Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Posted: May 2, 2015 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going strong for eight years now, and in that time, we’ve gotten eleven movies from the behemoth studio, and that’s just from them. Take into account other properties from other studios, and we truly live in the Golden Age of Comic Book Films. With so many on the market, though, fatigue is bound to set in sooner or later, and it’s a fact I have to consider when talking about the latest flaming-hot release, Avengers: Age of Ultron, writer/director Joss Whedon’s follow-up to his Hulk smash of a superhero movie, 2012’s The Avengers. Now, before most of you get up in arms, am I saying that I don’t like this movie? No, not at all. It’s good; I had a fun time. What I am saying, though, is that for me personally, I’m sort of becoming numb to this whole Marvel formula in general, and for whatever reason, that feeling has been most prevalent in these two Avengers films, in spite of how much I’ve legitimately enjoyed them. So, let’s dive right in, shall we?

The movie starts out, appropriately, with a bang as we see The Avengers back in action and attacking a Hydra base, where the nefarious organization is performing questionable experiments, most notably on a pair of Russian twins: Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). The source of those experiments turns out to be none other than Loki’s Scepter, which Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) sees potential in for use in an A.I. peacekeeping initiative codenamed Ultron. From there, Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) create such an artificial intelligence (perfectly voiced by the awesome James Spader), but as all A.I.’s inevitably do, Ultron decides that the human race is no good, and the only way to improve it is to first destroy it. On his side, Ultron has not only Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, both of whom harbor deep-seeded intentions of revenge against Tony, but also an entire army of robots that all share Ultron’s dangerous consciousness. Of course, this is a threat large enough to require The Avengers, the likes of whom include Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), to re-assemble as they race to stop the monster created by one of their own.

If anything, the sheer scale of this movie is impressive all on its own. Joss Whedon has really succeeded in creating a film that feels even bigger than the last, and that was no small feat, so that’s certainly worthy of recognition. In addition, I was pleased to find that he’s fixed some of the problems I had with the first Avengers. To get the question on everybody’s mind out of the way, though: is Age of Ultron better than the first film? I’d say it’s about as good as that one overall. It needs to be said, though, that I actually don’t consider The Avengers to be one of the best superhero movies I’ve ever seen; for me, that movie has a handful of issues that weigh it down from reaching such lofty heights. Now, I’ve thought a good while about why that is, and now after having seen Age of Ultron, I think I finally have a very good way of summing up that reason: these two Avengers movies ultimately feel more like Marvel movies through the eyes of Joss Whedon, when I think they should be Joss Whedon movies that happen to take place in the Marvel Universe. Again, I do think Joss Whedon has pulled off two genuinely entertaining movies here, but it seems like he and the movies themselves are being a bit too shackled down by the fact that they have to fit into “Marvel’s master plan”, when I want to see Whedon be able to let loose a little more.

Okay, so what works this time out? First of all, this movie sports top-of-the-line action sequences, and there’s a certain energy to them that’s there right when the film opens and is maintained well throughout. Like the first movie, there are also a good number of moments in said action scenes that make you want to fist-punch the air in excited approval. The opening sequence alone is pretty great, and the best thing about it is perhaps a tracking shot Whedon employs that’s very similar to the one used in the climax of the first movie. From there, there’s even more great action, from the one-on-one Hulk vs. Iron Man rumble we’ve seen glimpses of in the trailer, but is simply awesome in all its glory, to the balls-to-the-wall climax. I’d even venture to say that, overall, the action scenes here are better than the first film’s.

Now, I won’t waste too much time on the performances from all our returning heroes; after all this time, each of these actors have had more than enough time to come into their own with them, and they all keep that up here, as well as the sense of camaraderie between the team, with Robert Downey Jr. stealing the show as he always does. Newcomers Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are fine, but between the two, Olsen is a lot more interesting. One of the things Joss Whedon does this time that I really appreciated, though, is that he shines some of the spotlight on a few of the characters who felt shortchanged in the first, namely Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, who receives some very nice — and welcome — character development. However, the cast member this time who we really NEED to talk about is James Spader as the titular villain. I’ve long been a fan of Spader, ever since Boston Legal aired on ABC, and between this and the currently-running NBC show The Blacklist, I am so very happy to see him back at work on the screen. As far as I’m concerned, James Spader is one of those actors who could simply read from the phonebook and still be interesting to watch. Marvel hasn’t had the best track record with their on-screen villains, and quite honestly, Ultron isn’t really the incredibly menacing threat that the trailers make him out to be (God, this movie’s first trailer was so great), but even then, next to Loki, he’s really up there. Spader brings this sarcastic quality to Ultron that’s so oddly perfect for the character, and it just goes to show that Joss Whedon had the right instincts in casting for the character. Then you’ve got that trademark Whedon humor that shines through, despite the decidedly more serious tone overall. Also, Age of Ultron has a much better sense of pacing than the first movie.

There is one more “but”, however, and that’s that the film kind of has a been-there, done-that feel to it. The climax especially, while very cool and all that jazz, seems almost like a recycled version of the one from the first film, what with the ever-popular trend now of a city being used as a battlefield. But this also extends to certain plot beats, which feel very similar to ones from the predecessor, too. There’s not a whole lot of originality on display in Age of Ultron, and I know most of the audience won’t care about that, but while I do wish this movie could’ve been a little better, I still won’t knock it too much because this is still a good, rockin’-sockin’ time at the movies. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we want from this, anyway?

***/****

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