The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Written and Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Don Cheadle, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, James Spader

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For many people, Marvel’s The Avengers was (and still is) the pinnacle of comic book adaptations on the big screen, a culmination of several years of interconnected superhero stories brought together in one gigantic all-star team-up. Although many of the characters were once considered to be too goofy or obscure to appeal to mainstream audiences, we now know that nothing could be further from the truth. Moviegoers everywhere flocked to theatres making it one of the most successful movies of all time and triggering a seismic shift in Hollywood thinking.

Now three years later, the inevitable sequel has arrived, bringing with it a brand new set of problems to be overcome. This time we know the audience is there, frothing at the mouth for the next massive blowout, but how do you follow up a movie like The Avengers? You can add more characters and even bigger battles, but at the end of the day, there eventually comes a point where bigger is no longer better. The Avengers: Age of Ultron still manages to entertain, but you can feel it creaking and shuddering under its own weight every step of the way.

It should probably go without saying that the plot of this movie is both ridiculously simple and extremely convoluted. The minute you start thinking about it in any sort of detail, your brain cells will self-destruct. After recovering Loki’s sceptre from Baron Von Strucker (yes, that sceptre is still causing trouble), Tony Stark and Bruce Banner discover that it contains A.I. code inside of it (of course it does). They attempt to harness it to create the ultimate global defense computer, but instead unwittingly give birth to a hostile consciousness known as Ultron, who sees himself as the next evolution of humanity. Together they must find a way to stop him before he can create a synthetic body for himself and exterminate everyone on the planet.

As you would expect, there are some additional complications along the way including the Maximoff twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who have chosen to side with Ultron in order to exact revenge on Tony Stark. Played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla) and Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla) they are new faces that never really prove to be all that compelling despite (or perhaps because of) their extremely powerful abilities. Some of Quicksilver’s thunder was also stolen by Bryan Singer who also featured the character in X-Men: Days of Future Past last year with at least one fantastic action sequence that is never really topped here.

James Spader voices Ultron and seems to be having a blast delivering diabolical dialogue, but ultimately the villain is still a little too generic. We’ve seen plenty of robots and/or A.I. characters doing the whole “humanity is a virus” thing and although they try to play up the angle that he could be right, it’s never given any real consideration. It doesn’t help that in order to make him a physical threat for the whole team they need to give him an army of anonymous CG clones, which gets pretty dull from a visual standpoint. That being said, his Pinocchio-inspired introduction is quite effective and creepy, if only they could have sustained that throughout the film.

IF

One thing this movie does better than the first Avengers film is that it opens with a bang, putting us right in the middle of a full team assault on Baron Von Strucker’s stronghold. The snow is a nice touch and the team chemistry is immediately apparent, but it doesn’t take long to realize that there aren’t really any new tricks this time around. We’ve already seen most of of what these heroes are capable of. There is a decent action sequence in the middle of the film involving Captain America and Black Widow chasing down Ultron on a moving truck, and I am guessing the Iron Man vs. Hulk fight will be a highlight for some, but even that gets pretty repetitive and silly, taking city-wide destruction to its limit. Overall, most of the action just sort of blurs together and fails to leave much of an impression.

In order to make up for that, perhaps, they do try to make us care about the team members a little more this time around by deepening some of their interpersonal relationships. In particular, they focus on the characters who don’t have solo movies to expand on their back story such as Hawkeye, who gets a lot more screen time and is humanized more than any of the other characters. Ironically, they never do fully justify why the team needs him, but at least we are given a reason to root for him. There is also a romantic subplot involving Bruce Banner and Black Widow which may seem ridiculous on paper but actually works thanks to the acting abilities of Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson.

If all of this sounds like I’m down on the movie, the truth is I still enjoyed myself, mostly due to Joss Whedon’s script which could be one of the strongest he has written in terms of dialogue. The movie is peppered with all kinds of clever exchanges and one-liners but the dialogue never draws too much attention to itself, instead relying on the natural personalities of the actors to see it through. For every quip, there is an equal and perfectly weighed counterquip. In particular, he gets a lot of mileage out of a couple of running jokes throughout the film related to Captain America’s aversion to profanity and some friendly competition over wielding Thor’s hammer.

