director Joss Whedon
viewed: 05/03/2015 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA
The summer of movies 2015 began with arguably the biggest movie that summer 2015 has to offer the movie-going public, The Avengers (2012) sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. At this point, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a well-established thing, with wave after wave pounding the shores of pop culture media, inflated and expanded by its connection to Disney, it is at present the corporate entertainment machine par excellence. And I mean that in wowed amazement at the cornering of the market, the pumping of the products, intensive saturation, and amazing ambition.
Then there are the actual movies.
Helmed by Joss Whedon, who led the first The Avengers film into financial and relative critical success, the questions poured out about this sequel. Could it be bigger and still be good, much less better? The hype machine at Disney/Marvel envisioned this as one of its major deliverables, but with two more sequels set for 2017 and 2018, this film is no simple endgame in and of itself.
Honestly, I kind of enjoyed it. It’s neither great nor terrible and while it has its merits and detractions, I was more or less entertained and satisfied. Felix said it was “okay”. Clara liked it. Considering all the things that it had to do, that level of success is admirable, even if it’s nothing to get excited about. Whedon has said this is his last venture with the franchise.
Just look at the poster, you’ll get a good idea of what is going on here. There are 10 superheroes vying for screentime. You can barely squeeze them onto a single poster. It’s not an easy thing to wrangle.
Local critic Mick LaSalle wrote that the film was the embodiment of the end of cinema, a digital-effects blast of noise and action with no humanity nor heart, a parallel of the film’s actual narrative about evil artificial intelligence and robots attacking all humanity. And in the film’s opening segment, featuring a slick image of a bunch of the characters flying through the air in slow motion, I could see that. But I would say that has been the enormous shortcoming of Marvel superhero movies since they came of age in the CGi times.
Marvel’s best characters are indeed so fantastical that they really haven’t been renderable with traditional FX. Thus the dearth of them in the days before computers took over the movies. The huge shortcoming, though, to finally being able to render a big huge Hulk or a robot like Ultron is that they are animated and they do fantastically outrageous things that could never happen in real life and yet they have to be rendered with utter realism. As good as FX technologies have gotten and as talented as FX people are, there is an ultimate rub here. It’s hard to look at the screen and not know and be aware that it’s all computer-generated.
I’m at odds with myself to an extent on Marvel at this point and time. We have seen pretty much all the movies and enjoyed many of them. But it is hard not to look at the monolithic slate of product and not balk at the corporatization and endless rehashing of content and want to continue to feed that beast. I guess that is my dilemma for now.
At least until Ant-Man (2015) comes out and we go see that one.