Saturday, May 23, 2015

Movie Review - "Mad Max: Fury Road" by David Pretty


In a post-apocalyptic future where gasoline is gold, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) goes rogue during a supply run, guiding her War Rig off course. Turns out she's secretly liberated the five genetically-flawless brides of the creepy, despotic overlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). In the resulting clash, Furiosa is unexpected paired up with Max (Tom Hardy), a former cop who lost everything after the crash and has gone decidedly nutso. After discovering that you can't go home after all, the two formulate a desperate plan that will either lead to redemption or a fiery and bloody demise along the deadly expanse of Fury Road.


If you've been desperately craving a genuinely-thrilling, stripped down action movie with heart, soul and a unique visual eye, then Mad Max: Fury Road is for you. In other words, if you possess even a modicum of taste and discrimination stop reading this stupid review and go see the friggin' movie. 

  • Short & Fleet  Finally, an action movie that doesn't drag on for nearly three hours! Fury Road is lean, mean and goes right for the jugular vein. As a result, the two-hour run time flies by like a cat-related Vine video.
  • Turns Out Film Is A Visual Medium After All  Fury Road thoroughly embraces the "show, don't tell" ethos of visual storytelling. It's also a big proponent of "actions speak louder than words" since we learn just as much about the characters by what they do rather than what they say. Mercifully there are no scenes of people running on at the mouth for the express purpose of explaining every little nuance to the mouth-breathing popcorn munchers in the audience. Which brings me to...
  • It's Weird As Fuck George Miller brilliantly world-builds by serving up all kinds of throw-away details and then gives not a single, solitary fuck about why its there. In one scene obese women are milked like cattle. Fucked-up dudes on stilts walk around a blue-tinted marsh like the landstriders in The Dark Crystal. Joe's War Boys routinely juice themselves up with a crank-like aerosol drug which resembles silver spray paint. A massive tsunami of sand batters motorists foolish enough to venture inside like the Wrath of God. One of the marauding vehicles sports a session guitarist for Marilyn Manson strapped to a stack of speakers likely inherited from Motörhead. With all of these bizarre details left lying around to ponder we begin to see just how truly huge this world is. 
  • Mel Who?  Okay, that's not entirely fair. Sticking with the redemption theme, I think it would have been great if Mel Gibson returned to the role that made him famous, but going with Tom Hardy instead accomplished some very important things. For one, Gibson's presence probably would have brought the wrong sort of attention to the film. Granted he seems to be keeping a better lid on the rants lately but we really need someone in this role who's just playing mad instead of someone who's clearly playing hockey with a warped puck. Two, Tom Hardy is an inspired choice to inherit the role. Brutish, monosyllabic, compact and badger-like, Hardy brings a wealth of prodigious talent to a borderline olde skool silent film performance. Via a series of amazingly subtle and original facial tics, cro-magnon body language and animalistic utterances, Hardy gives us a completely original take on the role. Bonus points for his intimation of an Australian accent which Charlize Thereon didn't even bother to attempt. Ah well, maybe she was on holiday in Queensland when the shit hit the proverbial fan.     
  • It's A Hard Nux Life   Nicholas Hoult is virtually unrecognizable here as the rogue War Boy Nux. It just amazes me that his character experiences more of an arc than 90% of the leads in modern action movies. I'm sure Hoult has built up considerable tolerance for makeup applications since he played Beast in these two recent X-Men movies, but here it actually feels as if he's risking life and limb at every turn. At first you hate the brainwashed little weasel but as time wears on and he starts burning through his nine lives you start to feel bad for the guy. Eventually he starts to change his allegiance as new information comes to light, proving he's more flexible than your average Republican. By the time the film reaches its bat-shit crazy climax you'll find yourself rooting for the little shit. Throughout it all, Hoult goes for broke, expertly navigating the character from manic to noble. 
  • ALL HAIL IMPERATOR FURIOSA!  A case can be made that Charlize Theron's Furiosa is actually the lead and not Max, which is fine by me. Resolute, highly-skilled, authoritative, passionate, intelligent, suicidally brave yet somehow vulnerable; Theron brings every facet of this interesting character to life with stunning conviction. This virtually guarantees that we share her anguish, rage and determination at various points in the story. On paper, George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris have penned a truly memorable action hero who stands shoulder-to-shoulder with cinema's best but Theron deserves the lion's share of praise for her sure-footed, note-perfect incarnation.
  • Not Just Your Average Joe  Color me impressed that George Miller cast Hugh Keays-Byrne as the main heavy here. Fans of the series already know that Hugh played Max's main foil The Toecutter in the very first Mad Max film back in 1979. Here's he's back as Immortan Joe, creepy, a cult-like figure who looks like a cross between a White Walker, Ghost Cowboy, and Eddie from Iron Maiden. Decked out in a skull-faced breath mask, fright wig, white pancake makeup and transparent fiberglass chest protector with airbrushed abs, Hugh strikes a formidable form. But he isn't just style over substance; Keays-Byrne brings a genuinely frighting, decadent, and perverse quality to the role. During a rare moment of vulnerability, you have a twinge of sympathy for the creep until you're reminded of the whole Nestlé-style water hoarding / sex slave thing and you're back to rooting for his comeuppance again. Credit Keays-Byrne for giving us a rare moments pause for thought.
