The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

The Avengers: Age of Ultron movie posterSynopsis
When the Avengers retrieve Loki’s scepter from Hydra, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) use the artificial intelligence inside to jumpstart Tony’s global peacekeeping program, called the Ultron Program. The experiment works, creating a being calling itself Ultron. When Ultron decides the only way to complete his programming to protect the Earth is the eradication of the human race, Tony, Bruce and the rest of the Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), must stop Ultron.

Review
The Avengers: Age of Ultron had some big shoes to fill. The Avengers was a cinematic marvel, doing the unthinkable. Bringing heroes from previous movies together for a new adventure. Could Marvel catch lightning in a bottle twice? I’m pleased to say: Yea, they kinda did.

I thought The Avengers started big but Age of Ultron came out the gate swinging! Immediately, it starts with a brawl in the fictional country of Sokovia that was larger than almost every action scene in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to date. The banter between each of the characters was fun and comical, showcasing that they are a group of friends now, unlike in the last movie. It did a good job to show how the team has come together since the Battle of New York.

Since this is the second Avengers’ outing as a team and because most of these characters have their own solo films, there is no need to develop the characters individually. We already saw Tony Stark deal with his PTSD from fighting an alien force, we already saw Steve Rogers deal with a world different than the one he left behind in the 1940s, so there is no need to waste time on that here. Instead, the focus is more on the characters coming together as a team. This lead to some great moments demonstrating their camaraderie, especially the heavily advertised scene with the team trying to lift Thor’s hammer and the opening sequence I talked about a moment ago. This enabled the movie to move quickly as well. Without the need to spend time on bringing the team together, the story breezed through, which was probably a good thing considering there was a lot to get through.

Hawkeye, one character who hasn’t been in a movie since The Avengers, finally gets his character fleshed out. One of the more disappointing things about the first Avengers movie was Hawkeye wasn’t really Hawkeye until the last act of the film. This time around, he is the character who gets the most development. However, part of that is because all the other characters had their development in their own movies as mentioned previously. It was also to set him up for what happens later in the film.

I really liked how some characters were close their comic book counterparts. One of which is Ultron. He has an Oedipus complex towards his creator, in this case Tony Stark (Hank Pym in the comics). Every time he was compared to Stark he got upset and said he was better than him. Then with Vision, he was created by Ultron. Throughout the film, he calls himself “Son of Ultron’ which is said frequently in the comics.

Age of Ultron acted as a crossroads of sorts for previous and future MCU stories. There were many references to Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. At the same time, there was plenty of set up for several movies in Phase 3, such as Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. At first it may seem like all these extra scenes bloat the movie, which it does, but it ends up working in the film because they are one-and-done. They go to Wakanda, then leave. Boom, done. Thor goes to some magical watering hole. Boom, done. The Avengers storm a Hydra base. Boom, done. A lot is introduced, but it moves quickly and never lingers so it never becomes too much. It also made it feel like an event series that happens in comic books (or at least the more recent ones that tend to set up future stories).

Ever since James Spader was announced as the voice of Ultron, I was on board. He is absolutely perfect as the criminal Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington in The Blacklist (which I highly recommend you checkout if you’re not watching it already), and truly brought Ultron to life. He even brought some of the same mannerisms as when he plays Red. I only had one problem with him: he was almost too humorous. As a killer robot, I think he should have been a little more serious. Much like the rest of the cast, he had many one liners. He still could have a few zingers but not as many as he did. In any case, Spader was a great fit.

One of the things I was looking forward to most was seeing how Scarlet Witch’s powers were implemented. In the comics, she has a magical power set, called Chaos Magic. It has nearly endless and limitless possibilities which probably wouldn’t have translated well into the world created in the MCU. I like the way they were portrayed, kind of like telekinesis and telepathy but not too crazy. It was weird seeing Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play siblings after playing husband and wife in Godzilla. They did well but the highlight of the three new heroes is definitely Vision.  Paul Bettany finally got to physically appear in the MCU and knocks it out of the park. I’m looking forward to seeing him most in the future.

