In our ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ review we find the Marvel Universe in the perfect middle film that sets up the final phase of the current agenda…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
When ‘The Avengers’ came out in 2012 the most talked about part of the movie before viewers actually saw the film was the fact that Marvel managed to actually pull off what seemed like the impossible — getting a huge list of stars together for one ‘team up’ movie, the likes of which had never been seen before in any superhero story on screen. Team movies weren’t necessarily a rarity (Fantastic Four did exist at the time) but never before had individual movies all predicated on the idea that they would eventually come together for one grand film where the individual parts would create something whole.
Now ‘The Avengers’ stands as the tent pole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and largely the basis for much of the connected films and TV shows that have come since then. So what ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ had to do was jump right in the deep end of the Marvel mythology and not let up until a complete story was told while also managing to set up the third phase of this ever expanding universe.
Consider it mission accomplished.
‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ wastes no time getting right into the action just like ‘Captain America: The Winter Solider’, which in my opinion has been the best Marvel movie since the original ‘Avengers’ opened. The assembled team — Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Thor — are storming one of the last major bases held by HYDRA and being run by Baron Von Strucker. In this base, Strucker has managed to get his hands on Loki’s scepter and he’s using the infinity stone held within the weapon to do research into the field of artificial intelligence. He’s also secretly doing scientific experiments on ‘enhanced’ people like the twins, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (aka Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) who we first met at the end of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’.
The Avengers have been sent in to retrieve the weapon, stop Strucker and find out exactly what he was doing with the scepter and stone.
The team is successful in dispatching HYDRA and even capturing Strucker, but what they don’t plan for is a run in with the Maximoff twins, which ends in some high speed ass kicking and a mental trick done by Wanda, which shows the team members their worst fears set in a dream sequence. When he eventually comes to, Tony Stark is able to retrieve Loki’s scepter but not before realizing exactly what Strucker was doing with the stone. He knows in a hurry that this stone is not just a mind control device — it could help him complete the work on his Ultron project — a peace keeping robot army that he hopes can one day replace The Avengers so the Earth will be protected by any other alien invaders from now until forever.
The problem is in Stark’s hubris about making an artificial intelligent robot, his orders to maintain peace go a little too far when Ultron gains consciousness and the deadly metal monster takes the definition literally and the only way to achieve peace on Earth is to eliminate all possible threats — including humanity.
Once Ultron is fully assembled, all hell breaks loose as The Avengers have to come together to take down the murder-bot while also battling with each other as well. Stark’s ideology about stopping a war before it ever begins doesn’t sit too well with Captain America and the team is split when it comes to how the world should be governed and what steps are necessary or even right when overseeing the planet. It’s weighty stuff as Cap and Iron Man begin a grudge that will likely carry over into future Marvel films.
The entire plot is threaded with hints of the future and if you know anything about the upcoming slate of Marvel movies, you’ll pick apart all the different directions that this universe is going to go in the next two or three years. At the same time while these smaller stories are interwoven into ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’, the film itself doesn’t skip a beat telling a self-contained and intricate story of its own.
The background look into characters like Hawkeye and Black Widow are a nice touch and the dream sequences set in motion by Scarlet Witch gives a harrowing look at what’s ahead for characters such as Thor and Iron Man. It’s all pulled together quite brilliantly and packaged in a perfect setting for this movie as well as the jumping off point for the next three or four Marvel endeavors.
It almost seems pointless to delve into acting considering all of the cast from the first ‘Avengers’ movie are back and they are still just as good this time as the last time. That said the new additions to the cast all add something without taking away from the core characters.
Elizabeth Olsen is a standout performer as Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch showing both strength and vulnerability throughout the film. Aaron Taylor-Johnson also does a great job as her brother and his constant care of his twin sister goes to the heart of the character and his performance.
Paul Bettany also does a fine job transforming from Tony Stark’s computer friend JARVIS to the man-droid known as The Vision. Going into the film, even I was curious how they would handle the creation of The Vision, but without giving away any spoilers, the explanation given was founded in enough science that it didn’t seem any more ludicrous than a gigantic green monster erupting out of a mild-mannered doctor who got caught up in a bad dose of gamma rays.
And of course he’s only a voice, but James Spader was not only the correct choice to bring Ultron to life — when you finish watching the movie, you’ll realize he was the only choice. His baritone and sinister sounding voice are the exact compliment that Ultron needed and even though he’s all CGI, the inflection and emotion heard through Spader’s voice throughout the movie gives Ultron the harmonious balance of machine and man.
DIRECTING AND WRITING
This will be Joss Whedon’s final Marvel film (at least for now) and he does a fantastic job from the conversational scenes that take place between his characters to the big, multi-camera action shots that take up about half the movie. Maybe the most admirable thing about Whedon’s swan song to Marvel is there’s no selfishness in his story telling or direction. He lays out the plot for the movie he wants to make, but also adds in a ton of other beats for the rest of the Marvel Universe that will be created in a post-Ultron world.
The dialogue is just as good as the original film with heavy doses of drama and comedy interlaced throughout. The one-liners permeate the entire movie, but not in a way that’s overdone or cheesy.
And the best part about Whedon’s writing and directing — he gets these characters better than almost anyone else.
He has fun with Captain America’s over the top goodness and wholesome qualities. He plays up Iron Man’s massive and ever swelling ego. He understands the man and monster concept living inside of Bruce Banner. He even finds time to give the women in the movie a stronger voice that we’ve seen in many of the other Marvel counterparts (still waiting on a Black Widow movie, by the way).
Whedon will certainly be missed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he made his last run a good one and hopefully after a year or two away he might consider coming back, even if he just writes a film this time.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?
Rarely does a movie not have ANY flaws so there had to be something wrong with ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ right?
Well a couple of minor details that could have been upgraded ever so slightly, but again they don’t take away from the overall quality of the film.
First, Ultron’s creation comes together rather quickly and without a ton of back story. Much of the heart of the genocidal robot comes out throughout the film, but the motivation to make him in the first place isn’t explained in great detail before all hell breaks loose. Thankfully, paying careful attention throughout the movie will make you understand Ultron better and why he’s driven to do the things he does. It’s also interesting the parallels he shares with his creator, which is an interesting harbinger for the future.
The only other complaint would be the constant world building towards what comes next. It’s not overbearing by any means, but there were a few times where you could almost wait for another movie title to spring up at any moment because it was clear they were setting up the next film for characters like Thor and Captain America. Then again, the subtle hints throughout the movie did manage to put real excitement into the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — it’s just sad we have to wait the better part of a year before the next seriously connected film opens (Captain America: Civil War).
‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ is a highly watchable and enjoyable action flick that hardcore fans can watch alongside casual viewers. If you’re a Marvel film and TV junkie, this movie will be like a extra shot of adrenaline that will hopefully carry you over until the next big event. If you’re just a fan of the first ‘Avengers’ and you’re going back for the second one, it won’t take long to figure out where this movie stops and starts and you really don’t need much of anything else to enjoy it.
‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ is definitely going to be the summer movie to see — and then watch it again, and again, and again.
No surprise — ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ gets 5 out of 5 on the Skolnick scale.