Tuesday, May 12, 2015

avengers assemble and mash-up

The kid and I went to see the latest Avengers movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, last weekend. It was ... O.K. I am starting to wonder if Joss Whedon can't help but pastiche his own work, no matter what he does.

I was a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and an even bigger fan of Angel, so when I hear the name Joss Whedon I tend to have positive associations. But I am not a super fan girl. There are also plenty of things he has done that leave me cold (Dollhouse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), or that I just could never connect with (Firefly). I found the first Avengers movie a little on the ho-hum side. I love the casting and the banter of the main super heroes, but when you've seen one CGI robot blow up and a major city explode, you've seen them all, right?

The Avengers — and lots and lots of robots ...

Apparently not. Because the second time around with Ultron the Avengers were up against tons and tons of CGI robots and tried to save more than one city on the brink of destruction. Iron Man and his pals plowed through city streets and buildings, leaving broken glass and devastation in their wake, all in the name of saving the world. Again. And sadly, there was no witty, bratty villain like Tom Hiddleston's Loki, but another CGI super robot, Ultron, who wanted to destroy the world because ... I really don't know. It was in the script?

As I watched all of this computer-generated mayhem, which seemed to go on forever at its two and a half hour-plus running time, I couldn't help think of another Whedon project, Cabin in the Woods. The movie references in The Avengers may not have been as blatant or funny as the horror tropes that Cabin in the Woods served up, but movie buffs may still have had a déjà vu feeling in certain scenes:

A bunch of robots streaming up the side of a building — hey, that is reminiscent of I, Robot.  
Black Widow and the Hulk have a Beauty and the Beast thing going.  
Naughty Ultron isn't your friendly neighborhood artificial intelligence — from 2001 to A.I. and beyond.  
All that morphing metal was also very Terminator-y.  
Robert Downey Jr.'s sassy Tony Stark/Iron Man is suddenly a bit of a Victor Frankenstein in his desire to use Ultron to save the world.

The best scene in the movie is a moment of relative quiet near the start of the film. The Avengers have all been hanging out at a party, celebrating their latest victory. They start teasing Thor about his hammer, and he declares that only he is worthy to wield such a weapon. Each Avenger, except the wise Black Widow, takes a turn trying to lift it, unsuccessfully, a la The Sword in the Stone.

Hawkeye [after quite a few drinks], "'Whosoever, be he worthy, shall have the power'" — Whatever man! It's a trick!"
Thor, "It is more than that, my friend!" 
Captain America, "But if you put the hammer in an elevator?" 
Iron Man, "It'll still go up." 
Captain America, "Elevator's not worthy."

It's fun, and silly, and showcases each character's and actor's strengths. There are other fun moments of clever dialog, which can be attributed to the Whedon touch, but unfortunately they are few and far between too many long, long battle scenes with robots. Sorry, Joss, but as far as these Marvel movies go, Guardians of the Galaxy is still the most entertaining, and knows how to perfectly balance fun and adventure.

p.s. And one more not-so-minor beef: With all the mega-merchandising that goes on with a film of this kind, why is it only the male characters that get action figures? Where is Black Widow?


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