Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: 'Avengers: Age of Ultron', Starring Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans and More


"We're fighting robots. I have a bow and arrow. It doesn't make any sense." 

This sums up Hawkeye's frustration and befuddlement with what's happening in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But he goes with it, and so do we. Joss Whedon had a lot of pressure on his shoulders after the release of the first Avengers film. It made over a billion dollars, was well loved by general audiences, and managed to unite all the characters from phase one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But would Whedon be able to do it again with the sequel? For many, the magic will definitely still be there. For me, Avengers: Age of Ultron was an entertaining film, but one that suffered from simply trying to be too much.

The film begins with the team - Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America  (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) - infiltrating a Hydra facility to repossess Loki's scepter. The scepter is in the hands of a man named Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), who has been experimenting with advanced powers in humans, including the Maximoff twins, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen). S.H.I.E.L.D has been destroyed and the Avengers are basically working on their own. Tony Stark, having seen a disturbing vision, hopes to create an artificially intelligent peacekeeper after finding the scepter's power. When Ultron (James Spader) comes into being and becomes so advanced he overrides everything and everyone, the team must stop him and save the world (because, of course) from his plan to take out humanity in order to save the world. His presence also brings about the question: Are the Avengers just as dangerous and monstrous as Ultron?

The opening action sequence was a fantastic way to kick off the film. Filmed in the woods, the action will immediately make you excited for what's to come, with visuals akin to that of a video game. The team is, for all intents and purposes, are in unison in a fight, which makes for some great team effort scenes and one-liners, while they watch each other's backs. It's something to truly appreciate in these films, the banter and ability to carry on a conversation and show the individual bonds between them while in the midst of doing what they do best. 

There are several strong moments in the film, most especially with the team, their interactions (their banter is fun!) and the action scenes, but their relationship as a team has perhaps taken a hit under the larger MCU plan and hasn't progressed any further into them finally being a true, you know, team. Rather, they are very diverse individuals with very, very different personalities and this especially shows when they clash about rudimentary things. Tony Stark develops an artificially intelligent being that takes its own form, wishes to destroy all of humanity to save the world (what he calls "peace") and there are no major repercussions for Stark, but they might try The Hulk for rampaging a city. It's these little things that leave me frustrated with this film. 

There was also a lot of excitement for Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to finally make their appearance, but they're not exceptionally developed enough to make their part in the second half of the film as significant. The Scarlet Witch spends a lot of the time warping people's minds and outside of that, their presence isn't entirely useful in the first half of the film, where they spend the majority of the time standing around. Quicksilver's character was more developed in the few scenes he had in X-Men: Days of Future Past than he was in Age of Ultron. Of course, there are so many characters and cameos happening here that even the more focal characters are left behind in some way or another. 

The exploration of whether or not the Avengers are, like Ultron, monsters, what would make them so and are they really just as bad? were really good and should have been explored further, but I suppose they cracked that egg a bit only to feed into what will come later in the next phase of films, which will include the popular "Civil War" story line. On the plus side, Hawkeye gets redeemed simply because he gets to interact with the team and has a lot more to do. Hulk and Black Widow get a little more backstory, more emotionally-heavy scenes than the rest of the cast, more heart-to-hearts, and this is fantastic since neither of them have their own solo films (we're still waiting, Marvel). 

Perhaps I'm taking this too seriously, after all, this is a superhero movie. And it's one I definitely enjoyed to an extent, but there still frustrations to be had with the film's plot. Age of Ultron weaves together all that's happened in the solo films, the infinity stone story line, and the like fairly well, Whedon even cleverly bringing back certain characters (Don Cheadle as James Rhodes and Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, just to name a few). Is it still entertaining and fun? Yes. Does it advance the overall story line? Yes, but not as actively as it should have. There left no major room for further development of them as a team. Enjoyable, but not without flaws. 


Release Date: May 1, 2015 | Director and Screenwriter: Joss Whedon | Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackosn, James Spader, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Cobie Smulders, Paul Bettany, Claudia Kim, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Hayley Atwell, Thomas Kretschmann, Julie Delpy, Linda Cardellini, Kerry Condon | Genre: Action | MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments

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