  • Riot Grrrrl: The Motion Picture  Above and beyond the presence of Furiosa, her long-lost clan turns out to be a band of flinty older ladies who are just as brave and strident as she is. It's a pretty sad commentary about the state of modern film-making when a group of older women feels like stunt casting in an action movie. Shrewd move on Miller's behalf since we all know that women can be just as tough as men when the chips are down. Hell, I think they'd be smarter and more resilient than most men. Now, some people out there are getting their knickers in a knot because the Five Wives look like scantily-clad super-models but if you actually sit and think about it from a story perspective, it actually makes perfect sense. Being the creepy despot that he is, Joe hand-picked these girls for their pristine appearance and kept them in a permanent state of undress. And even if the Wives aren't as ass-kicky as Furiosa or The Valkyrie, they're still a helluva lot more brave, strong and competent than my flabby, privileged, XY chromosome, first world ass could ever be. I hate it when people freak out whenever a woman is depicted as anything less than Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor. Sorry, folks, but there are people out there, both men and women, who'd become hysterical or apoplectic with fear if confronted with some of the crazy shit on display here, present company included. Writers should have the prerogative to depict scared and / or superfluous characters regardless of their gender. By the same token I totally agree that we need more positive roles for women and Fury Road actually goes to considerable lengths to serve up many variations of the female experience.
  • Mad Max In 3D Smell-O-Vision   Like The Watcher from the Marvel Universe, I just kinda sat there and observed what was going on during most of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Watching Mad Max: Fury Road was a completely different experience; it felt as if I was personally strapped to the front grill of the lead marauder's nitro truck the entire time. I felt completely pulled into this world, lost in the minutia of the production design, imperiled by my proximity to the action and invested in the survival of the characters. I could almost taste dust and blood in my mouth and smell the acrid smoke, sweat and burning petrol all around. I can't remember the last time I was so deeply immersed in such a visceral cinematic experience and that's a pretty incredible achievement.
  • "Oh What A Day, What A Lovely Day!"  The production design shows a level of unparallelled imagination and detail that completely humiliates it's contemporaries. The Citadel and its bizarre horde of oddball denizens is downright fascinating to look at. Furiosa's War Rig, Joe's Gigahorse, the Bullet Farmer's Peacemaker Half-Track, The Big Foot and, of course, the speaker-laden Doof Wagon are just some of the incredible vehicles on display in the film. The costumes for such diverse factions as the Citadel serfs, the War Boys, and the Buzzards are all unique, easily identifiable and highly-detailed. Every frame is jam-packed with so much to look at and obsess over but unlike CGI-soaked crap like the Star Wars prequels, this all feels genuinely real, hand-worn and lived-in.     
  • "Move Over, Sonny, And I'll Let Me Show You How It's Done"  Words can't express how delighted I am that George Miller, a seventy-year old grandpa, just came outta nowhere to bludgeon us all senseless with one of the most vibrant, lean, vicious, engaging, satisfying, visually-stunning action movies of the past decade. The movie feels like Miller shouting "No, no, NO, ya chowder-head! This is how ya do it!" in response to all of the dreck that Micheal Bay and Zach Snyder have been collectively shitting into existence lately. Either the CGI has been kept to a bare minimum or it's so good that it dove-tails perfectly with all of the practical stuff. Either way, it's a win-win all around. As far as I can tell, the vehicle combats were lensed using the same techniques used for all the previous Mad Max movies. That is to say Miller put a real caravan of cobbled-together vehicles out on a salt bed somewhere and then instructed his actors to try creatively murder one another. Using a well-practiced repertoire of low and wide camera angles as well as helicopter and crane shots, he drops us right into the middle of the action and keeps us on the edge of our seat the entire time. Add in a plethora of creatively-vicious weapons and equipment like chainsaws, explosive javelins, caltrops, harpoons and metronome-like vaulting poles, and you have the most gleefully anarchic battle scenes ever filmed. Add in a few highly-inventive non-vehicle sequences such as a muzzled Max's introductory scrap with Furiosa and the truly atmospheric mud bog trap and you're left with a variable, kinetic, compulsively-watchable action thriller.    
  • Coma the Doof Warrior: Live! Tonight! Sold Out!    The music by Junkie XL is note-perfect for the movie: memorable, ominous, propulsive, discordant, concussive and chill-inducing. I've always been suspicious of composers who try convince audiences that truly successful soundtracks are the ones that you never notice. Yes, a good score should augment the action and never distract but I think it's a real feather in a composer's cap if the audience leaves the theater humming a few bars.     

