May 06, 2015

Podcast Episode 55: We Assemble For AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

We're passing what feels like the halfway mark of the Marvel's grand cinematic plan and I'm happy to report that the state of the MCU is strong.

I'm a big fan of the first Avengers. It's one of those movies that my wife and I can pretty much watch at the drop of a hat, whether it be for 20 minutes for the full running time. It's light and it's fun and it's full of of these incredible moments of unbridled joy. I would caution you not to expect quite the same experience from Age Of Ultron, which isn't to say it's not an expertly crafted summer blockbuster or that it somehow lacks in entertainment value. It's just a different kind of beast. In a way, Ultron is a collection of contradictions; compared to the first Avengers, the latest entry is both darker and more exhilarating, more epic in scope yet also far more intimate in dealing with its characters. 

All your favorite Avengers are back and in fine form, but we’ve also got a host of new additions to the cast.  Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are fine as “the twins” Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (the accents are pretty hit-or-miss) but the real standouts are Paul Bettany, who absolutely kills it with only a few scenes as The Vision, and James Spader as the titular Ultron.  Spader is such a natural fit for Whedon’s trademark quippy dialogue that I can’t believe the pairing never occurred to me earlier.  It seems so obvious in retrospect.  

I just wish that, while Ultron does actually threaten to cause a global extinction level event, the action wasn't quite so contained.  With a title like Age Of Ultron, I was expecting, well, an age.  Something that redefines civilization, the kind of singular event that is spoken about in hushed tones from generation to generation, not just a week of individual battles where it feels like the villain is largely operating in the shadows.  I wanted Ultron to truly fuck up the world for a while, crashing communications networks or global finance or something.  Ultron drones descending upon major cities all across the globe.  Chaos on an epic fucking scale.  Granted this movie is certainly very globe-trotting, with major set pieces in Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, New York and South Korea, but each incident is pretty isolated and somewhat small scale.  The new status quo at the end also feels a bit too easy.  Sure, Hulk has sent himself into mysterious exile, but Thor has just gone back to Asgard while Hawkeye has retired to his family farm and Tony Stark has very politely and amicably gone into semi-retirement.  It basically feels like, while most everyone has left the Avengers, they can all come back whenever they get bored.  If you're gonna break up the band and replace them with the B-team, I'd like there to be some real dramatic obstacles to bringing everyone together again.

Since we’re dealing with a team of superheroes, it seemed only appropriate that I assemble a team of my own for this week’s podcast.  Believe it or not, our conversation actually went much, MUCH longer but, at Jamie's suggestion, I'm trying to keep the podcasts shorter than the running time of the movies we're talking about.  We tackle Joss Whedon’s propensity for killing beloved characters, the film’s tricky onscreen romance and even answer some listener questions!

As always, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and/or on SoundCloud.

Next Week: We get classy and celebrate Orson Welles' 100th birthday with Citizen Kane!

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