Tag Archives: Marvel

Super-Stuffed

New ‘Avengers’ is full of most everything—including itself

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson & Jeremy Renner

Directed by Josh Whedon

PG-13

Summer is when Hollywood rolls out its big guns, and this star-packed, superhero-stuffed eruption certainly starts things off with a bang.

The second movie in Marvel’s Avengers franchise, it’s full of just about everything, including itself. It’s got all six of the do-gooders from the first movie, plus a couple of newbies. It’s dense with character backstories, relationship dramas and plot points that zip and zing in every direction, including forward—to more movies to come—and backward, riffing on things that happened in previous ones. It begins with one extended mega-wallop of a fight, a castle siege in a snowy forest, and ends with an even larger one, on a crumbling island city in the sky. And it crams even more in between, including a dyna-whopper that rips up most of Manhattan.

I imagine insurance premiums for the Avengers are through the roof.

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James Spader provides the voice of Ultron.

Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) band together again, this time to fight an evil, smack-talking robot, Ultron (voiced by James Spader), who quotes the Bible and sings a ditty from Pinocchio as he goes about his mission of global annihilation.

Two new characters, the genetically altered twins Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), also come aboard—but only after playing freaky and fast for the other team first. Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Stellan Skarsgård, Anthony Mackie and Cobie Smulders return for cameos. Look—there’s Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings! Paul Bettany, previously unseen as the voice of Tony Stark’s computer system, Jarvis, materializes anew as a floating, red-faced uber-android named Vision.

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Paul Bettany

If you’re a Marvelite, you’ll probably be in fan-gasm heaven. Otherwise, you might find the constant, crashing swirl and whirl of imagery and the barrage of inside references overwhelming and exhausting.

The cast is top-notch, and returning writer-director Josh Whedon packs the script and the screen with cleverness as well as ka-pow. But even at a lengthy 141 minutes, things still feel jammed and crammed. All the busy CGI huffing and puffing make the quieter moments stand out even more, like a scene in which the other Avengers, a bit tipsy after a party, humorously try (unsuccessfully) to lift Thor’s hammer from a coffee table, or the romantic subplot between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner, in which she reveals a deep secret about her past and he painfully admits why his raging alter ego makes him less than ideal as a boyfriend.

It’s all part of the Marvel long game, a studiously crafted, mega-million-dollar maneuver in which comic-book characters are morphed from page to screen, connected, separated, then re-combined in various combos for a seemingly endless chain of box-office catnip. Coming up: Ant Man on July 15, a new Captain America next summer, the third Thor plus Dr. Strange in 2017 and another Avengers in 2018.

“Someone’s been playing an intricate game and made pawns of all of us,” muses Thor as Ultron draws to a close. True that, in more ways than one.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Across the Universe

Marvel’s newest superheroes are an inter-galactic gas

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana & Dave Bautista

Directed by James Gunn

PG-13

Marvel Comics gives their all-stars a breather with Guardians of the Galaxy. But Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor and other tried-and-true, brand-name superheroes had better watch out: This flip, witty, wily, cheeky, action-adventure sci-fi yarn—which introduces an all-new Marvel team of cosmic crusaders—is all set to become one of the summer’s biggest, most buoyant mainstream hits.

Based on little-known Marvel characters that first made a brief appearance in the 1960s, the Guardians are a motley crew of space misfits led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt from TV’s Parks andguardiansofthegalaxy530439f7bb98f Recreation), who was abducted from Earth by alien pirates as a youngster and taken to the far reaches of the galaxy, where he grew up to become a rogue smuggler with an intergalactic price on his head, a taste for retro FM rock and a weakness for extraterrestrial hotties.

When Peter swipes a silver orb that turns out to be something Very Powerful Indeed, it puts a series of events in motion that eventually congeal the other guardians around him—although not necessarily as teammates, at least at first.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is a genetically mutated, green-hued assassin sent to retrieve the orb. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a motor-mouthed raccoon bounty hunter, is in cahoots with Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a tree-like creature that speaks volumes with the one sentence he can speak, “I am Groot.” And pro wrestler Dave Bautista is Drax, a hulking wall of red-tattooed muscle.

guardiansofthegalaxy5371066e4ab7aTheir adventures bounce them, like interplanetary pinballs, across the galaxy, racing away from—and sometimes into—an ever-growing cloud of trouble. Director James Gunn, at the helm of his first mega-budget, major studio project, creates a teeming sci-fi cosmos of colorful creatures, humanoid hybrids and dazzling digital effects for a totally immersive eye-candy experience. Everywhere the movie goes—and it’s constantly going somewhere—it’s a wild, exuberantly fun new kick.

The cast is first-rate, even down through the supporting ranks. Glenn Close plays the matriarch of a gleaming utopia on the brink of destruction; Michael Rooker is terrific as the swaggering scavenging scoundrel who abducted Peter all those years ago; Benicio Del Toro is The Collector, a mysterious curator of cosmic odds and ends.

But it’s the Guardians, the mismatched team of “losers,” who command the spotlight. And credit the zippy script, by Gunn and Nicole Perlman, for the steady stream of jaunty comedic banter that just keeps the laughs coming—along with a sprinkling of sweetness, a dash of sadness, and even a flash of romance, orchestrated to Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”

Will it remind you of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and several other movies, some references to which it just goes ahead and hands you? Sure, but that’s just part of its big, fizzy, movie-lovin’ funhouseguardiansofthegalaxy53bd964656849 spirit. “It’s got a Maltese Falcon kinda vibe,” Peter says of the orb. One scene, when Groot gently gives a young girl a flower, is an obvious nod to a similar moment in the 1931 classic Frankenstein.

You may see classier movies this summer, and you’ll certainly see more serious, sensible ones. But you won’t see another one that takes you on such a rollicking carnival ride halfway across the universe and back, and leaves you with such a big, goofy, satisfied smile when it’s over.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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