Age of yawn

Avengers sequel is a boring letdown after exciting original

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, James Spader and Mark Ruffalo. Directed by Joss Whedon. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 2.0

When the credits rolled for Avengers: Age of Ultron, I realized a terrible thing for a fanboy: I had just watched 2 1/2 hours of a Marvel movie that did relatively nothing for me. It was mostly a big blur intermittently interrupted by half-interesting moments.

It was boring.

You can’t accuse director Joss Whedon of “second verse, same as the first” with his follow up to 2012’s The Avengers. He and his team definitely go for something different with this sequel to one of the best blockbusters ever made. Perhaps it would’ve been OK to retain more of the good humor, camp and noncluttered thrills that made the original Avengers such a gas.

Age of Ultron is just flat. There are a bunch of scenes teasing future Marvel movies and, with the exception of an interesting smackdown between Iron Man and the Hulk, the cluttered action sequences feel repetitive.

The Ultron of the movie’s title is a series of robots inhabited by an artificial-intelligence program initiated by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Stark, thinking he can create a security force that can protect the world and achieve “peace in our time,” gets a little ahead of himself, forgoes the approval of his fellow Avengers with the exception of Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and starts the program, only to discover that A.I. can sometimes mean Absolute Insanity. The program goes AWOL and produces the anti-human Ultron.

Voiced by James Spader, Ultron is a one-note villain out to destroy humanity who lacks the personality of other recent comic-book villains—e.g., Tom Hiddleston’s Loki from the first film. Ultron comes off as a third-rate Transformers Decepticon. Yes, Spader has a menacing voice, but he’s no James Earl Jones.

On the other hand, the Vision, a sort of good-guy, flesh-and-blood-ish offshoot of the same program that produced Ultron, is a far more interesting character. Played by Paul Bettany, the Vision is a very powerful and welcome member to the roster (who looks really cool), yet is disappointingly underutilized.

The film plays around with the notion of Natasha/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce Banner having an affair. We get a couple of scenes with Black Widow managing to get the Hulk to calm down and a little bit of Natasha and Bruce sort of flirting, but the subplot doesn’t do much for the film. Also, they give Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) a wife in a failed attempt to raise his character’s status as least-interesting Avenger.

If you are an Avengers fan, I guess you have to see Age of Ultron simply because it sets up a series of other films like Captain America: Civil War (2016), Thor: Ragnarok (2017?), and Black Widow: Please Fast-track Her Stand-Alone Movie!

As for Whedon, perhaps he was the wrong man for the gig. The sequel searches for a darker tonal shift, a sort of The Empire Strikes Back for the Avengers series. Instead, the sequel is one of the year’s most crushing cinematic letdowns.