Spling reviews Enemy, The Longest Ride and My Old Lady as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.
Avengers: Age of Ultron follows some typical sequel procedure. There's much more conflict. The Avengers team is put to the test by various personal demons, making them self-doubt and re-examine their priorities. The characters have grown - we get more back story to several of the characters, especially Hawkeye and Black Widow, and discover greater depth. Joss Whedon has embraced the first film and Avengers universe, allowing the events from Captain America: The Winter Soldier dubbed as "Avengers 1.5" to bleed into this film.
Sequels are born from the notion that audiences want more. Unfortunately, this is often interpreted as more of the same... or, much more of the same. If Avengers: Age of Ultron does anything wrong... it delivers a puffed, repackaged The Avengers.
It's difficult to reinvent a successful formula or capture the novelty of the "Big Bang" origin film, so many tend to rest on the laurels of the first enterprise, hoping that a double scoop with a few more sprinkles will suffice.
Joss Whedon has made a worthy sequel that builds on the success of the first film and delves into the dark introspective mood of many superhero sequels where things seem to fall apart. The soul-searching instead of whup-assing is the uncomfortable middle part where the Phoenix has to die before rising again. Thankfully,Avengers: Age of Ultron has the characters and humour to pull it off.
When your team comprises of individuals who have saved the world several times before, you imagine you're pretty invincible.The Avengers are portrayed as the mighty bad-guy-busters with their enemies going through the motions, but inevitably rolling over. That's not much fun, where's the challenge?
While they seem on top of the world, one mission to retrieve Loki's sceptre hits some hurdles and leaves the team stunned after an encounter with some equally gifted counterparts. After some "playing God" meddling from the conflicted Tony Stark sees the birth of a fully aware AI in Ultron, things go from worse to cataclysmic.
"I tend to agree with Sir David Attenborough... humans are a plague on Earth."
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a comic book movie and Whedon gives audiences an experience that seamlessly laces the frames together as such. There are some great one-liners, plenty of "WHAAM!" moments with a similar beginning-middle-end climax formula to The Avengers. Fan boys will be delighted with the blend, tipping the hat to The Avengers and using every dollar of its $250 million budget to concoct action extravaganzas.
At 142 minutes, it's a barrage of non-stop comic book action, jocular fun and dense sci-fi fantasy philosophy musing. The performances are slightly weary and not quite as exuberant as in The Avengers, but they'd probably put that down to the character's disposition.
Robert Downey Jr. still has cheek, but seems to have lost some of the rock star sparkle from Iron Man. While The Avengers could have been subtitled, "The Iron Man Show", this is more of a 'together' effort, a highlighted and recurring theme. If there's any scene-stealer, it's the digital Ultron voiced by a perfectly cast James Spader, a villain who could've been a worthy adversary in just about any sci-fi action thriller franchise.
Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner's characters, Black Widow and Hawkeye, get more prominent and welcome story time, possibly making up for their supporting superhero status, without their own films. Mark Ruffalo seems more at war with himself than previously, trying to tame the Beast and Chris Evans is Mr. Dependable playing the typical upstanding, by-the-book straight man.
The visual effects are extraordinary, achieving the impossible without losing touch with the audience. While permeating almost every frame and losing us in this variation of life as we know it, they hold up and convey so much action carnage that you can't blink. It does become a little overwhelming at times, but it's offset by some gravity-enforcing comedic and dramatic interludes.
While Marvel's The Avengers has its own original flavour, this sequel isn't fresh. Apart from the perpetual need to demolish cities that we've seen in Transformers, Man of Steel, Godzilla,Pacific Rim and a myriad of other contemporary films, Age of Ultron echoes films like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transformersand the Terminator series.
You don't have to look much further than the burgeoning ensemble of superheroes looking to recruit more worthy allies for their special facility and the army of tin men driven by a transient alien intelligence for examples of cross-franchise-pollination.
It would have been great if they'd spent more time with Ultron. James Spader's character and complexity deserved more unpacking and there would have been more tension if the film-makers had given Ultron and agenda more time to gestate. Moving gradually from ally to unstoppable villain, a devil trajectory, would have made all the difference.
While drawn-out and tethered to the familiar, this is still a full-on superhero actioner that packs a punch, generates many laugh-out-loud moments and builds upon the blockbuster success of The Avengers. It may not have the heart or novelty of the original, butAvengers: Age of Ultron is a team effort, a strong sequel, a beautifully constructed blockbuster and a film that delivers on most of its promises.
"You are your own worst enemy." While we sometimes hurt ourselves or behave unlike ourselves, it's quite a feat for anyone to believe it was our "evil twin". Greek mythology suggests we were all originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing our power, Zeus separated the beings to be in search of their other halves. While twins seem to have an uncanny synergy, the concept of duality continues to fascinate our increasingly narcissistic society and is the driving force behind Enemy.
Loosely bound, the adaptation of José Saramago's novel, follows a history teacher, who seeks out an exact look-a-like after discovering the actor by chance in a film. Enemy's surreal and taut atmosphere is fueled by cloudy ambivalence, where it feels like all paradigms co-exist concurrently. We're busy formulating an answer to help clear the muck of uncertainty only to find that our answer is unimportant and that all possibilities are welcome.
Jake Gyllenhaal continues to impress, burning a fuse of excellent performances, essentially becoming the poster boy for dark, somewhat deviant mystery drama thrillers. He worked with Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve, on Prisoners and has delivered yet another noteworthy performance after equally rich accomplishments in Source Code, End of Watch and Nightcrawler. The actor-director pairing obviously have a good understanding and demonstrate this once again with Gyllenhaal delivering a doppelganger movie with remarkable control and consistency.
Villeneuve sets his colourful characters against a totalitarian dreamscape of grey buildings and we're persuaded to step into the mirror as Adam stalks Anthony. Gyllenhaal is supported by exquisite French actress, Mélanie Laurent, whose character is overshadowed by the greater mystery at play. Instead, it's Sarah Gadon whose mesmerising visage becomes the new equilibrium as two lives mesh and re-crystalise. Gadon's grace and knowing presence add to the spooky and rather sparse world we find outselves in.
"Class, I'm all alone, so are we all... we're all clones."
The mystery playground employs symbolism, some creepy moments and sensuality drawing comparisons with David Lynch, except there's more emphasis on story and less on mood. This Canadian-Spanish co-production isn't flashy and plays to its strengths with a strong lead actor in Jake Gyllenhaal, a provocative yet steady-handed director in Denis Villenueve and a similar economy of quality and scale to Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin.
Enemy is an artful, thought-provoking, immersive and beautifully bewildering journey. Its dark, surreal and unpredictable nature will not appeal to those looking for a clearly defined narrative. Those who appreciate Jake Gyllenhaal will find themselves delighted and even disturbed by the mind games and sinister duality at play in this experimental mystery drama.
Spling reviews Run All Night, Spare Parts and Paddington as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.