Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

(In theaters, May 2015)  Few movies exemplify the mid-2010s blockbuster movie trend as thoroughly as Avengers: Age of Ultron: It’s the apogee-so-far of the superhero movie, it’s practically designed to be the kind of film to save movie theaters from bankruptcy and/or irrelevance and it’s crammed with characters, action sequences and special effects.  You don’t get any more “tent-pole film” than this sequel to 2012’s massively successful The Avengers, and the onslaught of commercial tie-ins on TV makes it look as if the film trailer is playing three times per hour.  Interestingly enough, Avengers: Age of Ultron is even a competent movie: It juggles a dozen characters with some ease, meddles with current-zeitgeist issues of technology run amok, revolves around exceptionally dynamic action sequences, benefits from good banter and leaves viewers with a sense of upbeat progress.  Robert Downey Jr is still a delight as Tony Stark, Chris Evans is still as good as Captain America, and Jeremy Renner gets a lot more to do here.  Avengers: Age of Ultron is, in many ways, a better film than its predecessor.  But there’s one thing it doesn’t have, and that’s the element of pleasantly exceeded expectations.  Marvel Studios has defied tremendous odds in bringing its comic-book universe to the big screen, but as far as the whole “team of superheroes vanquish impossible threat” thing is concerned, it’s been done.  So it is that while Avengers: Age of Ultron may be fun and fizzy, it does feel like a repeat, and a harbinger of things to come as something like thirty comic-book movies are scheduled to appear on-screen in the next five years: the melodramatic conventions that sustain comic-books only have a limited shelf life on-screen, and the lack of character development in those films can’t forever be papered over with reboots or fake promises of change (like the Hydra/SHIELD plotline, so promising at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and yet so casually dismissed here).  I did enjoy Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I’m wondering how long such movies can remain the flavor of the moment.

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