Disney Studios

“It's the end, the end of the path I started us on.”

Joss Whedon sure knows how to play with his audience.  Throughout this superb blockbuster, you will be in awe of his witty screenwriting style that firmly sets the comic tone of the movie.  For more than two hours, what makes the movie tick are not merely its thrill-a-minute action sequences and well thought out narrative, but the use of humour, both verbal and non-verbal, to bring forth a fervent sense of shared camaraderie. 

This feeling of camaraderie, similar to the feeling you get when joking with old friends you meet at a dinner party, ought to be given more credit because it elevates the blockbuster into something more meaningful.  The characters that you see are essentially your screen friends, but while you could never interact with them physically, what comes out of the screen experience is so much more intangible that it becomes geekafantabulously transcendental.

Avengers: Age of Ultron, as its title suggests, brings us into a new age of villainy in the form of an artificial intelligence that seeks sentience.  While not particularly strong in the super-villain sense, it has an intellect reeking of cunningness and hidden intentions.  Whedon probably knows that and shrewdly goes for a climactic act that doesn’t quite involve a direct showdown, but a raising of stakes so high (literally) you will feel the weight of evil waiting to crush all who stand noble and proud beneath it.  It's a showdown of a different sort.

The narrative is built up from a number of subplots that serve their function, and everything comes together neatly.  I think it is a case where story and characterizations triumph spectacle – it harps back to the camaraderie that was mentioned above. 

Despite being the second film of a pseudo-quadrology (the final film Avengers: Infinity War will be released in two parts), Age of Ultron doesn’t suffer from the middle installment syndrome where the story is left hanging, often ending on a cliffhanger.  Instead, it works as a self-contained chapter, tying up loose ends while leaving them loose enough for the next. 

If I have a grievance, however slight, I felt that there was a noticeable lack of tension till its final act - any measure of suspense came a little too late, and just maybe The Avengers (2012) was overall the more solid film.  But you can’t say that the latest isn’t exhilarating enough because it is done with sweet, saccharine love.  Whedon reportedly was exhausted from the experience of making the sequel.  I think he ought to sleep well now. 

Verdict:  Joss Whedon scores another winner with this exhilarating follow-up to The Avengers.

GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)

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