  • Nothing, really. I suppose you could make a case for more plot but I really think that there's just enough narrative sprinkled throughout the film to give it a raison d'être.  I guess you could lobby for more breaks in the action to catch your breath, but what purpose would that serve? I'd counter by saying that Furiosa's reunion with her tribe serves as the perfect oasis of calm amidst the action-packed bookends. In fact, the only nit I could possibly pick is that sometimes the editing is a bit too "battling seizure robots" for my taste but that's just giving me more incentive to watch it again.


Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most thrilling, original, full-blooded, balls-to-the-wall, sci-fi action films I've seen in recent memory. As soon as I'm done typing this it's gonna take some serious willpower not to march right back down to the theater and watch it all over again.

And, frankly, that's some pretty high praise right there. 

Tilt: up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie Review - "Avengers: Age of Ultron" by David Pretty


In a move clearly designed to give him more time to climb aboard Pepper Potts and / or lapse back into alcoholism, wealthy industrialist Tony Stark A.K.A. Iron-Man (Robert Downey Jr.) builds an A.I.-powered robot named Ultron (voiced by James Spader) to take over as earth's primary guardian. Unfortunately as soon as Ultron takes one look at the internet, the sentient android comes to the logical and forgivable conclusion that all of humanity should be wiped out. Naturally the Avengers assemble to stop him but two secret H.Y.D.R.A. experiments may end up tearing the team apart from the inside.


Given the tally of box office receipts thus far, I think it's safe to say that EVERYONE ON THE FREAKIN' PLANET is predisposed to watching this movie. Seriously, though, if you like your action with a side-order of brains, actors who elevate goofy material by their sheer presence and character *slash* story arcs that permanently shake up a fictional universe, than Age of Ultron is just what the Doctor ordered. 