Vision’s introduction was hilariously done and it he was a perfect complement to Ultron. Although, his introduction was rushed and his powers weren’t explained very well. He has the ability to change his density and “phase” through objects. Unless you knew that, it may not have been clear. Even I had a hard time catching at first that when he was fighting the Ultron robots he was phasing and not simply punching through them. I was thinking about how they could have demonstrated his powers without a long explanation and I think I got it: have him phase through a wall. It would have been simple and less ambiguous as to what he can do.

This paragraph contains major spoilers. Highlight to read.
Still here? Ok. So I will admit I was taken by surprise by Quicksilver’s death. The whole movie seemed like it was setting up for Hawkeye to get axed, some rumors before the movie was released seemed like that would happen and in an interview, Joss Whedon admitted that was his plan. It was both good and bad. The good is that it was a surprise. If Hawkeye had gotten killed, it would have been seen from a mile away. The bad is that it was Quicksilver. Had it been Hawekeye, or at least some established character, it would have been more impactful and heartbreaking. It would have been nice to get more Quicksilver in the future, too. However, it was a good was to show the character’s transformation and to establish him as a hero.

One of the best things about the previous Avengers film was it was genuinely funny. Every Marvel film since has done the same thing and was successful to varying degress. However, here it felt forced. Don’t get me wrong, I still laughed my ass off, but it just didn’t feel the same, like they were trying too hard.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron had a lot going on and could have easily imploded on itself. But only as Whedon could, it manages not to and juggles everything perfectly. It may not be perfect, but Age of Ultron is fun and an example of how to do a sequel right. Now my excitement for the future of the MCU has only grown.

Rating
4/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 2: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Joss Whedon – Director / Writer
Danny Elfman – Composer
Brian Tyler – Composer

Robert Downey Jr. – Tony Stark / Iron Man
Chris Evans – Steve Rogers / Captain America
Chris Hemsworth – Thor
Mark Ruffalo – Bruce Banner / Hulk
Scarlett Johansson – Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Jeremy Renner – Clint Barton / Hawkeye
James Spader – Ultron (voice)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Pietro Maximoff / Quicksilver
Elizabeth Olsen – Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
Paul Bettany – JARVIS (voice) / Vision
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury
Cobie Smulders – Maria Hill
Claudia Kim – Dr. Helen Cho
Don Cheadle – James Rhodes / War Machine
Anthony Mackie – Sam Wilson / The Falcon
Hayley Atwell – Peggy Carter
Idris Elba – Heimdall
Stellen Skarsgard – Erik Selvig
Linda Cardellini – Laura Barton
Thomas Kretschmann – Strucker
Andy Serkis – Ulysses Klaue
Julie Delpy – Madame B
Henry Goodman – Dr. List


This review was a long time coming.  I saw Age of Ulron on Thursday 4/30!  But between my procrastination (which often includes video games or more movies) and my last few weekends filled with visiting family, yard work and a lot (a LOT) of gardening, I didn’t have much time to focus on this.  It didn’t help either that this is my longest review to date.  Up next is finally accepting the award given to me from Justine from over a month ago!  And Mark and Tom, my review of Tommy Boy is very high on my list of things to do for your Decades Blogathon.  Then probably a review of Tangled and I’ll look at reviewing a few films on my “recommended to me” list.  Anyway, I hope my review for The Avengers: Age of Ultron was worth the wait. 🙂

The Avengers (Avengers Assemble) Review

The Avengers move posterSynopsis
When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes to Earth seeking to enslave all of humanity, the Earth’s mightiest heroes, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) must learn to work together as a team to stop him and his invading Chitauri forces.

