‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’
Director: Joss Whedon
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., James Spader
1 Globe (out of 5)
In “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” there is a lot of stuff. There are, give or take, 10 superheroes, plus another three or four humans who are just good with guns. There’s a robot who wants to kill all humans — no, not Bender from “Futurama,” but Ultron, an 8-foot-tall colossus who can pass around his consciousness from one thing to another. Ultron has legions upon of legions of smaller robots — in other words, he has a lot of stuff — and he’s voiced, awesomely, by James Spader, whose every arch utterance is in itself a form of fun stuff. It has more names than four Woody Allen movies, and thinks nothing of treating Stellan Skarsgard, Andy Serkis and Julie Delpy like more mere stuff. There are three cities utterly destroyed, one while lifted into the sky, plus another couple set pieces that are more or less just stuff happening. Some of this stuff is momentarily amusing, some of this stuff is momentarily thrilling, but the important thing is they are momentary, delighting briefly before it’s on to the next block of stuff.
This also describes the first “Avengers,” but that thing had more focus and wasn’t nearly as monotonous and noisy. It took time for mano-e-mano duels, even brief, delightful ones, like the fit of Hulk-on-Loki action. There’s very little of that here, and most of the character business has been silenced for the greater good. This time the all-star team has to deal with some Bad Idea Jeans shenanigans: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) has tried to create a being to bring peace but has instead created a malfunctioning, and therefore psychotic, program that becomes Spader’s Ultron. The villain quickly decides to rid the world of not only the Avengers but also all of humanity, who are, he keeps reminding us without ever giving a better explanation, dumb or something.
Their strategy involves banding together and finding strength in numbers — in other words, in compiling lots of stuff. It’s going to take a lot of stuff to beat all the stuff that Ultron has, but perhaps they can amass more stuff than the stuff he has. This ensues for 2 ½ hours, although the “more is more” principle does not, happily, apply to length, which is a hair shorter this time than the first. Still, it feels longer because most of the length is just stuff happening, and sometimes things. There is some business about the team (again) bickering and not agreeing, but this isn’t presented through action or character. Our heroes tell each other, via dialogue that’s the equivalent of a simplified Wikipedia page, that they have to get over their issues and form a team. That they do, although sometimes the detente breaks, though it’s rarely clear why. Delving into character relationships is simply the kind of stuff this film is just not into.