Hopefully that Doctor is more Strange and less Doom. Let's see, shall we?

  • Writer / director / god amongst men Joss Whedon had a lot of ground to over this time out. He had to deliver some meaningful character moments for all six of his primary leads. He had to introduce Quicksilver, Scarlett Witch and Vision. He had to bring back a slew of supporting characters such as Maria Hill, Sam Wilson a.k.a. The Falcon, James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine, Peggy Carter, Heimdall, Erik Selvig and Nick Fury. He had to address the current struggle against H.Y.D.R.A. and bring Loki's scepter back into play. He had to give us an origin story for Ultron. But perhaps the most challenging thing of all: he had to till and sow the plot field for the third Captain America movie and the future Infinity War. As someone who's actually written for comic books, knows Marvel lore inside and out and is a huge stickler for continuity and decent storytelling, Whedon is perhaps the best possible candidate to pull this off and he actually acquits himself remarkably well.
  • Just like in Captain America: Winter Soldier, some very interesting questions are raised about relevant real-word topics such as preemptive war and the dangers of rogue A.I. Seriously, I love that a movie featuring an archer, a Russian spy, an armored industrialist, a walking American flag and a giant green rage monster also includes deep thoughts that make you go "Hmmmmmm." Pity that there's isn't enough time to give these heady topics the time and respect they deserve but at least it inspired some thought-provoking, pithy dialogue such as this choice exchange between Captain America and Iron-Man: 
Tony Stark 
Isn't that the mission? Isn't that the 'why we fight'? So we get to go home?
Steve Rogers 
Every time someone times to stop a war before it starts, innocent people die. Every time.
  • Although he's still a far cry from Guillermo del Toro or even, dare I say it, a Zack Snyder, Whedon is getting better as an action director. The opening assault on Baron Strucker's outpost, the Hulk-versus-"Hulkbuster" scrap and the extremely "comic-booky" climax are all super-fun to watch. Wisely Whedon hits the pause button every once and awhile to let the audience soak in all of the awesome.
  • No surprise here but the script is rife with Joss Whedon's trademark humorous sides, funny quips, manic banter and creative twistings of the English language. Witness the hilarious recurring interplay between the heroes concerning the liftability of Mjölnir, Iron Man's mid-fight lullaby mantra to the Hulk, Natasha's verbal back-lash against Laura's "traitorous" womb, Nick Fury's comment about Ulton's sudden proliferation, Tony's secret door fetish, Thor's back-peddling to Bruce about "the screams of his victims" and oh so many more. Honestly, I wanna re-watch Age of Ultron just to hear all of the lines I laughed through.
  • Robert Downey Jr. continues to surprise as our favorite one-percenter-with-a-conscience Tony Stark. Via a combination of raw charisma, inhuman intelligence and supreme confidence, Downey actually manages to make cocky and egotistical kinda sexy. Now some might gripe that the hard lessons Tony learned about teamwork in the previous film have since been "unlearned" but I don't agree. The man is still freakishly brilliant and unaccustomed to restrictions placed on him by lesser intellects, which is pretty much everyone else on the planet. He knows that if he tables the Ultron program in committee with the rest of the Avengers they'll just dismiss it out of turn. Downey manages to strike a pretty good balance between regret and resolve but considering just how much havoc Ultron ends up wreaking I'd like to have seen him be a tad more contrite. If not for the fact that Joss Whedon is pretty militant about replicating scripted dialogue on camera I'd say that Ar Dee Jay pulled a fast one and ad-libbed 90% of his lines, so natural is his delivery.
