Monday, June 15, 2015

W.B. at the Movies: Avengers: Age of Ultron

There is something that Joss Whedon said during an interview about Avengers: Age of Ultron that rings true to the way his work progresses: "I have a contract with my audience - that I will do better, that I will give them a reason to come in again that is more than the reason we gave them last time."

We finally got to the theater this weekend to see Whedon's latest effort, a sequel to arguably the best comic book superhero movie ever, Marvel's The Avengers. He was hard-pressed to come up with something "that is more than the reason we gave them last time," but there were indeed moments in the second film that exceeded the first.

Most significant - and I write this carefully to avoid "spoilers" for those yet to have experienced the film - there was the moment when "the cradle" was opened. Long after the film came out, I saw an interview with Paul Bettany, so I knew what was in the cradle. The anticipation of seeing this character emerge was almost as good as, I imagine, was the surprise of movie-goers when Bettany's character was revealed - a gleeful moment of recognition and awe and the certain knowledge that the villain Ultron was going to get his now.

Then, too, was the "OMG Wash" moment of this film (a little Serenity reference there), a sacrifice sudden and poignant and unexpected that also made the villain's demise inevitable. Those two moments fulfilled Whedon's contract to provide more, even if the overall film could not match the original simply because the original was so, well, original.

The folks behind the Marvel Studios films have envisioned a sprawling adventure story that is taking hours and hours of screen time - and close to a decade of real life - to tell. It's an ambitious project and a keen lesson for storytellers regarding how to spin a tale. Can the payoff (Avengers: Infinity War Parts I and II in 2018 and 2019, respectively) possibly be worth the buildup? It's an ambitious goal, but if they pull it off as well as they have so far, they'll be the two best adventure films ever created.

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