Avengers: Age of Ultron*****
Written and directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johasson
As the avengers battle the last troops still loyal to Hydra, they discover a new artificial intelligence. Out of fear for the destiny of the world, Tony Stark decides to use it as part of his global defense program. But when things do not go as planned, the avengers find themselves face to face with a new terrible threat, which would have never occurred had they not yielded to their own fears. New and unpredictable allies join them, but the real danger comes from within…
While in the first Avengers movie, Nick Fury assembled his team of superheroes due to an alien threat, this time the avengers’ own fears are responsible for their new challenge. The mysterious Wanda Maximoff (a new entry alongside her twin brother Pietro, aka Quicksilver, whom we have already had the opportunity to know in X-Men: Days of Future Past) succeeds in personifying their fears and making them real and tangible.
The idea of starting a war to prevent another one from happening, like the idea of an absolute peace that strangles life (as envisaged by Ultron), is a concept as old as time. The same can be said about the risk of turning victims into future oppressors, or how saving the planet can often become an ambiguous mission, no matter how good your initial intentions are – perhaps a not so subtle reference to a very American dilemma.
By combining such social and political discourse with protagonists plagued by the fear of being the real monsters (whether we are talking about a green giant unable to control himself or being trained to negate one’s identity), Joss Whedon creates a smart blockbuster, which never loses that cinematic appeal so dear to the Marvel universe.
Lately, the “House of Ideas” has expanded its empire in both cinema and TV and it has been able to create complex universes and interweave them in such a way that they constantly refer to one another and bounce off each other.
It is part of a pop genre that perfectly embodies cinecomics filled with sound entertainment as well as human values, such as the reflection on human life and its transience. They do not shy away from biblical and religious references (see the presence of an enemy with claim of omnipotence), which are always handled with elegance and depth. After all, this is the only universe where the god of thunder has a drink with World War II veterans, as human machinations become so omnipotent as to threaten the world’s safety and bring about a catastrophe of biblical proportions.
It is extremely entertaining to see actors completely at ease with their characters. The avengers’ egos, strengths and weakness are so engrained in them that it is almost impossible to distinguish the performer from the character.
Think: Tony Stark’s snarky humor, Captain America’s old school decency or the unexpectedly flirtatious banters between Black Widow and Bruce Banner. In Avengers, comedy is the key that balances the heaviness of topics like the limits of science and the consequences of subjective morality.
As usual, this chapter ends by alluding to the next threat, which may come from space or be very close to home. If there is one thing that this Avengers is loud and clear about it is that sometimes the most insidious evil comes from people who want to do good but cannot agree on what that good actually is.
Problematic elements: many tense scenes, and moderate violence within the limits of the genre.
Laura Cotta Ramosino is a story editor for Rai Uno, the national Italian broadcaster, and contributes to several magazines and websites about cinema and television.