  • Equally on-point is Chris Evans as Steve "Captain America" Rogers. As a pissed-off kid I always used to lean more towards violent, morally-ambiguous antiheroes like Batman, Lobo and Wolverine but as an informed adult I'm much more keen on genuine heroes like Cap. That's not to say that he's preachy or blindly patriotic, quite the opposite. Events depicted in the first Avengers and Winter Soldier in particular have really gotten Cap's knickers in a knot RE: authority overreach and granting limitless powers for the powerful. Thanks to Evans and the MCU writers the proselytizing and propagandizing Captain America of yore to gone, replaced by a relevant sounding board for biting social commentary. Whedon is particularly adept at writing for the character; the running gag about Cap's reflexive anti-"bad language" reflex action is nicely juxtaposed against his incessant shit-disturberery. Yes, the guy has Conservative roots but they have nothing to do with the paranoia masquerading as news on Fox. Whedon also knows that super-hero movies should ultimately be for kids and it's great that there's at least one Avenger who'll do everything he can to keep innocent people safe. It's a reassuring message that kids can't hear often enough.
  • Of all the major characters, I'd say that Chris Hemsworth's Thor probably gets the shortest shift this time out. By all accounts an entire subplot involving Thor had to be jettisoned when Whedon's first cut of the film clocked in at a whopping one-hundred and ninety-five minutes! About the only solo screen time Thor gets is a completely out-of-left-field sequence in which he seeks out Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) to take a dip in a scrying pool to flesh out a vision inspired by Scarlet Witch. Despite this clunky, inexplicable scene, Hemsworth is his usual swaggering, beaming, charming, god-like self. In addition to providing some valuable intel concerning Loki's staff and its ties to the Infinity Stones, Thor also shares some choice dialogue with this fellow Avengers, including a "my girlfriend is better than your girlfriend" throw-down with Tony Stark and a great exchange with James Rhodes over a relatively-underwhelming War Machine story.
  • Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow also continues to impress. Thanks to the catch-all script convenience of the aforementioned Scarlet Witch whammy, we get some harrowing insight into Widow's early K.G.B. training. Supposedly there's sort of controversy swirling around how Whedon handled her character this time out but on the drive back home from the theater both me and the wife were wracking our brains trying to figure out what all the fuss was all about. Is it because she gets captured at one point? Maybe, but it's not like she's acts like some sort of helpless waif that needs to be rescued. In fact, Widow brilliantly manages to parlay her imprisonment into a win for the team. There's only one other possible gripe with a shade of legitimacy but I'll cover that in the CON section down below. Suffice to say that I think that Widow is just as stalwart, self-assured, smart and kick-ass as ever and Johansson has officially trumped any preconceived notions I've ever held about casting this character.
  • Which brings me to Bruce Banner a.k.a. Ol' Jade Jaws, as played by Mark Ruffalo. Despite the fact that his emerald alter ego was instrumental in saving New York City last time out, Banner is still quite gun shy and, hey, who can blame him? Having the Hulk on a super team is like having Gordon Ramsay working at Subway; he's constantly going to be surrounded by shit that pisses him off and when he finally snaps, it's gonna be ugly. Ruffalo's "walking on eggshells" approach is pitch-perfect and the Hulk's unexpected dénouement makes perfect sense to me, especially in light of the character's comic book predilections. Even though I was kinda irked by how easily Bruce rolls over for Tony, it does speak volumes about Stark's charisma and persuasiveness. All told I genuinely enjoyed yet another nuanced performance by Ruffalo and particularly enjoyed any scenes he shared with Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr.
  • Then there's Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkguy as portrayed by Jeremy Renner. If anything, Age of Ultron serves as Joss Whedon's apologetic love letter to the character since Hawkeye spent the lion's share of that first film under Loki's hypnotic thrall. Now if this was a completely uninspired script, Clint and Natasha would be an item but thankfully Whedon is on hand to serve up the unexpected. So color me genuinely surprised when it's revealed that Hawkeye enjoys a pretty normal life of domestic bliss, embracing a more recent incarnation of the character's folklore. Now, I'm perfectly content with this since it makes the dude even more blue collar and gives Whedon a chance to drop a bunch of godlike titans into what amounts to a kitchen party. Hawkeye also delivers some of the best dialogue of the film, including a half-muttered response to a show-boating Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and words of encouragement to a shell-shocked Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). His pep talk with her embodies precisely why I believe that Whedon is the absolute best candidate to helm a traditional comic book movie. Via a few economic lines, Renner sums up the ludicrous spectacle of cinematic childhood wish fulfillment. Someone really needs to get Matt Fraction on the horn and get a solo Hawkeye movie into production post-haste.    
