Movie Review – Avengers: Age of Ultron

EXPECTATIONS: A sequel not as good as the first (in my opinion, overrated) Avengers film.

REVIEW: Never has a sequel has gathered as much hype as Avengers: Age of Ultron since maybe, The Dark Knight Rises. Look at the picture below. How can you not get psyched? This never would have happened more than 15 years ago, when I watched my first superhero film in the cinema after only successful films were from Batman and Superman. And they both ended terribly with a sequel that we want to quickly forget, like Batman and Robin and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. But in 2000, X-Men came out and it show it can expand into other properties with the same amount of talent that started off the Batman and Superman film franchises in the first place, and it got Marvel Comics films into the map after many failed attempts. And look at Marvel now. From Iron Man in 2008, they have skyrocketed into the film stratosphere that would leave DC Comics in envy. At least until Batman v Superman comes out next year. But now, we have Avengers: Age of Ultron, the long-awaited sequel that, in my opinion, improves in some points but disappoints a lot compared to its predecessor(s).

In the sequel, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) alongside reluctant Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) have created a program that was meant to guarantee peace in the world. But the program backfired and it has become a worldwide threat, who calls itself Ultron (voiced by James Spader). So all the Avengers (including Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner) have to reassemble and stop Ultron, with his allies Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) from “cleansing” the Earth.

So far, the story is old hat for the Marvel Universe: villain poses a great threat due to Stark’s creation. So Joss Whedon has to either compensate on the rote story with great storytelling and memorable characters. For the most part, he succeeds with the characters.  Robert Downey Jnr is still likable as Stark and it is refreshing to see him and make you question your affection towards him and where it could lead to in Captain America: Civil War. Or it could seem like Stark is incredibly stupid, completely ignoring the lessons he learnt from the first and third Iron Man, you be the judge. Chris Evans is still genuine and portrays honour and righteousness in an affecting way, while also paving a hint of darkness alongside Downey that could make the conflict in Civil War worth waiting for. Chris Hemsworth is more comic relief as Thor this time around, but he still has the brash swagger that made him so lovable while Mark Ruffalo as Banner still sells emotional turmoil without really doing anything. But the character who makes the biggest impression is Hawkeye, by Jeremy Renner. Getting the shirt shrift in the first Avengers film, he gets the most character development and even develops a sense of humour considering his position in the team, and Renner plays both dramatic and humourous sides with aplomb. His scene with Scarlet Witch during the climax is a highlight and he really convinces. Out of the newcomers, only Elizabeth Olsen makes a good impression as Scarlet Witch, despite her questionable accent and Paul Bettany, who finally gets an on-screen role in a Marvel film, as Vision.

But some problems exists with the character work. First of all, Quicksilver is not nearly as compelling as a character as he was portrayed in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s not really the fault of Aaron Taylor-Johnson mainly because he does not really have anything to sink into. Another problem is Black Widow. I personally think she was best portrayed in Captain America: Winter Soldier. She was tough, in control, charismatic, cared about her comrades and never felt like a character a person wrote initially for a man, but changed to a woman at the last minute. But here in Ultron, she’s saddled with a romance between Banner, but the romance, if you could even call it that, never convinces. We never see an effort by Whedon showing why she likes him in the first place and her character backstory completely changes, from being a mother to Banner to supposedly losing the will of being a woman, and that makes her, in her own words, a monster. This was, to me a major miscalculation, and completely undoes her character foreshadowed in The Avengers, when she indirectly opens up to Loki. Another miscalculation would be the villain himself, Ultron. It’s really James Spader in a metal suit, but it is still highly entertaining and Spader nails it. But it’s the progression of the character that’s the problem and it happens so fast, that you wonder if some parts of the film were missing (Apparently, there were). And his plan to destroy the world is so moronic, you figured it would’ve came from an episode of GI Joe.

As for the storytelling, some of it is incredibly rushed (as evidenced with Ultron’s character) and there are numerous plot holes. One example would be the time after the Avengers obtain Loki’s scepter at the location filled with dangerous technology, didn’t anyone in the Avengers think that it would be wise to defend the location filled with technology that people might stumble into, after they left? Or the time how Banner easily comes into Ultron’s base and to rescue Black Widow? Also, would you show a safe house with family members that could have been easily captured if Ultron hacked the technology on the plane they used to travel there? I could go on and on. It also suffers, but not to the same degree as Iron Man 2, from excessive foreshadowing of future installments, like the scene of Thor going to the pool, in search of the Thor: Ragnarok trailer answers.

Fortunately, the action thrills and excites, with every character having their memorable moment and that may be worth the price of admission. I also liked the fact that the Avengers actually avenged (the first film doesn’t count). It may seem that I am coming down a bit hard on the film, but considering the films that came before it, the sequel should have been a lot better.

Quickie Review

PROS

The actors, old and new, are all game (Jeremy Renner is a highlight)

The action excites and thrills

CONS

Numerous storytelling problems

Characters are inconsistently written and portrayed

SCORE: 6/10

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Linda Cardellini, Stellan Skarsgard, Claudia Kim, Thomas Kretschmann, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Serkis
Director: Joss Whedon
Screenwriter: Joss Whedon, based on the Marvel comic book characters

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