Good Old Fashioned Teamwork

The Avengers with some new friends
“Good Old Fashioned Teamwork”
A Review of Avengers: Age of Ultron by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, PG-13           
Reel Rating, Three Reels

            Avengers: Age of Ultron is the first summer blockbuster of the year, and it opened the season like Hulk bursting through a building: big, loud, and a little disoriented. Our fearless heroes begin almost exactly where they left off in 2012, tying up a loose end from the last film. This mission isn’t enough for one of the Avengers, and he tries to find a permeant solution to Earth’s problems. Although the story is pretty confusing, there’s plenty of laughs and spectacular visual effects; it succeeds in all the right places.
            After retrieving Loki’s staff from the first Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) becomes convinced that the world needs something stronger than the Avengers, something that will have its eyes and ears in all places to prevent future alien attacks. Along with seemingly mild manner scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), he creates the AI being Ultron (James Spader) that can hack into any digital system. As a computer program, he could theoretically could exist anywhere but usually takes the form of a giant robot – mostly so the film can have neat battle sequences. Stark designs Ultron to save the world, but he vastly misinterprets his programing. He thinks humans are weak and need to evolve. To this end, he begins to plan an extinction event, which involves “exterminating the Avengers” because they will no doubt try to save humanity. He knows they are too powerful to simply defeat in battle, so he must come up with a more devious way to weaken their resolve.
            This is plot of the film, at least I think so. There are dozens of subplots that are in some way connected to the main one. Sometimes, these works really well, especially when the budding romance between Banner and fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is brought to halt when it is revealed both of them are sterile as a result of their backgrounds. Then there’s the two evil sidekicks of Ultron, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen who has aged much better than her older siblings). A SHIELD officer puts it best, “he’s fast and she’s weird.” Scarlet’s powers gives her the ability to conjure visions in Thor and Captain America. Somehow these visions are kind-of true, driving Thor to go to a sacred pool and Captain America to do…nothing.
            These blender-mixed ideas don’t matter much because Age of Ultron is just so dang fun. Sci-fi juggernaut Joss Whedon has a natural talent for visual storytelling, especially witty dialogue and amusing situations. The best moment occurs during a party when each Avenger tries to pick up Thor’s hammer a-la King Arthur but “none are worthy” as Thor observes happily. Captain America ponders, “What about an elevator. That lifts the hammer. Is it worthy?” Good entertainment is its own reward, an important aspect of living the 3rd commandment, leaving time for leisure.
            Like most comic books, Age of Ultron brushes some deeper points but mostly teaches simple lessons like teamwork. Afraid they will face an enemy too strong, Stark wonders, “how will we cope?” “Together,” Captain America asserts. “And if we fail?” “Then we’ll do that together too.” While it’s clear that Stark is the instigator of this problem and never really apologizes, the team learns to put aside their differences and prejudices to defeat Ultron. Along the way, they discover that without any one of their members, it truly wouldn’t be complete. This is best demonstrated through Hawkeye the archer, often perceived as the weakest of the Avengers. When the rest of the crew needs a place to hide, they go to Hawkeye’s farm in the country where they meet his wife and children. Free from internet technology, they are momentarily safe. Seeing a functioning family, each realizes the Hawkeye has achieved their ever waking dream – a normal life. Hawkeye’s wife thoughtfully comforts her husband, “see, they need you the most.” He  shows the Avengers the reason they fight.
            The final conclusion reached by these ten companions is rooted in both Greek drama and Christian salvation history: all human utopias fail. Stark tried to make the perfect shield against evil but, because it was made from man and not God, it turned. True triumph is found in the cross not in technological progress. However, this does not mean that human endeavor is futile. Mother Teresa put it well: “it is not important that I am successful, only faithful.” There will always be another villain to fight as long as the fallen world exists, but fight we must. Christ is the victor, but man is called to participate in His army. In many ways, Ultron is a reflection of his creator, but the reason he fails while the Avengers succeeds is the unity of their friendship and justness of their cause.
            Avengers: Age of Ultron is a wonderful sequel that is easy to enjoy despite its flaws and brilliantly sets the stage for phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite the team’s many achievements, there is something ominous on the horizon, especially considering the third title Infinity War. Whatever comes next, as long as the Avengers stand united there’s nothing they can’t do.