Back in 2012, Marvel Studios released their “payoff picture” – what Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger were building up to – The Avengers. I can’t think of anyone who was surprised that it was a MASSIVE commercial and critical success. In fact, some say it’s the greatest comic book movie ever made. Fast forward three years and Marvel has become the alpha and omega of CBM’s (Comic Book Movies) in a lot of ways, morphing them into so much more with The Winter Solider and Guardians of the Galaxy, but now it’s time for the band to get back together and face a whole new (and yet at the same time, familiar) threat. Let’s take an in-depth and spoiler-free look at Avengers: Age of Ultron.
First, a plot synopsis – Tony Stark aims to lessen the workload for The Avengers with a global protection program called Ultron. Unfortunately, said program sees the team’s extinction as the only way the planet can truly be saved. Now the team and some newcomers must work together to stop the titular robotic menace before the Earth sees the dawning of a new age – The Age of Ultron.
Last year, I reviewed the aforementioned and masterfully produced Guardians of the Galaxy. At the time, I said that the main-thread going through that picture was loss and being able to overcome it. With AOU, the main-thread is evolution; The Avengers evolving as a team, Ultron evolving and making himself better, and things like that – or at least that’s how I see it.
AOU boasts one hell of a cast, and hopefully I don’t forget anyone. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner return as our titular heroes, and the camaraderie between these folks is even BETTER than it was in the first movie. You truly get a sense that these heroes and gods have been fighting the good fight in the trenches and have enjoyed every minute of it (with the exception of ever looming death). Joss Whedon has once again crafted some great dialogue for these characters and the humor is just as sharp as it was in 2012.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen (who played husband and wife in 2014’s Godzilla) play mut–I mean, “enhanced” siblings Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (a.k.a. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, respectively), and are welcome additions to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the very beginning, you get a feeling that these two have been through hell and back, but at their cores they are still supportive of one another. Olsen is tremendous as Wanda, making the most of the character’s debut on the big screen. I haven’t read a single Marvel comic, but from the research I’ve done, she seems like a combination of the classic and ultimate versions of Scarlet Witch.
ATJ as Pietro, however, isn’t given as much attention as I would have liked. Regardless, he does get his own moments, and – without spoiling anything – there’s a scene involving a train where Quicksilver shines brighter than anyone else involved (Editor’s Note: GREAT, NOW I KNOW THERE’S A SCENE WITH A TRAIN IN IT!). As for the other newcomers, I’ll say this much about The Vision (played by Paul Bettany): Excellent. There are other key minor characters who show up, but I want you to be surprised when you see them, because they are all fine and some do have bigger things in store for them in future films. For example, Renner’s Hawkeye has a much bigger presence and it pays off rather well.
Finally, let’s talk about our villain(s).
Andy Serkis (the master of motion capture) makes his presence known as arms dealer Ulysses Klaue. Although he’s not in the film long, Serkis is flat out great, and I can’t wait to see more of him. Now then, we can’t talk AOU without talking about the ‘man’ himself – Ultron (voiced by James Spader), and he’s a delight as the main foil for The Avengers. I’m assuming Spader also had his face scanned, because a lot of the facial movements of Ultron look like the actor himself. Just like his iron-clad daddy, the robot overlord is at times charismatic and charming, but still very menacing. Ultron believes that he’s in the right; that for the planet Earth to be truly protected, humanity must be snuffed out. That’s scary.
The action in these pictures have always been top-notch, whether it was Iron Man vs. Iron Monger from the original Iron Man or the Battle of New York from The Avengers, the MCU has had action in the bag and AOU is no exception. I noticed Whedon slipped in more ‘money shots,’ many that actually weren’t spoiled in any of the trailers. There were also tag team moves used by the Avengers that made the sweaty nerds around me cry with glee. Yes, Hulk V. Hulkbuster must be seen to be believed – and as much as it pains me to say it, Hulk may only work in small doses. Sorry, folks.
While the film fires on all cylinders rather nicely, there are a few quarrels I have with it: a few of the subplots with certain members of the team aren’t fully realized and just leave me wanting more. Yes, I know it’s set-up for future Marvel films like Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok, but I still would have liked to see more. As I said before, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were great, but I would have liked to see more of their brother/sister bond fleshed out. Finally, Ultron’s creation and motives are sort of rushed; we needed to see more of him planning his schemes and realizing why the humans race isn’t worth saving. Unfortunately, his power set also goes somewhat explained – he’s got those red beams, but he also has other powers and there isn’t enough explanation as to how he got them.
Now with all that said, it was recently announced with the release of Age of Ultron that the upcoming blu-ray release will have an extended cut that’s rumored to be over THREE HOURS LONG. In other words, all of my ‘problems’ and nit-picks with the picture could be resolved with the extended cut, but the purposes of this review I am talking about the theatrical cut.
Finally, to all the naysayers out there who go off about how “this movie sucks,” “Whedon’s lost his touch,” just quiet all that mess down; you should be thanking Joss Whedon and his team for not only hitting it out of the park AGAIN, but doing the near impossible by making a good movie. I mean, I get that some people are becoming desensitized to superhero movies, just like a lot of horror fans are desensitized to blood and gore – if that’s the case, take a break and then come back later.
While I didn’t get that “fuzzy” feeling watching AOU like I did watching the first Avengers film, Age of Ultron is still worth seeing on the big screen for top-notch action and effects, great team and world building, and a great villain. Thanks for reading and as always, Stomp It.
P.S. – I forgot to mention the Bruce Banner/Black Widow subplot. I dug it, and if you really think about it, it makes sense.