  • Since Joss Whedon is physically incapable of writing a boring villain, I'll just say that Ultron is not boring. It also helps that James Spader does a phenomenal job voicing the character. I just wish they'd made some different stylistic choices with him, which I hope to elaborate on in the CONS section down below.
  • These movies are now so unrepentantly over-the-top epic that formally A-list characters and actors have been relegated to walk-on status. Considering the caliber of talent inhabiting these supporting roles this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Samuel L. Jackson makes a welcome return as the incongruously-comforting, calming and reassuring Nick Fury. Given that he's still technically in exile over the whole H.Y.D.R.A. debacle it makes sense that his presence is fleeting but Jackson is so strong that his appearance feels like a tease. Also, I don't know if this was brilliant foresight or not but the previously-unseen Paul Bettany, who's been the voice of Tony Stark's automated butler J.A.R.V.I.S. since day one, turns out to be a great choice as The Vision. He's the android incarnate; stoic, fascinating to look at and listen to and, in all Ultron's own words, "unbelievably naïve". This back-handed compliment gives Bettany the perfect opportunity to respond "Well, I was born yesterday". He's a great choice and I can't wait to see more of the character in future entries. In addition to tantalizing dollops of these great actors, we also get the mesmerizing Cobie Smulders back as Maria Hill, the so-good-he's-overkill Don Cheadle as James "Rhodey" Rhodes / War Machine, a brief but rousing appearance by Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson a.k.a. The Falcon and the speculative introduction of Andy Serkis as arms dealer and possible future Avengers foil Ulysses Klaue.    
  • As if this star-studded extravaganza didn't already top-heavy with interesting characters and great actors, we also get Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver. Comic book nerds like your truly already know that the siblings are actually mutants but because Fox has a choke hold on that particular term, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff are depicted here as H.Y.D.R.A.-augmented humans. But, since no one actually comes out and says that they aren't mutants, I'd like to think that these two inherited their freaky-ass powers from their uber-powerful pops and H.Y.D.R.A. just kinda tweaked their abilities and brainwashed 'em a little bit. Both are perfectly capable in their respective roles and use their tragic scripted origins to good effect. In the "Battle of the Quicksilvers" between Evan Peters in X-Men: Days of Future Past and Aaron Taylor-Johnson I have to give the Duke to the former. Admittedly it isn't a completely fair fight since Singer had a lot more time to illustrate his version's speed freak powers and Tweak-from-South Park personality. Aaron Taylor-Johnson does make the most of his fleeting screen time, however, serving up equal measures of bravado and bitterness. Elizabeth Olsen is also pretty durned good, even if her faux-Eastern Bloc accent wavers in and out of existence from time to time. She does a pretty remarkable job segueing from vengeful to sneaky to jilted to anguished and finally settling on ROYALLY PISSED OFF. As previously mentioned she shares arguably the best scene in the movie with Jeremy Renner. When Scarlett Witch is unexpectedly thrown into a completely surreal pitched battle between the Avengers and a horde of Xeroxed Ultrons she understandably goes a bit "deer in headlights" until Hawkeye shakes her out of her funk. An inferior script would have her hexing Ultron's drones like a pro but instead Josh Whedon uses this as a perfect opportunity to polish the patina on Scarlet Witch's character, giving Olsen a chance to shine in the process.  
