Review – A Robot With Daddy Issues? (“Avengers 2: Age Of Ultron”)

The Avenger’s are back with new friends… and enemies. You better get out a scorecard, ’cause they’s a whole lot more players added to the roster this time around. I don’t know about you, but I really wish I’d purchased Marvel stock back in 1996. Anyway, hang on kids, here we go…
The hero’s are back, kicking serious butt: Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Dr. Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), and Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). With their new boss, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) in command, they smash a Hydra secret lab and take back Loki’s stolen scepter, which contains untold alien power. Also unleashed are a pair of Hydra brother/sister twins baddies: Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who can run at super-speed and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who has telekinesis and can alter your mind.
Hydra is destroyed, the twins are on the run, and the scepter’s power is put to the test when Stark uses it for an A.I. peace-keeping program called Ultron. But, the alien power takes over Stark’s own computer J.A.R.V.I.S. (voiced by Paul Bettany) AND the internet AND builds itself into a self-replicating robot (voiced by James Spader) with all the wit and sarcasm of Stark! Oh, AND it builds an army of others just like it as well! Uh-oh!
Ultron wants world-wide destruction (don’t all villains?) and Team Avengers go after him, but that’s not easy as he keeps reproducing himself. That, and the twins cause havoc by giving several of the team severe mind nightmares to throw them off their game. The Hulk gets the worst with an epic showdown against Iron Man housed in a new super-suit. However, Ultron has much more in mind: he wants to be human. He forces a biophysicist to make a humanoid body so he upload his consciousness into it and make it come alive, thanks to the scepter’s hidden secret… the Mind Stone! It’s one of the six Infinity Stones that… well, you’ll have to wait for the 2018 sequel for the answer.
Meanwhile, the new life form is stolen by the Avengers before Ultron can wake it up, and then resurrected by Stark and Thor as an ally named The Vision (Paul Bettany), who has J.A.R.V.I.S. inside for a mind. This, coupled with the twins realizing that Ultron’s bat-spit crazy and wants the world to go boom, all team up to stop the insane robot and his ginormous army of robotic minions in a conclusion that pulls out all the stops in action and sees the return of S.H.I.E.L.D’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and other favorites. And yes, Stan Lee makes his cameo, as usual.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon, this has his signature all over it. A fun, thrilling, action-packed fan-boy’s wet dream for superhero movies and, boy! Does he ever deliver the goods! The action dolled out is non-stop and exciting to watch, but he also gives enough time for each character to have a life. Whether stopping down for some romance between Natasha and Bruce, letting us see Hawkeye’s family (he has kids?), or just playful banter between the team members at a casual party, Whedon knows what his audience likes and doesn’t disappoint.

All the main actors are back like old friends, having grown into their roles so comfortably, it’s second nature to them now. They look like they’re having SO much fun it jumps off the screen. Ultron is a formidable foe here and if you watch TV’s Blacklist, you’ll even notice Spader’s own head cock’s and movements (thanks to CG motion capture); it’s uncanny and eerie to watch. I did miss Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts (although she was mentioned) and any reference (or characters) of TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The only thing negative I can say is that many scenes are jumbled and come in at odd times with no explanation; they just start with no set-up. But that’s understandable, since the original cut was almost 4 hours long. I guess in the editing bay, scenes had to be cut, trimmed, and readjusted, so that would account for the sudden starts and stops.                  

Metropolis (1927)

Before there was Ultron there was Maria. In Fritz Lang’s ground-breaking German film, this cinematic masterpiece wowed audiences with technical achievements and visual wonders never before seen on any motion picture screen before. And all in 1927, people!

It’s 2026 and a dismal futuristic dystopian society where there is a Grand Canyon gap between the classes. The lower class workers toil in the underground constantly working to operate the huge machines to provide the city its power, while the rich, who live in the high-rises above, live in splendor and privileged lifestyles. The ruthless Master of Metropolis is Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) whose naive son, Freder (Gustave Frohlich) whiles away his life not knowing about the misery of the working class.

One day he meets Maria (Bridgette Helm) who mas secretly brought some poor children to the beautiful gardens of the rich. She and the kids are ushered out,but Freder is caught by her beauty and innocence. He follows her to the bowels of the lower class and the machines, only to be swept away in their cause and turmoil when sees their plight and back-breaking work. He even switches clothing with a worker and takes over his job!

Meanwhile, Maria (who is the voice of the working class) has been kidnapped and secretly replaced with an exact duplicate of her in robotic form by Rotwang (Rudolf Klien-Rogge), a scientist who builds it as a tribute to a lost love. Her “birth” is a dazzling special effect that, for its time, is pretty awesome. Rotwang plans to have the robot Maria destroy Freder as a means of revenge, but his plans backfire as the robot’s programming get re-programmed and the robot convinces the working class to revolt against the upper class by destroying the city! Freder finds the real Maria and together they try and tell her people who is who, but the damage is already done.

This movie and director Lang has won so many awards it’s ridiculous. Notably, there are many versions of this film, since the original film was cut, spliced, and restored many times since 1927. The most resent version was found in 2008 in Argentina and restored in 2010. The German audiences initially hated this film, as it stirred up trouble between the classes and was lost for years. This is one strange film with very heavy political overtones that tend to undermine the overall structure of the movie, but you have to remember this was 1927 and where Lang’s head was at the time. WW2 was right around the corner and he was making a profound statement here. It’s worth the look.