Review
This is it. This is what everything since Iron Man leads up to. It was a huge endeavor Marvel took on bringing all these heroes together in one film. Nothing had been done like it before. The idea of a cinematic “shared universe” for any franchise was nearly unheard of. However, it makes so much sense looking at the source material. All these characters occupy one comic universe, why can’t they do the same on screen?

Right away it’s easy to feel how the movie is going to go. It opens with a SHIELD base exploding and a high octane chase scene, setting the expectations for the rest of the film. You know right away that the ride is going to be fast paced and exciting. The action throughout the movie was so much fun to watch. With this being a first time team-up between these heroes, they needed to flex their muscles and fight each other (naturally). The highlight being the fight between the Marvel Trinity: Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. Then they came full circle when they were working together as a team fighting the Chitauri at they end. The small things, like Iron Man reflecting his repulsors off Cap’s shield, were the most satisfying.

Joss Whedon is the definition of a fan favorite. He has been involved in beloved series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, one of my personal favorites, Firefly. I can’t think of anyone better Marvel could have picked to pioneer this ultimate team-up. Nothing is wasted. Every moment captured on screen is used efficiently and to progress either the story or a character. There is plenty of organic humor throughout the entire movie. It never feels forced or shoehorned. It’s all friendly banter or very in-line with the character. There is nothing worse than forced humor in a film (OK, I can think of maybe a few things but that’s high up on my list).

I really liked Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk. I wasn’t too happy to hear he was replaced with Mark Ruffalo. My disappointment had nothing to do with Ruffalo but stemmed from wanting to keep actors consistent. But man, am I glad Ruffalo did take over because he is probably the best Banner ever on screen. One of the reasons I think he worked so well in the cast is because he was able to occupy the background without being overshadowed. With actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans who have big personas, I feel Norton would have been another big personality and wouldn’t have meshed as well with the rest of the cast. Whereas Ruffalo is more mellow and can hang back without becoming someone who simply occupies the background. The whole situation was a good blend of personalities.

Another great thing about The Avengers is how seemingly infinitely quotable it is. It seems like every scene someone says something that stuck with me. The better lines mostly come from Stark but other characters get their time to shine, too.

Although this is an ensemble movie (and everyone gets a fair, balanced amount of screen time and development) I have felt Phase One has always been about Tony Stark. He is the one who has grown the most since meeting him in the “funvee” blaring AC/DC’s “Back in Black” He was a self-centered egotist but become someone who was willing to sacrifice themselves to save the world. None of the others had as big character growths. I guess it helps, too, that he had two movies before this one.

One of the only complaints I have is Hawkeye getting mind controlled from the beginning. To be straight, my problem isn’t with him getting mind controlled. I feel that his mind control would have more of an impact if we were invested in him more. He had a cameo in Thor, then the next time he is scene he switches sides. It gave off the reaction of “So? why should we care about this guy following Loki?” Of course people who followed the comic books knew why that was a problem but I’m not sure how non-comic book people felt about it.

The Avengers is everything comic fans had hoped it would be and more. The culmination of four years finally paying off in a huge way. It perfectly balances humor and action, as well as characters. The Avengers was a huge gamble that payed of in spades, forever changing superhero films.

Rating
5/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 1: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Favorite Quote
Steve Rogers: I want to know why Loki let us take him. He’s not leading an army from here.
Bruce Banner: I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.
Thor: Have care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason but he is of Asgard and he is my brother.
Natasha Romanoff: He killed 80 people in two days.
Thor: He is adopted.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Joss Whedon – Director / Screenplay / Story
Zak Penn – Story
Alan Silvestri – Composer

Robert Downey Jr. – Tony Stark / Iron Man
Chris Evans – Steve Rogers / Captain America
Mark Ruffalo – Bruce Banner / The Hulk
Chris Hemsworth – Thor
Scarlett Johansson – Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Jeremy Renner – Clint Barton / Hawkeye
Tom Hiddleston – Loki
Clark Gregg – Agen Phil Coulson
Cobie Smulders – Agent Maria Hill
Stellen Skarsgard – Selvig
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury
Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts
Paul Bettany – JARVIS (voice)
Alexis Denisof – The Other

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer #2

Official Synopsis: When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.

