The other day my brother, Kevin, was relating a conversation he had with his younger son about the lack of a discernible plot in so many recent movies. He bemoaned the fact that so many movies today are mere montages of effects under the guise of telling a story. My nephew countered (as I believe most teenagers would) that it didn’t matter, that he liked going to the movies for the spectacle of the show. In his mind, plot was secondary to explosions, car chases, and things jumping off of the screen at you. After much discussion, Kevin and I concluded that we were probably not much different in our youth.
That discussion was part of a larger one we were having about The Avengers: The Age of Ultron. Kevin brought up a good point; this movie (as are many in this genre) was a movie without a really strong plot…but I loved it! Granted, the whole “technology is going to take over our lives” thing is a tale as old as time or, at the very least, a story that is as old as the movies themselves — just watch Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times or Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 to see that this type of paranoia is nothing new. But Avengers makes this fear fun. It is a slick, gimmicky movie with an almost cartoonish feel in its palette and CGI treatment, and it moves along at a roller-coaster pace with only a few spots for the viewer to catch his breath. It also has my favorite Stan Lee cameo to date…but then, his appearance in Winter Soldier comes in a close second.
But, buried beneath all of the explosions and fight sequences is a subplot that is very relevant to today’s world. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with technology, but everything to do with the importance of family and friends. In a world that is becoming very impersonal, even in our closest relationships, this movie really emphasizes the importance of family and friends. The Avengers genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They love and support each other. They fight and make up. We see this group of superheroes and techno-nerds as a tightly knit group of friends (some would say a dysfunctional family) who would do anything to save one another, even if it leads to disagreements. We also see that regardless of what they have to do in their day-to-day, nine-to-five-world, their family is what is most important—just as ours should be. One of the main characters is revealed to be a family man at heart: he and his wife have decided to keep this family away from a world that they feel is too violent for their children, and he keeps them anonymous to protect them from the violent life he must lead. He would do anything he can to shield them from harm, even if it means hiding his family from everyone else. So, perhaps, my dear nephew, there is a strong plot after all. Perhaps, if you strip out all of the 3D effects, the violence and the car chases from this movie, what you end up with is a nice film about relationships and the importance of staying true to your friends and family – no matter the cost.