Written & Directed by Joss Whedon
Summer is clearly here with the arrival of the first major blockbuster of the year. But this isn’t any old major blockbuster, this is likely the blockbuster of the year. The first Avengers film grossed $1.5 billion worldwide. That’s billion, with a “B”, and its sequel, Age of Ultron opened to the tone of $201 million overseas last week. If it wasn’t for the first new Star Wars film in a decade, I would say Age of Ultron easily takes the prize as highest grossing film of the year. But even with a new Star Wars, The Avengersbrand is as bankable as any other in Hollywood right now, and for this reason fans will come out in droves to see this movie, probably multiple times, and they won’t be disappointed, as Joss Whedon and team deliver another superhero film worthy of its lofty status as defenders of the world.
When we last left the Avengers, they were saving the world from invading aliens in New York. Now, with a few more individual films under their belts, the Avengers are headquartered in New York, ready to protect the world against its next great threat. However, they did not know that threat might come from their very own ranks. After acquiring the scepter of Loki, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) discovers an advanced software program within the stone in the scepter, rivaling that of his own Jarvis (Paul Bettany). Deciding to build an Iron Man to end all Iron Mans and defend the Earth for good, Stark with the help of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) creates Ultron (James Spader), an advanced AI whose purpose is to stand guard over Earth. However, the plan backfires when Ultron threatens to press the restart button on humanity.
What makes the Avengers such a likable bunch is the different personalities involved and how they interact with each other. The charm of a blockbuster like this is its ability to be serious and handle quite a bit of carnage all the while maintaining its sense of humor throughout, making it worthwhile to spend time with such a fun group of superheroes. Key to this dynamic is Joss Whedon, whose sensibilities for sci-fi comedy are unrivaled. Able to mold witty comedy with smart sci-fi scenarios, Whedon endears these characters to masses beyond those who already endear them, making the Avengers franchise what it is today. Certainly heaps of credit should be given to the cast as well for bringing these characters to life in such a vibrant and entertaining way. Downey Jr. first among the team, but by no means the only one who excels in their role. Ruffalo, Renner, Hemsworth, et al. exceed.
So what makes this installment different from the previous one, or previous individuals? With the new storyline of Ultron, Whedon has opened up the superhero world to the sense of humanity, deepening the impact these individuals are making on the world, and the sacrifice they make to defend it. Not knowing the source material, I was endlessly impressed by the films ability to take the opportunity to explore the dichotomy between technology and “humanity”, Ultron and Avengers. For Ultron, his motives for destruction are simple, he is superior and sees no need for the inferior Avengers/humans. For the Avengers, however, the thought process runs deeper, with a sense of love, family, a level of vulnerability that not only easily separates the good from the evil for even the most casual of moviegoers, but also expands upon the likability of these superheroes by making them even more relatable to all non-superheroes.
Everyone wants to be a superhero, to do the right thing. It’d be nice to be as smart as Stark or Banner, as lethal as Romanoff or Barton, as wholesome as Rogers, or simply as godly as Thor, but at the core we’d all like to save the world and be the hero. The success of the superhero era in media comes down to this fantasy dream, but setting the Avengers apart, particularly Age of Ultron, is the humanity on display within its heroes. The film has everything a blockbuster ought to. It is big and full of CGI. It stages major battle scenes while blending the charm of characters we have all become familiar with over the last decade. There is no reason this movie shouldn’t make $1 billion this year. It’s going to. Marvel has become the model of how to make a good blockbuster in recent years, and with Age of Ultron, that trend certainly continues.