Oh man, oh man, oh man. Just when I thought I couldn’t get any more pumped for this movie, Marvel goes and releases this trailer.  I think so far, Marvel has done a decent job of not giving too much of the story away in this and the first trailer.  Instead, the focus has been on the action and sheer magnitude of desperation and destruction faced by the superhero team.  In the beginning, we see civilians being escorted to safety (Hawkeye can be seen towards the upper right hand corner).  With Tony’s hulkbuster armor revealed last trailer, more of the fight between Iron Man and the Hulk is shown.  It looks like the Scarlet Witch may have something to do with Hulk’s rampage.  If you look at his eyes around the 1:20 mark, they have a red color instead of the normal cheery green glow.

Black Widow will seemingly get her history fleshed out more as well.  There is a scene with a young Natasha getting forced onto a medical table not quite halfway through the trailer.  I think Black Widow may be the one to bring the Hulk out of his berserker rage.  Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch aren’t as prominent this time around.  And one character that is still not seen is the Vision.  I guess Marvel is reserving his reveal until you see the movie, which I suppose is a good thing.  They shouldn’t give away their big reveals in the trailers.  Andy Sarkis has another second in this trailer but still no clue who he plays.  There is rumor that he’s playing Ulysses Klaw, a Black Panther villain.  Given his look is similar and Black Panther was announced as part of Marvel’s Phase Three, it’s not completely unfounded.

A few other points of interest I found was the woman by the pool.  I’m not sure who she is, but if the Avengers are heading to Wakanda (Black Panther’s fictional home country in Africa), she may be some Wakandian.  Also, there is a woman behind Thor, around 1:03, that I’m not sure who she is either.  I didn’t notice it right away, but there is a slow version of “There Are No Strings On Me” playing in between other pieces of music.  They are really playing up the Ultron-is-free-from-his-creaters vibe.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron hits US theaters May 1, 2015.  Joss Whedon returns as director, and sees the return of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, and Paul Bettany, along with The Avengers newcomers James Spader as Ultron, Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron movie poster

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer #1

Official Synopsis: When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.

I don’t even know where to begin with this.  It may be the Marvel fan boy in me, but I cannot contain my hype for Age of Ultron after watching this trailer.  Ever since it was revealed James Spader was cast as the voice of Ultron, I was sold. If you want to see an example of why Spader is perfect as the villain, check him out as Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington in the show The Blacklist.  As Ultron, he adds just the right amount of malice in his voice and comes across as a truly menacing figure.

Speaking of Ultron, he looks amazing!  I’m most interested to see how he creates his body from Tony Stark’s old armer.  Towards the beginning we see how him as pieces rigged together, which gives an awesome Frankenstein’s monster feel.  But the real money shot is that of him at the end.  I don’t know what it was, but I like that his face moves like a human’s (it’s static in the comics).  When I first saw it, shivers went down my spine.

Although this trailer is the length of a full trailer, it is only an extended teaser trailer because it doesn’t give anything away about the story.  However, it does give us a simple look at the characters and overview.  We get a decent glimpse of Quicksilver’s powers in action but the Scarlet Witch’s powers still aren’t displayed fully.  In the comics she has reality-altering powers, so it will be interesting how that is adapted to fit into Marvel’s more “grounded” powers.

Just like in The Avengers, there is some hero vs hero action.  It should be exciting to see what makes the Hulk and Thor attack Stark.  Either way, the result looks to be explosive.

Oh, and how about Cap’s shield at the end?

The Avengers: Age of Ultron hits US theaters May 1, 2015.  Joss Whedon returns as director, and sees the return of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, and Paul Bettany, along with The Avengers newcomers James Spader as Ultron, Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron movie poster