May 11, 2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron (Movie Review)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues in Avengers: Age of Ultron, writer-director Joss Whedon’s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1996, Firefly 2002) follow-up to his 2012 mega-blockbuster, The Avengers. The film begins in a country in Eastern Europe called Sokovia, where the superhero team, the Avengers, consisting of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.- Iron Man 2008, Sherlock Holmes 2009), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans- Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014, Snowpiercer 2014), Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Thor: The Dark World 2013, Star Trek 2009), Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo- Shutter Island 2010, Zodiac 2007), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson- Lucy 2014, Her 2013), and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner- The Hurt Locker 2009, American Hustle 2013) launches an assault on a Hydra outpost led by Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann- Wanted 2008, King Kong 2005). Strucker had been experimenting on humans using the same scepter wielded by Loki. The Avengers confront the twins, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff/Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (Aaron Taylor-Johnson- Kick-Ass 2010, Godzilla 2014, and Elizabeth Olsen- Godzilla 2014, Kill Your Darlings 2013). Quicksilver has superhuman agility and Scarlet Witch can throw bursts of energy and control people’s minds. After the battle, Stark takes Loki’s scepter, and uses it to construct “Ultron”- his global peacekeeping program which goes awry and gives life to a sentient machine (voiced by James Spader- Stargate 1994, Lincoln 2012), who is hell-bent on human extinction. It is up to the Avengers to save the world once again by defeating this mechanical menace.
The question on everyone’s minds is sure to be “Does Age of Ultron live up to the hype? The answer to the question is yes, although, the film is not without its faults. It delivers in most areas, but falls short in others. The visual effects and action sequences are top notch. This has come to be expected in Marvel productions. The action is fast, loud, and hard-hitting. This aspect of the film is sure to leave no one disappointed. One sequence in particular which will certainly leave audiences exhilarated is the scene at the halfway point where Tony Stark puts on his “Hulkbuster” armor and does battle with the not-so-jolly green giant.
Whedon is a savvy director who understands what the fans want- spectacular action and set pieces, wit and humor between the characters, and a power-hungry villain who is straight out of the pages of Marvel Comics. He understands his target audience and graciously gives them what they want. Age of Ultron could have suffered from overcrowding if it was not handled properly. A lot is covered in the film- Ultron’s creation and rise to power, the introduction of new characters such as Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Vision, further characterization of returning characters such as Hawkeye and Black Widow, as well as the romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner. The film does a fine job of balancing these elements in its 141-minute running time. It even has time to include cameos from recurring characters in the MCU such as James Rhodes/War Machine from the Iron Man franchise, and Sam Wilson/The Falcon from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Although these cameos do feel like fan service, they do not feel forced in any way.
A film with this much hype was certain to be a hit, but was never realistically going to be a flawless feat. There are moments in the film where the story feels rushed, and others where it feels as if it is only there in service to the movie’s disaster sequences which occasionally feel no more intelligible than those of critically-panned blockbusters such as Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013) and Michael Bay’s Transformers series. Some of the best films in the comic book movie genre- such as last year’s hits, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and especially X-Men: Days of Future Past- were aided by smaller scale action sequences; thrilling sequences where the stakes are high without the action being downgraded to a mish-mash of CGI destruction, as it occasionally is in Age of Ultron. The titular villain himself, while certainly passable by superhero blockbuster standards, feels more like a throwaway Summer villain with a cliche plan for global annihilation than he does a true cinematic menace who adds something new to the genre the way Vincent D’Onofrio recently did in his chilling performance as Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin in Marvel’s hit Daredevil Netflix TV series.
Another question that is certain to be on peoples’ minds is as follows- How does Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver compare to that of Evan Peters in X-Men: Days of Future Past? Taylor-Johnson does a fine job, but he does not steal every scene that he is in the way Peters did in Bryan Singer’s superb superhero epic. Despite this, the character still fits the universe he is a part of just fine. Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a solid, though flawed, sequel which is certain to keep comic book fans and audiences alike thrilled and on the edge of their seats. CrypticRock gives Avengers: Age of Ultron 4 out of 5 stars.