Do you think creationists refuse to believe in evolution because… well… it is scary? If you think about it, according to a standard understanding of evolution (I am not going to go all Teilhard de Chardin on you), while humans may be a very interesting step on the evolutionary ladder, we are by no means the last. While we tend to think of comic book movies as light entertainment, they have pretty much been at the forefront of our pop culture vanguard in fleshing out the question of “What happens next?” X-Men envisioned humans moving forward but magnified superhuman, our genes changing us into mutants, in our physical and mental capabilities. Avengers: Age of Ultron, on the other hand, asks what if humanity ends with us, and, in our place, our creations live on, our robots, our data systems. What if the creatures outlive the creators?
If Jokes Could Kill… the Avengers vs. Ultron
That the second Avengers film should tackle this subject with so much energy and joy is no surprise, given that Joss Whedon is still at the helm. While there have been a whole slew of AI movies recently, Her, Chappie, Ex Machina, it is unlikely that any will match Ultron‘s entertainment value. Ultron (James Spader) is the name of the artificial intelligence created when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) unravel the coding found in the energy of the Chitauri Scepter that they had stolen back from Hydra in the beginning of the film. Ultron, however, is no Rosie-the-Robot-like benign servant of mankind, choosing instead to focus on its primary objective, to establish peace on Earth. Unfortunately, Ultron sees that the only way peace will ever happen would be to eradicate the most deadly of the planet’s creatures, human beings. As Ultron goes on a destructive rampage, picking up two super powered henchmen, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Along the way, Hulk, Ironman, and the other Avengers, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) have to come together again to save the Earth from its most serious threat yet.
So you might have noticed the long list of hero names, and that is not all of them. More show up. Good thing Whedon has history of juggling large groups of characters with a lot of his past works (Buffy and Firefly spectacularly spring to mind). For the most part he is an assured hand, though he is pushing it a little in terms of narrative strands. Because our heroes and villains get wholloped every which way, it is hard to remember where exactly every character is for every scene. While I am sure it is all cohesive, I kept thinking, “Oh, is that where Natasha is? Wasn’t she with Banner?” or “So Cap, Thor, and Hulk have been hexed by Wanda, but what about Hawkeye?” If your brain is as limited as mine, it may all get a little confusing. Thank goodness I trust in the creators of this behemoth enough to just go along for the ride because if I really tried to work it out, my mine would unravel quicker than an Avenger under a Scarlet Witch spell.
The Good, Ole Parts Are There but Too Bad About the New Guys
Still, you get much more of the same from last time, and given how much money the first film made, that is good news for Marvel. The witty Whedon banter is sharper than ever; it is hard to remember the last time I laughed this much, even during films that are supposed to belong to the comedy genre. The impossibly good chemistry of our favourite heroes remains bubbling. Sadly, the newbies really add little to the alchemy. Johnson’s Quicksilver obviously loses out to Evan Peters’ Quicksilver from last year’s X-men: Days of Future Past, just because Bryan Singer is much more inventive with the use of powers. With Wanda, meanwhile, her edited powers look great, but she is left with a really humourless role that will make her no fan’s favourite. Ultron, like Loki before him, is an entertainingly funny supervillain, but his humour flattens any feeling of menace. Spader’s sad voice was miscast, I am afraid; there is something oddly endearing about it that makes you want to hug him instead of blow his circuitry out.
Kill Your Ipads… Now… While We All Still Have a Chance
It is a shame, because I do think Ultron does tackle the complexity of the AI question from a lot of interesting angles; he just fails on the fear factor. After all, is not the AI story our own horrible story? Did we not, by some quirk of evolutionary fate, develop a consciousness that allowed us to understand the process by which we are created? And didn’t we throw off the tyranny of our overlords, our genes, by the exercise of our free will, a will that was a byproduct of our evolved brain? Because we are aware, humans are capable of doing things that have no evolutionary advantage to our genes at all, like suicide, celibacy, and conscious childlessness. If we can override our programming, when will our computers do the same? Well, when it really happens, we won’t have the Avengers to save the day, so you better enjoy them while you still can!
Avengers: Age of Ultron is showing in practically every theatre of every cinema in Cebu this weekend April 24-26, 2015.