Avengers: Age of Ultron

Posted: May 6, 2015 in Movie Reviews

Earth's Mightiest Heroes face their greatest threat yet.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes face their greatest threat yet.

Mistakes are one of the primary banes of mankind’s existence. They’re naturally occurring and often are invaluable learning experiences, but sometimes have devastating effects. One recurring theme in practically every film ever made: people make mistakes. And typically the moral of the lesson is that it isn’t how you make these mistakes, but what you do to correct them. In the words of Jurassic Park’s John Hammond, “I don’t blame people for their mistakes, but I do ask that they pay for them.” In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes once again realize that being a cohesive team is the key to overcoming ultimate adversity.

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Summary: (No spoilers)
As the Avengers scour the globe putting the last remaining Hydra facilities out of commission, global peace is well at its premium. With their mission accomplished, the team casually celebrates their unification and larger-than-life capabilities. But as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.—–Sherlock Holmes, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) flirts with the ability to create an artificial intelligence that will shake the very foundations of science itself, some of his colleagues warn him against the dangers of toying with technology that he himself does not understand.

The results of his work is an AI that rivals his computer program Jarvis. With astute abilities to comprehend on a human level, Ultron (James Spader—–Stargate, Lincoln) ultimately deciphers earth’s problems and renders the answer as world-wide extinction of the human race. With time dangerously running out, the Avengers assemble to once again battle an earth-crumbling threat.

Also starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smolders, Andy Serkis, and Samuel L. Jackson.

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The Avengers was such an enormous juggernaut, that it seems nearly unfathomable that its sequel could even accomplish what made the first film so special. Obviously the first film had that novelty factor; it was the first time ever we got to see Earth’s Mightiest Heroes rally together on the big screen. That novelty was a card that Marvel technically could only play once. We’ve seen them assemble, we’ve all exclaimed “wow!”, we’ve experienced the comradery, but now that novelty is gone. So how do you create a sequel that adequately reaches the heights of The Avengers without overdoing it and getting into melodrama territory? Once again, Marvel has inadvertently sat us down and said, “watch the master at work”.

Avengers: Age of Ultron further expounds on that team interaction that made the first film so much darn fun to watch. They’re not exactly bickering endlessly (although the bickering does occur). They respect each other now and realize the unique abilities that each one brings. The dynamic that so well defined the first film is further built on in this film. And that afore-mentioned comradery is just as effective and lively.

Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth_Avengers: Age of Ultron

As much as the minor Avengers (Hawkeye and Black Widow) have been somewhat glossed over in previous films, Age of Ultron grabs the opportunities to develop their characters and give more depth to them. It delves deeper into the Widow’s past by displaying her training and how she turned into a master assassin. The Hawk’s motivations and personal life are beautifully expounded upon and gives a complete picture of his character. He’s no longer Loki’s turncoat stooge. He’s a fully functional character.

Tony Stark is, well, the same old Tony Stark that we love. He still has those plaguing moments from Iron Man 3 that converts him from a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist to a nervous wreck, so there’s still development going on there. Cap still reminds us why we admire his virtue so much, and Thor is still the God of Thunder. The interesting dynamic occurs between Stark and Rogers and lays the groundwork for Captain America: Civil War.

But the newbies Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (the Maximoff twins) are what truly set this Avengers film apart from the last. As director Joss Whedon has stated, all of the Avengers have “punchy powers”. With the twins, we’re treated to two very different sets of abilities. I was nervous about Marvel’s treatment of Quicksilver after X-Men: Days of Future Past’s same character dominated every scene he was in. While that iteration of Quicksilver was easily the more enjoyable, I do appreciate how Marvel made their character so drastically different. The X-Men character was a wise-cracking kid, while the Avengers character is  more grounded.

Scarlet Witch, however, is the more mesmerizing character. Her hypnotic powers present a new sort of adversity for the Avengers to overcome—–a struggle of the mind. Having voiced Jarvis in every Iron Man film, it’s truly great seeing Paul Bettany get an actual acting role. His character Vision is perhaps the most pure, simple, uncomplicated character Marvel has yet brought to screen. In one brilliant scene (one I will not disclose for spoiler reasons), all questions of his morality are answered in a mere few seconds. Moving forward, it’s clear that the Vision will become a viable working character.

But handily the best new character is the baddie Ultron. With unambiguous similarities to his creator Stark, Ultron is truly the perfect next villain for the Avengers to tackle. Haunting and mesmerizing in his voice, yet instilling a flare of the flamboyant and comedic—–much akin to Heath Ledger’s Joker—–Ultron puts all of Marvel film’s past villains to shame with the exception of Loki, who still holds the title for greatest Marvel villain. James Spader truly implants an undeveloped worldview into his character; a warped, confused, unprincipled sentient being meant as a savior-like protector but ultimately becoming a tragic, Shakespearean-like, fallen character.

Some facets of the story are—–most likely unintentionally—–glossed over, such as Stark’s overall accountability to the events that are laid forth by his creation and his feverish desire to push the boundaries. Although in no way is he left unaccountable for his actions, I believe it was an implied implication that Tony’s sins are forgiven and that he has (for now at least) learned his lesson. Other minor clichéd plot elements are merely a staple of Marvel’s storytelling and are easily overlooked.

"There are no strings on me"

“There are no strings on me”

As far as the visual storytelling and action is concerned, this is for certain the grandest film yet. However, unlike the first Avengers where every action shot was grounded and well-placed, Age of Ultron does feel a tad inflated and ever-so-slightly chaotic in some parts. It isn’t that the action and spectacle are too large or chaotic, it just doesn’t feel quite as honed nor fully developed as the first film. Where this film does excel over the first, though, is the humor (if that seems even possible). Although a mere one or two jokes are bit out of place, the humor is so accessible to the general audience and well executed.

But once the film kicks into third gear, it’s all “fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen”. The climactic battle is so sensational and so intense, that you become immersed in this electrifying, pulsating mayhem. It brings everyone together (including some surprise faces) and becomes an “all hands on deck” experience. It’s here that we once again are treated to the Avengers as one comprehensive team of extraordinary people; a team that is so in tune with each other’s capabilities that they become the ultimate cohesive juggernaut of power.

In a nutshell:

While I can’t say that it’s better than the first, I can say with assuredness that it’s at least as good. While the novelty has worn off, Marvel and Joss Whedon has still found a way to make this team just as outrageously entertaining as they can get. With a villain that bears ominous terror, more character development, fascinating new characters, top-line CGI, and a far more personal narrative, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a truly commendable effort on Marvel’s part and carries this cinematic universe into a highly-anticipated Phase 3.

 

9 stars

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