Monday, June 8, 2015

Age of Ultron (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Avengers: Age of Ultron

In this age of natural disaster, terrorism and claustrophobic peril, it is comforting to have heroes and to escape. As if to answer this call, here is Joss Whedon's next edition to his Avengers story in a sharper than sharp 3D. The gang of five has taken the scepter, a source of infinite power that belongs to Asgard, the land of Thor. Within the scepter is a gem of artificial intelligence that Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Banner (The Hulk) develop secretly to ensure world peace.

But once Pandora's Box is opened, so to speak, there are no rules.

The artificial intelligence by the name of Ultron consumes everything, it is nothing less than a fluid leviathan that devours all. Gradually, the entity, voiced by the sarcastic and nonplussed James Spader, yearns for a body and inhabits a monstrous chrome machine, strikingly reminiscent of William Blake's creations, The Ghost of a Flea and The Red Dragon.

While there is less quipping by Robert Downey Jr and these scientific and supernatural soldiers battle endless armies of bad robots, the fast paced action once again is a loving tribute to the Saturday Matinee Cliffhangers. Most interestingly is the romance between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce Banner / The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). The two characters achieve a touching poignance, given that Black Widow is the only one that can calm him. When they touch fingers, Hulk's hand is like a Goya monster, compared to the mercenary hands of Widow, yet within a few seconds, Hulk becomes a stuffed bear, passive and docile.

Mark Ruffalo gives a believable bearing to the worry in this man, almost like Lon Chaney, Jr. in "The Wolf Man". Engaging too are the surreal reveries of many of the heroes, under the spell of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Captain America goes back to a strange wartime celebration echoing a Tom Waits narrative while Black Widow is subdued by a dictatorship that specializes in bodily abuse in a landscape recalling the illustrations of Edward Gorey and M.C. Escher.

While the first half is more novel than the second as the team fights machine after machine, the world that each character inhabits is so rich in totality, that the "Age of Ultron" holds a momentum of its own where plot becomes secondary, and we are swept up in its crazy apocalyptic action. As in greek mythology, these Avengers have hearts and lusts; these men and women of science and brawn, pine and yearn for touch and are all the more human for it, despite some green muscles formed by the great Francisco for our ferric summers.

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