So after much ultra-hype, plot-leaking trailers, and massive publicity storms, the biggest move of the year dropped with an explosive bang at theaters. (Side note: I simply don’t understand why studios feel they have to beat the public over the head with massive advertising campaigns. Avengers was one of the most lucrative films of all time. Did they really think the second film wouldn’t be just as big? All they had to do was drop a trailer then sit back and watch the cash roll in.)

So was it worth all the hullabaloo? I enjoyed it. What’s not to like about combining all the heroes you love in one film with added characters and a melodramatic villain? I’m pretty sure that anyone who liked/loved the first film will like/love this one as well. Much like the Blue Collar Avengers (Fast & Furious franchise), there’s something about enjoying the return of the same cast and crew that you’ve been following from the very beginning. I believe Marvel’s test will really be the time when the actors who are so iconic (Robert Downey in particular) finally take a bow and pass on their character to another actor. Oh, to imagine the fanboy turmoil.

I won’t go deep into the plot-you’ve seen the numerous trailers if you’ve been alive the last few months. Unfortunately there aren’t many major plot points that weren’t already exposed by ‘teasers’ and ‘first looks’. So you already know that our motley crew of heroes once again face a WORLD THREATENING EVENT, this time ignited by Ultron, an artificial intelligence housed by a metallic humanoid shell. The trailer gives the impression that Stark creates it, but it’s more of a Stark/Banner duology with the aid of the Marvel Universe’s answer to everything: alien technology. Stark wants to save the world from a future alien invasion with a protective army of Chappie robots, and thinks Ultron intelligence is the answer.

For a genius, Stark doesn’t really think things through, does he?

In less time than it takes to say Terminator Genysis, the Ultron intelligence turns evil and decides humanity is best eradicated from earth. Throw in an army of robot drones and the Avengers once again can show off their fighting skills in glorious action sequences. Tossed into the mix are Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, or Pierto and Wanda as they’re referred to in the film. He runs fast, she is basically a looser version of Jean Grey of the X-Men. Orphans by war with genuine reason to mistrust Tony Stark, they side with Ultron against the Avengers. Will they see the light and eventually discover Ultron’s insane plan? You already know the answer.

There was a lot to like about the film. The Avengers crew have a perfect balance of family dysfunction and camaraderie to keep things interesting. Like every film under the Marvel Studios banner, the style is loose with plenty of action and humor to go around. There are a lot of characters, but the film does a pretty good job at balancing their stories so no one is really left out, although Thor might have deserved a bit more screen time. There is a fantastic sequence with Iron Man vs. the Hulk that I really want to see again. Speaking of the Hulk, I really love what they did with the special effects, which were even better than the first Avengers, particularly his face. This is the first film that Hulk looked almost ‘real’. And the brief scenes with the Vision were simply awesome.

I wouldn’t say I was disappointed with anything in the film, but I think there were moments that could have been better, starting with Ultron. (James Spader’s voice was awesome, by the way. Deep, evil electronic purring.) The trailers made him out to be much more menacing than he really was. His ultimate plan to ‘destroy the earth’ just felt a bit lackluster, and his attacks on the Avengers weren’t as dramatic as inferred. But the real missed opportunity was that the film broke absolutely no new ground. It felt very much constructed by the exact same blueprint of the first film, simply substituting Loki and aliens with Ultron and robot drones. Nothing wrong with that, per se. As noted, the Fast films have employed the same formula to outstanding success. I simply hope that the inevitable next film will try to raise the bar a bit.

Bottom line: Great summer fun. Four out of five stars.

 

 

When Bard Constantine isn’t consumed by pop culture, he writes gritty futures and far-flung fantasy. See more at bardwritesbooks.com

BIKE

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