One of this year’s most anticipated films is, without a doubt, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Well, it’s one of mine anyway. The first film was an excellent example on how to make a superhero team-up movie. It gave comic book fans, movie buffs and pretty much everyone who watched it a fulfilling mix of drama, action and comedy. So, obviously, the second film has a lot to live up to. But does the film live up to the hype that it created? Does Joss Whedon manage to recapture the magic of the first Avengers film?
Well, the long and the short of it is, it doesn’t reach the same heights of the first Avengers film. It almost does but misses the mark by a few inches.
Before you read the full review, I will just re-iterate that this review is going to be SPOILER-FREE. The spoiler filled one will probably come out next week.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man/Tony Stark, still reeling from the events of The Battle of New York, has been working on a way to protect the planet from future alien threats. After the Avengers raid a Hydra base, he finds a piece of technology that will enable him to activate his plan. He names this program Ultron. Unfortunately, the Ultron program gets out of control. Now, The Avengers have to rally together in order to beat this new threat.
Right off the bat, Avengers: Age of Ultron assaults your senses with huge action setpieces. Not that I’m complaining, though. All of them are really well made and you won’t be able to turn your eyes away during these battles. The fight choreography is just plain fun to watch. A lot of the times, you’ll see the Avengers use some team-up attack against the bad guys and these moves look pretty sick, almost like they’ve rehearsed these techniques! They’re just fun to watch how creative they got and it makes them look like a legitimate team. However, I never really thought any of them matched the scale of the climactic battle of the first film. The ones we get here still feel epic in their own way.
Amidst all of these explosive action sequences, Joss Whedon still manages to weave a fairly cohesive story, complete with character arcs so you get to know more about the heroes. The movie is peppered with short expositions showing character origins as well as their greatest fears. These scenes are well done and never feel forced. Hawkeye gets the bulk of character development this time around, which is only fair since he was reduced to being a mind-controlled drone throughout most of the first film.
The overall flow of the movie’s story is good. Most action flicks nowadays seem to only concentrate on making great action sequences without thinking on how to send these heroes to these exotic locations where the big battles take place (see: Transformers: Age of Extinction and Fast and Furious 7). Aside for a couple of scenes, Avengers: Age of Ultron took no shortcuts and actually laid out a fleshed out story that leads to these story sequences in a very logical manner. Nice work, Joss Whedon!
Joss Whedon also does an excellent job juggling the characters around in terms of screen time. Everyone gets ample time to show off their stuff. While it’s still definitely Iron Man/Tony Stark’s show, the rest if main heroes as well as the villains are still featured very prominently throughout the course of this 2 hour and 20 minute film. A lot of the secondary characters, however, such as War Machine/”Rhodey” Rhodes and Maria Hill are shuffled to the side. You don’t miss them a whole lot, though. I just thought I should mention it.
The performances of the “old” cast is, of course, pretty damn good. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye/Clint Barton) must already know the characters like the back of their hand as they still manage to pull off the same excellent performances they’ve been giving in the previous films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although, I must confess, I had some issues with the delivery of a couple of Scarlett Johansson’s lines as they kind of felt flat and forced. She still pulls off a good job when it’s all said and done.
Moving on to the new cast, I’d have to say James Spader’s vocal work for Ultron was a delight to listen to! At times humorous and jovial, at times creepy and frightening, James Spader’s version of Ultron was pretty much perfect! Paul Bettany’s JARVIS and Vision was also pretty spot-on. Although it’s obvious he’s playing an artificial intelligence, Paul Bettany still manages to pull of a very zen-like performance.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Quicksilver in Age of Ultron. And he has a big weight on his shoulder as he’s the second person to play the character. Most people still remember Quicksilver stealing the show in X-Men: Days of Future Past. I actually liked his version of Quicksilver as it feels more true to the comics… but it’s just not as fun to watch. Elizabeth Olsen’s depiction of Scarlet Witch is decent as well as she does get to show a deeper range of emotion compared to Quicksilver. But her delivery of her lines were off. There are times where her accent would disappear and reappear in mid-sentence!
I also have a couple of problems with the blossoming romance between a couple of the characters. For one, it just seems to come out of nowhere. Sure, it could’ve happened while we were away watching a certain cocky space pirate, a musclebound alien who loves killing, a deadly female assassin with green skin, a talking raccoon and a sentient tree save the Kree empire from Rowan The Accuser. But it just came out of nowhere. Also, I felt there wasn’t that much chemistry between the two. Then again, it is integral to the plot in a way, so I can let it slide.
I also have an issue with Ultron’s grand scheme. It’s a totally evil plan and true to the comics, no doubt. But it is rather generic. I also didn’t like how “over-designed” Ultron is in the movie. His overall look seems to be inspired by the recent live-action Transformers films but less obnoxious. I wished he looked like the very first teaser as I preferred that look more.
And those were actually my biggest complaint about the film. Well, I do have one more problem: it’s not as good as the first Avengers movie. It is kind of unfair to compare Age of Ultron to its predecessor but I just can’t help it. The first film’s climax, The Battle of New York, was an unrelenting fight that didn’t give the viewer a break to take a breath… which is why it was excellent. Age of Ultron’s climax actually has bigger stakes but just didn’t have the same epic feel. It does come incredibly close, though.
Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron is an excellent film and a definite must watch for any fan of good entertainment. Oh, I do have to say that there is a “mid-credits” scene in Age of Ultron… that only comic book fans will get. Really wanted another “shawarma” scene!
Have you seen Avengers: Age of Ultron? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!