Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Marvel Heroes to Save the World Again

The 2015 summer blockbuster movie season starts Friday with the release of a new Marvel movie titled "The Avengers: Age of Ultron."

The film opened in Europe, Asia and Australia last week and already has grossed more than $201 million; hopes are high for an even larger domestic box office this weekend.  "Ultron" is a sequel to the first Avengers movie, which made $1.5 billion in 2012, and insiders seem convinced that the new flick could do even better.

Here's the setup:  Iron Man uses artificial intelligence to produce a powerful robot that will protect earthlings from the kind of alien invasion that was the threat in the 2012 movie.  

Unfortunately, things go awry, as the trailer below explains.

Now it falls to Hawkeye, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and several other Marvell comic characters to mobilize and save the planet.  

The film was written and directed by Joss Whedon, who also did the first Avengers movie.  His biggest credit before that was the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" television series. The Marvell organization seems to have recruited him to intersperse a few character developments amid the mayhem and explosions. 

Serious film critics have a hard time with the summer blockbuster genre, which generates huge revenues and ancillary product sales.

    "Less of a Marvel and more of a Pretty Good," tweeted Michael Phillips of the 
    Chicago Tribune.

     "But by the fifth digital showdown, the endless CGI spectacle begins to feel 
     a little numbing," writes A.A. Dowd of the A.V. Club website.

     "True . . . (it) features some joking byplay, an elegantly superior villain, a plot
     to wipe out humankind and several destroyed cities," admits Stephen Whitty
     of ArtiSyndicate. "But how many times have we seen this movie before?  How
     many times are we going to have to see it?"

     Kyle Smith of the New York Post goes even further.  His review begins, "Writing 
     and directing . . . Ultron, Joss Whedon proves he has a superpower of his own:
     mediocrity.  If he were the star of a comic-book film, he'd be called something 
     like Zinc Man or Captain Belgium."

     (You might want to look up the full Smith article. Like many scathing critiques, it 
     is screamingly funny.  I do enjoy such pieces.)

By contrast, the chief film critic at Variety, Scott Thomas, likes the picture.  His publication is a show-business daily, and he seems to accept that Hollywood is more about profits than prizes at the Venice Film Festival.  

Thomas describes Ultron as "the sort of sequel . . . that shrugs off the self-seriousness of its predecessor and fully embraces its inner Saturday-morning serial."

And, he adds, it "at least gives us a more compelling (and plausible) destroyer than yet another galactic supervillain hellbent on domination. Specifically, it gives us that most destructive of universal forces: man's own best intentions."

Soon: The Marvel Story

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