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Now that Avengers: Age of Ultron has arrived in the much cooler hemisphere, fans from around the United States are, no doubt, clamoring to see it – and see it again. Joss Whedon returns to helm his fan-favorite Avengers series, and packs the sequel with more detail, action, subplotting, romance, comic references, MCU references, humor, sadness, and cool stuff than you would care to shake a stick at. The most bloated entry in the eleven-film franchise, “Age of Ultron” is never content with being at rest. Each moment within each scene contains something to please fans; every frame is far too valuable to be wasted on trivial plot continuation.
Since the events of The Avengers, our group of super-powered do-gooders have been searching for Loki’s elusive scepter. Finally hunting it down, the team recovers the artifact with surprisingly little ado, and carry it off to Stark tower for further research. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), who has become increasingly obsessed with the Earth’s intergalactic safety, discovers an intelligent core to the scepter’s gem, and enlists the help of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to crack the “code” of artificial intelligence. An experiment that goes horribly wrong, the program attains consciousness, and corrupts its source code; this new being is solely concerned with protecting the Earth, not humanity. Ultron (voiced by James Spader) uploads himself to the Internet, hell bent on forcing the human race to “evolve” and destroying his creator, Tony Stark.
While the simple, central core, of the narrative could be said to be: “Ultron wants to destroy the world, and The Avengers must learn to work together to stop him,” Whedon’s only purpose for this storyboard is to connect various other tangents that he deems far more interesting. While Ultron brings us a loud and climactical (and familiar) battle, “Age of Ultron” is more about discovering the hidden pasts of some characters, and mapping out the future for others. A definitive end to Phase Two, the film serves as a cartoonish desert signpost for future MCU entries. So much information is packed into the two-hour twenty-one-minute run time that multiple viewings are all but required to digest everything that has happened – a brilliant moneymaking strategy from Disney/Marvel, and certainly a product of Whedon’s penchant for endlessly-discussable easter eggs.
After so many films, Marvel’s characters have begun to become caricatures of themselves. Nodding to this during the opening raid sequence, Whedon’s jokes about Captain America’s (Chris Evans) strict adherence to virtue (and a bit of a meta reminder that this is a PG-13 action movie for kids) when he snips at Tony Stark for swearing – a joke that persists through the film. While Whedon is quick to point out the one-dimensional framework of his characters, he blatantly refuses to take any decisive action to prevent it. Comically rigid in their roles, the actors are restrained by Marvel’s formulaic narrative arc, and their unbelievably cheesy dialogue.
Judging any Marvel movie on absolute terms has become impossible. Despite their reliance on threadbare plots and action spectacle, Marvel continues to inspire the love of generations of fans. More and more, fans are expecting a similar experience to that of their favorite band at a concert; they do not want to hear the new experimental album, they want to hear all the songs they know. Marvel has struck a chord with audiences by peeling back the nuances of traditional cinema and allowing audiences to be a part of something larger than themselves.
People of all ages at any level of comic book, movie, or franchise knowledge can come together and find something for themselves in each of the MCU’s ever-increasing lineup of films. Jam-packed with references, hidden treasures, heady jokes, stupid jokes, explosions, and science, Marvel has begun to create a string of interactive visual experiences in place of standard films. As long as Marvel continues to inspire awe and loyalty, they will continue to dominate the cinematic landscape, and with Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel shows no signs of giving up its crown anytime soon.