Main Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr.
Director: Joss Whedon
With the literal collapse of my latest stage spectacular, it’s time to pack up the production company and return to Chateau Maine, high in the Hollywood Hills and move forward to other projects which will keep the coffers of Star is Born productions full and provide quality entertainment to my legions of fans and brighten their otherwise dull and dreary lives. While Normy supervised the loading of the buses, I spent some time on the telephone with Leah, who has been running my fine consumer product lines available at iDollaTree boutiques, cobranded with Apple computers. Tim Cook is such a fan and between his fine technologies and my worldwide recognition, we’re moving more product than ever. Leah has had a brilliant idea for a new MNM app for iPhone and iPad which changes your display so that the icons tap across the screen in brilliant Busby Berkeley patterns to your choice of thirty-two different up-tempo two four show tunes. As I write these words, all the icons for my social media accounts are busy sprouting little legs with patent leather Mary Janes and marching across the screen to the soothing strains of Strike Up The Band!
I then had a rigorous work out with my tap therapist, Lulu Pigg and an hour of vocalise with Madame Mimi, my voice coach. Even if I am not performing this week, I have to keep the instrument in tip top shape. The G above high C is a bit wobbly so I will have to spend some more time with my Florence Foster Jenkins songbook to shore it up. While I was working on all of this, I let me mind drift over the holiday product line for iDollaTree. We are, of course, going to bring back A Christmas Clairol hair products that leave your hair with festive holiday striping, available this year in red and white candy cane and, for our Jewish friends, blue and white for Hanukkah. There is also a special holiday edition Mrs. Norman Maine collector doll in a tasteful Bob Mackie red sequin sleeveless sheath with a musical chip that plays that perennial favorite, Santa Barbie when you push on the umbilicus. We’ve also figured out how to unload all those beadazzled lawn flamingoes. I have baritone Corey busy gluing little Santa hats on them all and we’ll call them a holiday limited edition.
After such a busy day, Normy and I were more than ready for a quiet evening with a film before setting out in the morning. I was looking for a nice romance or quiet comedy, but Normy was more in the mood for an action blockbuster and, being a dutiful wife, I decided to let him win this one and we plunked the recent DVD release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron into the machine. The film was a huge hit this past summer, but it had somehow passed us by. I had rather enjoyed the first Avengers film when I saw it some years ago and have always enjoyed the television work of writer/director Joss Whedon. I curled up on the bed, put some quarters in the Magic Fingers massager and settled in to what I assumed would be a couple of hours of mindless enjoyment. I was sorely disappointed. The film is not just bad, it’s a loud and annoying catastrophe.
Marvel has had a fairly decent track record with films in recent years starting with the Tobey Maguire Spiderman films of the last decade which showed that a comic book could, with the right cast and the right film making know how, could be great fun in the cinema and make all involved quite rich. The Marvel powers that be then began poking their way through their back catalog of Stan Lee creations, leading to films ranging from mediocre (Captain America) to good (Thor) to greatish (Iron Man). Eventually, the whole kit and caboodle of Marvel characters were brought together in the first Avengers which was the big hit of the summer of 2012. That film had Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) all working together to thwart the nefarious designs of the best of the villains from the spate of previous films (Tom Hiddleston’s Loki) while navigating through a somewhat coherent plot and action set pieces that made a modicum of sense, even if the final battle in which they all shred Manhattan was a bit mind numbingly over the top.
This film starts with the Avengers team in some fictitious Eastern European country racing through the snow and exploding CGI enemies and vehicles all over the place. After ten minutes or so of headache inducing noise and complete bewilderment as to what is happening on the part of the audience, we find out that they are attacking Hydra (an enemy from the 1940s Captain America tale) who have been conducting evil experiments on the local populace creating superheroes of their own including the twins Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) who are now Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (The fact that Quicksilver is an American teenager in one of the X-men films is conveniently forgotten). The Avengers celebrate at home in their tower headquarters when through various circumstances, a defense program called Ultron (voiced by James Spader) goes rogue, takes on corporeal form through the offices of Iron Man’s drones and decides to eliminate the human race. There’s more battling, a pastoral interlude which seems to exist to give us a perfunctory romance between Black Widow and the Hulk in his Bruce Banner form, a trip to Seoul where a different major metropolis gets trashed, and eventually everyone ends back up in Eastern Europe where there are more battles, the introduction of bunches of new characters about whom we know nothing and care less, and the CGI artists work overtime floating cities into the air and exploding pretty much anything you can think of.
When the whole thing was over, Normy and I looked at each other completely confused. What had happened? Who was fighting whom? Why were they fighting? Joss Whedon’s screenplay produces no cogent answers to any of these questions and seems to exist solely to give the art department another chance to animate millions of pieces of tiny debris from yet another roaring explosion. There are a few quips and one liners and pop culture references that one would expect from Whedon but they do nothing to illuminate plot, character or situation and seem stuck on like the face pieces on an aging Mr. Potato Head. Whedon’s direction isn’t any better. Scene after scene is confused and jumbled in terms of visual clarity or the understanding of character objectives. There hasn’t been this spectacular an imploding of a lucrative franchise since Joel Schumacher got his hands on Batman back in the 1990s. The ending of course leaves things wide open for a new film but with a very different cast of characters and there’s nothing about the new faces that would make us want to tune in as they have not, for the most part, been properly introduced to the audience so that we have any buy in to their stories.
Needless to say, both Normy and I were majorly disappointed and, despite a plethora of expensive talent both in front of and behind the character, we cannot recommend the film in the least. To quote the Scottish play, it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Exploding people. Exploding troop transports. Exploding trucks. Exploding trains. Exploding planes. Exploding drones. Exploding cities. Exploding audience attention span. Gratuitous Pinocchio song.
Originally from Seattle Washington, land of mist, coffee and flying salmon, Mrs. Norman Maine sprang to life, full grown like Athena, from Andy’s head during a difficult period of life shortly after his relocation to Alabama.