Friday, May 1, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) - Review

Avengers Age of Ultron movie review recap poster image wallpaper picture robert downey jr marvel cinematic universe

This post contains spoilers. Readers who wish to avoid plot points/details are recommended to skip the review.

Joss Whedon is back to direct this sequel to the global blockbuster The Avengers (2012).

The movie opens with our team of heroes taking down a Hydra stronghold somewhere in Europe. We meet two new super-powered individuals, the twins: Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

Scarlet Witch can play tricks with people's minds and Quicksilver can run really fast. They seem to have been granted their powers through experimentation by Hydra agents led by Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann).

The siblings have a grudge against Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Wanda puts a spell on Tony who gets to work right away and with the help of fellow scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), creates Ultron (voiced by James Spader).


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Tony intends Ultron to be the saviour of Earth. Ultron has plans of his own and overcomes Jarvis (Paul Bettany) and takes the physical form of a muscular robot. With the help of the Maximoff twins, Ultron unleashes havoc on the Avengers.

Fights ensue, alliances are forged and the Avengers save the day.

The most noticeable aspect of the movie is the sheer number of characters present it features. In addition to the titular heroes and the twins, we have a new android The Vision (again played by Paul Bettany). Then there are the supporting players: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), James Rhodes / War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Sam Wilson / The Falcon (Anthony Mackie)

To top it off, we have cameos by Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Erik Selvig (Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd) and of course Stan Lee.

On the side of the bad guys, in addition to the main baddie Ultron, we have Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). Granted that Ulysses is on-screen for a few minutes and will probably be seen again in the upcoming Black Panther movie. Which brings us to the next point....


Ulysses Klaw Klaue Andy Serkis Avengers Age of Ultron

This movie serves the same purposes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as Iron Man 2 - as a setup for the next slate of movies. And it suffers from the same drawbacks as the second Iron Man movie did. The plot takes a backseat to a number of characters and events that do not add any value to this movie, but will make sense in Phase 3 of MCU movies.

A good example being Andy Serkis' character, Ulysses Klaw (pronounced Ulysses Klaue in the movie). As comic book fans know, Klaw is an antagonist of Black Panther, the superhero who is debuting in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and also has a solo movie due in 2018. Similar to the comics, Klaue loses his hand but due to the yet-to-debut Black Panther, but at the hands of Ultron.

On the acting front, Chris Hemsworth has a lot of fun as Thor. He gets to add some humor to the proceedings. The sequence involving his hallucinations however leave a lot to be desired. Perhaps, the director's cut will have the necessary scenes for it to make sense.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla) continues to turn in yet another bland performance. His Quicksilver is nowhere as charismatic as the one superbly portrayed by Evan Peters in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. can play these roles in their sleep and they fit the parts as expected.


The Vision Avengers Age of Ultron Paul Bettany JARVIS

After voicing Tony Stark's AI J.A.R.V.I.S. for the past several years, Paul Bettany finally gets some screentime as the android, Vision. His physical appearance though looks quite absurd with the yellow cape. I can understand the underlying intention to stay true to the comics, but a little bit of rework would have done wonders.

The interesting character developments are reserved for Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and  Bruce Banner/The Hulk. The budding romance between Black Widow and The Hulk looks forced and ends as abruptly as it begins. Hawkeye gets a family, but these scenes come off as corny.

Joss Whedon repeats many of the plot elements from the first movie:
1. McGuffin – Tesseract and now Loki’s scepter
2. Mind control - Loki and now Scarlet Witch
3. Resulting infighting among team members - Last time, it was Iron Man vs Thor. This time, Iron Man faces off against The Hulk
4. Enemy of alien nature – Loki and Chitauri army then; Ultron and his army of robots now
5. Similar climax - Avengers fighting a vast army of faceless enemies in a city environment.
6. Mid-credits scene - Like the first movie, this time too Thanos appears and reminds us that he is the main villain in the MCU.

I guess Marvel's motto is: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

This is Whedon's swan song in the MCU. The Russo brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) will be directing the next Captain America movie and the two Avengers sequels (Avengers: Infinity War - Part I, Avengers: Infinity War - Part II).


Iron Man Hulkbuster armor Hulk fight in Avengers Age of Ultron

Joss scores points for the Iron Man-Hulk face off. Personally speaking, this is undoubtedly the highlight of the movie. This is an instant classic and will be remembered for quite some time.

If only he had put more efforts into the plot. But then, the Disney-Marvel movie factory probably proved too much even for a director of the caliber of Joss Whedon.

Marvel/Avengers fans will lap this one up. Casual movie goers will probably enjoy this as well, depending on their ability to leave their brains at the door.


Ultron Scarlet Witch Quicksilver Avengers Age of Ultron

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4 comments:

  1. I'm glad we agree. I was underwhelmed by Age of Ultron and it was stuffed full of elements for later films, at the detriment of this one. Ultron was just a big CGI robot, Vision looked ridiculous and the film lacked tension. That said, the party scene was legend and the running gag about Thor's hammer was very funny. However, you can see why Joss has walked away.

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    1. Thanks GK.

      Whedon is reported to have complained as to how this movie tired him out. The movie provides ample reasons for his decision.

      I was also surprised by Tony Stark's decision to don the Iron Man armor again. I thought he had retired at the end of Iron Man 3. But then, he retired at the end of this movie too. I guess RDJ's contract renewals play a more important part than maintaining consistency in Tony's character arc....

      B2B.

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  2. Thanks for the review!

    I think CGI can effect the quality of a film when it is not done well. My example would be the first set of Star Wars movies vs. the more recent Star Wars. The original movies were SO good! In those movies they used special effects produced physically, without computer-generated imagery. I think the second set of movies that used CGI was awful compared to the first movies.

    First Set of Star Wars Movies:
    99% practical effects, models, make-up some digital effects
    A Classic Timeless series

    Second Set of movies
    99% CGI
    Bad (IMHO)

    However, I hear a rumor that the newest Star Wars movies are a combination of CGI and practical effects. Maybe the Star Wars film series can have a come back!!

    I think there is a time and a place for CGI and a also old school special effects. I hope we continue to see them both in the Movies.

    And yes, I think the Avengers has the same challenge of Game of Thrones. There are so many characters and so it is hard to put the necessary focus on each one but still keep the story-line cohesive. I'm glad to learn from your review that they pull it off!

    Hey, BTW, I am new to your blog but when I was surfin' the net and found your blog with the comment about Pit Bulls I had to become a member! My brother has a Pit and he is the best dog! He is the sweetest thing to my little 3 year old niece. It is so true that Pit Bulls get a bad rap. Thank you for telling the truth about a misunderstood breed.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Lauren for the comment and following my blog :)

      I too like movies that combine both CGI and practical effects. My favorite example would be Terminator 2: Judgment Day that show some jaw-dropping special effects and practical make-up work from the late Stan Winston. Cameron's latest work, Avatar has arguably even better CGI than his earlier movies.

      For practical make-up work, I also like Guillermo del Toro's movies (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, The Devil's Backbone).

      I agree about Pit Bulls. They are among the best breeds of dogs and are undeservedly and shamelessly maligned by the media. Even worse, so-called animal "welfare" organizations like PETA also support discrimination against Pit Bulls.

      B2B.

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