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Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

September 7, 2015

written by Brian Shesko

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo
  • Released May 1, 2015
  • PG-13 – intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments

This past weekend we showed Avengers: Age of Ultron at Williams Stadium. Here's our take.

“Super hero films”, critic Matt Zoller Seitz says, “are now practically the official culture of the United States.” It is hard to argue with this, given the number of super hero movies released each year and inescapability of the accompanying marketing for those movies. And in this super hero-driven culture, with apologies to fans of DC Comics-based movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the current, undisputed champion in the battle for cultural influence supremacy. (Perhaps Star Wars fans will have something to say about this in late December, but that’s another debate for another day.) Marvel Cinematic Universe movies represent the highest grossing franchise of all time, as well as occupying 3 of the top 10 spots on the list of highest grossing movies of all time. This spring’s Avengers: Age of Ultron currently sits at #6 on that list

Some may reduce a movie like Age of Ultron to a mere “punchplosion”, to borrow a term from critic Josh Larsen, seeing it as little more than 2+ hours of stylized violence and blowing stuff up. Others may want to evaluate it based on what our cultural obsession with such movies reveals, say, about the state of youth in this country, particularly young males who tend towards such movies. Certainly, Age of Ultron sets a high bar for big screen action, with fights between the biggest heroes and the biggest armies of enemies taking place on city-sized scale. And yes, these fights do contain jumping punch and/or weapon attacks, or “puchplosions”, a term we heartily endorse. However, we do not endorse reveling in violence or destruction for violence or destruction’s sake. One could do that with Age of Ultron, but that would be a gross misuse of the movie because that’s obviously not what it’s about.

There may be some temptation towards hero worship as well, but again, that would be another misuse. The desire for heroes, on the other hand, is something that is common to humanity and is narratively at least as old as The Iliad. In Age of Ultron, we get an exceptionally made representation of some of the most popular, fictional heroes of our time. Like all hero movies, it features common themes of good vs. evil and heroes vs. villains, cohesion vs. discord and the ability of a team to accomplish a mission in the face of difficulty and despite the various personalities represented therein. Age of Ultron also touches on fatherhood and motherhood, a somewhat surprising feature in the movie. More than all of this, however, is the fact that this is a big, fun movie.

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