  • Even though he's convincingly animated and well-voiced by James Spader I didn't care for this particular take on Ultron. Notwithstanding the fact that Hank Pym isn't his daddy for simplicity's sake, I was genuinely irked by how human he was. Given Ultron's complete and total contempt for earth's meat-bag inhabitants, you think that he'd act in direct opposition to us, but nope, this evil sentient robot trades barbs, one-liners and quips with our heroes like Spider-Man. I kinda wish Whedon went with something a lot more mechanical, cold and scary, like a warped incarnation of the sort of superior A.I. that Ray Kurzweil has been inadvertently warning us all about. Ultron's fully-articulated mechanical face was also supremely distracting and I couldn't help but think how much cooler and creepier it would have been if they'd just gone with a fixed Darth Vader-style faceplate on a Terminator exoskeleton body. 
  • I'm also pretty cheesed off that Ultron just kinda comes out of no-where. Sure, we had a few omens in Iron Man 3 but nothing to properly introduce the villain's origins. He just kinda stumbles onscreen within fifteen minutes and starts kicking ass. Sorry, but some kinda back story or build up really would have been appreciated here.
  • The close-up, hyper-kinetic oil tanker rumble strays uncomfortably close to Michael Bay territory. 
  • For the life of me I can't fathom why Bruce Banner thinks that a relationship with Natasha Romanov is verboten just because he can't give her the same Norman Rockwell-style future that Clint Barton unexpectedly enjoys. She's an ass-kicking secret agent for Chrissakes, do you really think that her ideal future consists of soiled diapers, soccer games and parent-teacher meetings? For such an otherwise smartly-written script, this is a pretty idiotic assumption. Hey, Bruce, maybe all she just wants to do is just hang out, get some frozen yogurt and bone you senseless? Isn't that enough?  
  • Considering the events in the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America: Winter Soldier I have no idea how Nick Fury pulled that Helicarrier outta his ass. I'm sure it's probably explained somewhere, but as it happens in Age of Ultron it feels w-a-a-a-a-a-a-y too deus ex machina.  
  • Compared to the first film, Whedon obviously had a lot more plates spinning in the air this time out. After watching Age of Ultron, I was left with the distinct impression that all Joss really wanted to do was tell a simple, cautionary tale about the hubris of genius intellect and the dangers inherent in blindly pursuing artificial intelligence without considering the ramifications. But since the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gotten so gosh darn top-heavy, he just couldn't do it. A quick word of caution to Kevin Feige: linking movies together like issues from two different comic book titles might seem like a good idea on paper, but left unchecked you could end up with mediocre groupthink products like Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand. About the only human being on earth who could possibly reconcile this is Joss Whedon, a dude who's written for comics, simultaneously produced two serial television shows set in the same universe and consistently exhibits a Rain Man-like aptitude for juggling advanced continuity. I firmly believe that if this movie had been in anyone else's hands it probably would have been a hot mess. Now that he's been driven from the series I sincerely hope that the whole thing doesn't collapse under the obligatory weight of interdependence. 

It's pretty clear to me that Joss Whedon was struggling a lot more this time out. The clarion-clear plot at the heart of that first Avengers movie has been complicated by a slavish dedication to past lore and stories that have yet to be told. By all accounts, Whedon lost a lot of sleep over this and that's why I'm tilting things firmly in his favor. When his original vision for the film inevitably comes to home video I'm confident that we'll get a richer, more coherent and satisfying story and he'll be soundly vindicated.

Whatever you think of the movie in its current form it should still be recognized as a unique achievement in his own right. Whereas the first Avengers was one of the first movies to capture the sheer, unmitigated, child-like glee of comic books and Captain America: Winter Soldier perfectly embodies the brain and social conscience of a graphic novel, Age of Ultron is the first film to successfully juggle the oft-convoluted concurrent story lines and lore found in your favorite three- color classics.

I'd say see Age of Ultron for the fun of it and then give it silent praise for the sheer audacity of the attempt.

Tilt: up