Ultimately, the comedy is the icing on the cake that I think will leave people with a smile on their face and a desire to revisit The Avengers: Age of Ultron in the near future. That being said, this movie does serve as a reminder that the Marvel machine is not infallible and that these team-up movies cannot really exist without a ton of nonsensical exposition and mindless action. The movie feels a bit empty compared to its predecessor and it looks like things are only going to get more rote with the obligatory two-parter The Avengers: Infinity War on the horizon. Summer moviegoers often say they want pure escapism with no strings attached, but if a movie doesn’t hold you down and make you fret or make you frown, well… where’s the fun in that? — Sean

SCORE: 3 stars





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  • Indianamcclain

    Whedon’s writing is the first thing Jay, and Frank will attack on the podcast.

  • ECONOMYpolitica

    This movie just seems like it’s pandering. Were there any Pong-playing Hydra agents?

  • Tomas Akhonen

    Wasn’t a big fan of this movie. I was already tired of it after the opening scene. Felt almost like there was nothing more to show after that scene.

  • pcch7

    Yeah that’s about right. I did like the first version of Ultron, that broken down robot, but after that he wasn’t very interesting. He’s supposed to be made of some unbreakable metal too isn’t he? Anyway, there were a few too many characters this time round for me, Quicksilver and Scarlet Bitch added nothing for me and did not warrant taking time away from the ones I do enjoy like Thor and Cap. I’m hoping Thanos will be a more interesting villlain but what I’d really like to see is Magneto. Fully aware of the rights issues with that but it would be fun to see how they’d tackle him

  • jayb0b

    Yeah, this was fun enough but a bit of a mess. The extended edition might be worth a poke tho. The cinema release felt rushed and weirdly paced.

  • Lori Cerny

    What is your reason for changing Scarlet Witch to Bitch?

  • Quiet Wyatt

    The first movie was a 3-star movie for me. Looks like it’s going downhill from there.

  • pcch7

    It’s a play on the name. Didn’t think anyone would be offended by that on filmjunk in relation to a comic book character, but there you go. I guess I was mistaken. Now I thought of a nickname for the dude as well so it’s all equal and fair.

  • Dicksilver?

  • pcch7

    It’s all I got man. Granted, it’s not as good as Whor instead of Thor..

  • 1138sw

    Though I enjoyed most of the Marvel movies, loving the the first Iron Man, Cap series and 1st Avengers movies the most, I don’t feel in any rush to see this movie.

    And based on the comments here I guess I feel justified in feeling that way. I will see it in a couple of weeks with my friends but like I said, I don’t feel any rush or need to see it opening weekend.

    Also good review Sean. You definitely echo some of my sentiments/feelings about this Avengers installment. Going to see it but without the excitement or anticipatory enthusiasm of the first.

  • LongSlog

    Nice review Sean, you really nailed it. I liked the movie, and I enjoyed myself, but the best action bits were the very beginning, and I found I really liked most of the scenes of the characters just hanging out.

    The endless waves of Ultron bad-guys just made my eyes glaze over. I think having these sorts of characters face off against a smaller group of bad guys would be a lot more satisfying. Every single bad-guy is either in the group of Unbeatable demi-God, or paper-mache minion.

    I have no idea where Marvel is going to go from here though. I guess it could be fun to just go straight out galactic style heroes and have the big guns of the Avengers team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to go after Thanos. But then, please, just end it after that. There’s a reason comic book universes go through a reboot every couple years, things just get too dumb and too bloated.

  • Jameson

    Good review, Sean. I think I liked it a little more than you but I agree that it’s hitting a lot of the same beats as its predecessor. And I was pretty underwhelmed by Ultron as a villain,

  • Xidor

    What are the trailers before the film?

  • Kenneth Serenyi

    Star Wars,Fantastic Four, and Ant-Man in front of my screening.

  • Kenneth Serenyi

    I really enjoyed this movie, even though I agree with many of Sean’s points. It does help if you remember the previous Marvel movies and even watch the drastically improved “Agents of Shield”. There is a lot happening in this movie that would probably improve with a longer cut. It’s a little too CG-heavy and Ultron’s end master-plan could have been better thought out. A 3 1/2 for me now which may go up with a re-watch.

  • Anthony

    I seem to be one fo the few people who liked this movie better than the first one. One of the main reasons being, as Sean says, it gets going right away. And even the plot, while some stuff still being glossed over (like how is Tony Stark running the Iron Man suit after the surgery he had at the end of Iron Man 3) and just given a throwaway line before transitioning to the next scene, flowed better throughout the movie. The first one takes a while to get going, and that first 30-40 minutes just feels kind of boring with all the set up.

    I don’t know, still a great movie for me. I can see myself seeing this a couple more times in its theatrical run.