Avengers: Age of Ultron review #2

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I suppose one of the greatest faults of Avengers: Age of Ultron is that it’s not its predecessor. What made the first Avengers film so good wasn’t just the content of the picture, but the idea of its existence. Could it even work? The answer is ‘yes’. In fact, it exceeded expectations. The Avengers were brought to life on screen and this opened up seemingly infinite possibilities for the genre.

But, now that that’s all said and done, we come to the sequel. A sequel is the second part of a story. Here’s the problem with that: we’re not seeing the heroes meet for the first time. We’re not seeing them form a legendary team for the first time and we’re not seeing them fight alongside each other for the first time. All these ‘firsts’ are gone and with them some of the allure of the franchise. Yet, as you watch this new installment unfold and become aware of the formulaic elements of which you’re no doubt growing tired, you’ll still be sucked into this world and find dozens of reasons to like the film despite its lack of originality.

If you’ll recall, shortly after the announcement of this movie, director Joss Whedon stated that he wanted it to dig deeper rather than go bigger. Well, he followed through with the ‘deeper’ for the most part. Regarding ‘bigger’, I’m not sure he understands the word. This movie is massive. When you look at the sheer magnitude of it all, the character designs, the action sequences, the choreography and special effects, it might overwhelm you. Thinking about where comic book movies once were and where they are now, you might get a twinkle in your eye, especially in a scene during the last sequence when the entire team is on the ropes together. It’s a comic book fan’s dream.

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But before we get there, we have to endure several smaller (I use that word lightly) action sequences. This time around the cuts are quicker and the crashes more frequent. This must be one of the loudest movies ever made. By the time the Iron Man/Hulk match occurs mid-film, you’ll be exhausted from it all and question the relevance of the fight. Yet, even within that mayhem there’s some great choreography and at least the climax of the film reminds you of the magic that was the Battle of New York.

So, guess how the movie starts? It’s an action sequence! Ok, it’s a pretty good one. Following the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Avengers raid a Hydra outpost led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) in the fictional Eastern European country of Sokovia (Marvel loves creating fake Eastern European countries). Hydra has been experimenting on humans using Loki’s old scepter. The team neutralizes Strucker, recovers the scepter and encounters two of the experiments, newcomers Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who’s been given superhuman speed, and his twin sister, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), who can manipulate reality itself. Many know them as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Their accents are spotty, but they’re fun to watch in action.

The mission is successful, but leave it to Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner-in-crime, Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), to not leave well enough alone. They use an artificial intelligence found in the scepter’s gem to bring Stark’s plans for his Ultron global defense program to fruition. What they can’t foresee is Ultron (an excellent and sinister James Spader) becoming sentient, creating a metallic body for himself, building an army of robotic drones, and feeling the need to eradicate humanity to save the Earth with the help of said robotic drones and the Maximoff twins who blame Stark and his weapons for their parents’ deaths.

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Cue the Avengers! The usual suspects are back to help Iron Man and The Hulk: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremey Renner). They’re joined by the Vision (Paul Bettany), an android whose plot details I’ll keep to myself, but whose character design is marvelous. Bettany provides an air of elegance and superiority to the team of mostly flawed humans. He’s a god among men…sorry, Thor. And there are a few delightful cameos that add to the fun.

Now, let’s be clear, this is the epitome of an action film, but there are some intimate sequences here and there and opportunities for character building. Some tender moments emerge from a budding relationship between Banner and Romanoff (lucky monster). The team also enjoys some respite at the farm house of one of the members and we get a glimpse into their fears and weaknesses when the Scarlett Witch messes with their minds, but it’s a party sequence of all things that steals this show.

This is a sequence where we see the Avengers as normal people. They celebrate, they mingle, they laugh, they drink. There’s humanity in this scene and we remember what they’re fighting to save. A hilarious scene shows the group trying to pick up Thor’s hammer. The God of Thunder laughs until one member seems like he’s going to succeed. He loses his cool for a brief moment, but recovers quickly. It’s this tiny reaction that might be the greatest moment in the film. There should be more scenes like this where the characters go about their daily lives. Wouldn’t it be great to see Captain America try to order a cheeseburger while fans swarm him?

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And Marvel needs to learn to slow down during some scenes and let the drama play out naturally. Stark’s guilt in this movie should be fantastic, and in some scenes we can feel him approach his breaking point, but humor always wins out, with a one-liner often crushing the dramatic momentum. This idea applies to the first appearance of Ultron as well; it’s a very dark scene that sucks the life right out of the Avengers’ party which could have worked as a bad omen of things to come, leaving the group dazed with time to think about the eerie unknown. Instead, a huge fight scene destroys all tension that’s formed.

Still, you’ll be satisfied with the product as a whole. For every misstep, Whedon incorporates something spectacular. But Marvel’s movie formula seems to be hanging by a thread. It’s not an emergency yet, but they’re going to have to find a way to make ‘bigger’ better…or ‘better’ bigger…next up: THE INFINITY WAR!

Rating: 3.5/5 Atoms

NR 3_5 Atoms - B-

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Glen Ilnicki
Glen Ilnicki 271 posts

Glen has been reading comic books and playing video games his whole life. His unhealthy passion, however, is for film. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.