Some Ramblings - Avengers - Age of Ultron (2015) by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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The futility of force to cobble together some peace is a recurrent theme that plays on in an endless loop both in real and make believe worlds. Instruments of war to be used as deterrents to destruction is pretty ironic, paradoxical, self defeating and self fulfilling. One side gets a big weapon to preempt the other side from launching a unilateral attack. Fearing sudden imbalance in power the other side ups the ante by getting an even bigger one, and peace prevails in the bated breaths waiting for the inevitable. Ronald Reagan's dream project, Star Wars, that took the preemption plans to a whole new level, quite literally, the current NATO proposal to throw a massive missile cloud cover over its constituent member's geographical boundaries, or the one already in action, Israel's Iron Dome shield system meant to intercept any hostile incoming air fare and destroy them midway, shows human penchant for preserving peace through instruments of aggression. As history has shown it over and over again, the respite from conflict in such armed to the teeth situations is never on account of reconciliation, for there is too much at stake in pride and ego; it only means that the warring parties are merely retooling or reloading. The script plays out in the same way, be it with super powers of the real world or the super heroes of the make believe. 'Age of Ultron' raises a very pertinent question (besides being a standard issue summer blockbuster) about the need and the fallout of escalating the already destructive nature of a 'super power' in the hope of achieving everlasting peace. And when instruments meant for peace policing, like Ultron, suddenly go rogue and becomes weapons of mass destruction, with its evolving artificial intelligence developing its own internal logic and concluding that humanity is better served starting afresh, the words of Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, resonate deeper and louder, 'Now I am become death, the destroyer of the worlds'.

'Age of Ultron' follows a logical path for its rollicking super heroes who had much fun in the earlier outing. With all the souped up power in place ready to rid the world of any dangers, it was a natural progression that the next threat emanate from within, where the super powers tinker with their working formula in order to be even more effective and hands off, only to find the experiment going awry with a new enemy at hand built entirely on the contradictions that confront the super powers. Ultron is a mirror image of Joker (of Dark Knight fame) who thrives on the ambiguities and the impossibility of the choices that prevent the super powers from turning completely clinical to always choose what is right over what is pertinent. If a region is suffering from strife torn asunder by mutually destructive warring forces (consider the present day Middle East or the brutal dictatorial regimes of Africa or Afghanistan), where even faint flickers of hope and peace have all but extinguished, cold logic, more so coming from an inorganic artificial intelligence, mandates that it is better to 'neutralize' (read, raze it into a rubble) the area for good helping life to find an alternate path to take root, survive and prosper. Amputation with clinical precision, the machine says. But the world (and the powers that be) operates on a polar opposite precept, where 'Final Solution' is never an option even in an utterly hopeless situation. The missionaries, the charities, the aid groups, the leaders and the politicians keep on trying resuscitating the moribund situation, putting the faintest of hopes on a ventilator, and praying for the best. This is a classic dilemma in every man vs machine situation, and Ultron here (and Joker before) expose and exploit that contradiction to the hilt.

It is a brave choice on the part of Whedon to give his insurmountable and indefatigable hero set, not a problem of power, but one of choice. There are parallels of Ultron to Dr. Manhattan from 'Watchmen', in that, both of them become too highly evolved mechanisms to care about the transnational minutiae that weaves the tapestry of humanity, gunning for a reboot of the whole system to build a more right, robust and a rigid society the second time around. 'Age of Ultron' is not a thigh slapping buddy adventure comedy that its predecessor was. Though it has its share of snarky one liners from Tony Stark, the usual 'who is a better super hero' rib jabbing camaraderie and really impressive visual effects, the movie has its roots in pain and fear, exactly the emotions that super heroes should be troubled with all the time, always worrying about how their powers might hurt, than help, the world and saddled with the emotional baggage of having to decide how much is too much. A worthy followup, if not as much entertaining (in the traditional sense) as the origins movie, 'Age of Ultron' is a more introspective piece preying on the fears of the infallible.


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