Avengers: Age of Ultron Review (NO SPOILERS)
The much anticipated sequel to 2012’s The Avengers has finally arrived in theaters. This time, our heroes of the anointed Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are facing an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) with good intentions, however this plan backfires and instead of saving the world as Tony is hoping for, Ultron (James Spader) is on a quest to destroy it.
I give Joss Whedon and the team at Marvel a ton of credit for continuing their quest to achieve a fully realized cinematic universe with no foreseeable end, although I do believe that eventually this franchise will transition into something else, but let’s talk about the present…
This movie has had a lot of expectations as it should. This is a sequel to not only one of the highest grossing movies of all time, but a sequel to a very good movie, in fact I would say that Avengers 1 is perhaps in the top five greatest comic book movies of all time (a review for a later day). So, a lot of expectations usually lead to a fumbling of the ball in a sequel as we’ve seen in Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and several other films. Let me end the suspense by saying that this is a good movie!
I loved how Whedon continues to write the complexity and humanity of these characters, in fact it’s his defining trait as a writer. Kudos to him and Jeremy Renner for enabling Hawkeye to really shine, a character from the first film who was reduced to, “A flying monkey,” as Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury so eloquently put it in the first film. Here, Hawkeye is the heart of the film in many ways and reminds the viewer that going in with a low expectation can lead you to be pleasantly surprised.
James Spader nails it as Ultron, creating perhaps the second most memorable villain in the MCU cannon next to Loki. I loved the portrayal and his dialogue was superbly written. I feel like it’s becoming increasingly rare to harness a really good villain plot in films like these where the stakes feel high and insurmountable, which is really what you want in a villain and it’s delivered in spades (pun intended). I loved Ultron! I also really loved The Vision (Paul Pettany), a somewhat spiritual figure that adds some depth to the film.
As for other positives, the action was amazing and there were a few times I was lifted out of my seat with that slight cringe of “Oh man, how is he going to get out of that one!?” The visual effects were some of the best I’ve ever seen with 3000 special effects shots, increased from Guardians of the Galaxy’s 2750 effects shots. Let’s just say the last 30 minutes is where the bulk of those are, but there was enough of an illusion of practicality and tasteful CGI that I was never taken out of the movie. The Hulk looks perfect!
The ensemble remains the highlight of the franchise. There is something about these particular actors alone that makes all of the non action scenes just as much fun to watch as any other and that is a testament to the witty one liners and the chemistry between the actors. Chris Evans and Robert Downey really bounce off of each other well as their dynamic becomes more tense in this film, which I liked (an allusion to the Civil War plot line, which we’ll touch upon later) and Scarlet Johannson and Mark Ruffalo are the other notable duo in this film. I found their chemistry and plot thread reminiscent of Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, which is one of my favorite on screen romances.
It’s hard to say that anything in this movie was flat out bad, more so not what I expected, but there are a few spots in the film where I was asking myself, “What happened here?” While the movie starts off with a true bang, which is highly appreciated I was surprised at how quickly Ultron was introduced. I thought a few extra minutes of explanation could have been helpful.
I didn’t care for a lot of the Russian accents most notably the Maximoff twins portrayed by Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. Both the performers were well utilized as Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch respectfully, but those accents, I mean yeesh! Haven’t we learned anything from Halle Berry’s Storm? I also will state that I prefer the X-Men’s portrayal of Quicksilver, but it wasn’t bad in Age of Ultron.
The film overall has this slightly uneven feeling to it, almost like it was unsure of what kind of movie it wanted to be. I can understand that with the expectations and duty to provide connective tissue with 10 other films can be a great source of pressure, but it is felt here.
The film could have used a few more homages to things to come, but it didn’t really bother me, in fact it allowed for more investment in the movie we are in right now, which is something the other films have a problem with at times. Act 2 of the film felt a bit sluggish, and I was asking myself a few times, “Where’s Ulron?” Act 2 does however have two of my favorite moments and let’s just say that they involve Hawkeye, Widow and Hulk’s characters…
The Bottom Line:
This movie is one of the best of the MCU films! It definitely deserves to be in the leagues of the Iron Man 1, Avengers 1, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m super happy that it didn’t turn into a shoehorning in of every character possible and that The Avengers franchise remains a character driven saga about super humans.
I personally hold sequels up to the standard of The Empire Strikes Back, at least the summer action, sci-fi, fantasy fare in having the responsibility to further the journey of our characters to a point where the stakes are so high that the future looks pretty grim for them, until the third film where this are resolved, but not without the team taking a big hit in the second film. I think that this expectation is sprinkled throughout Age of Ultron, but they could have taken it a little further.
Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a solid movie, not better than the lightning in a bottle that was the first film and I still think the afore mentioned hits are better than this one, but it’s still very good. Chalk it up to this being the necessary bleaker step toward what I’m truly hoping will knock my geeky socks off: Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2, which will not be directed by Joss Whedon. If you haven’t read this arc from the comics, it’s on the horizon and I believe that this film will actually serve as that somber note on the piano that needs to be hit soon, if these Marvel films are going to start taking more risks.
***What did you think of the film? Leave a comment and let me know!
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