A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Having seen what feels like two thirds of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” footage online through endless trailers, TV spots, clips and featurettes, I was inclined to conduct an experiment and write a review of the film without having seen it. This would serve to prove a point about the gratuitous amounts of content and potential narrative spoilers being released through movie trailers nowadays.
Anyway, I’ve decided not to do so and continue on as normal. I realise it could potentially reveal narrative spoilers in it’s own wright and wouldn’t be a review as such. On with the review!
Having just returned home from a spontaneous screening, I can happily state that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a pretty darn good film that is superior to the original in several aspects. Joss Whedon has extracted all the strong qualities of the 2012 original and set the foundation for what “Age of Ultron” would progress to work upon.
A character story-driven narrative, “Age of Ultron” packs a lot in to its sizeable 2 and a half-hour runtime and spreads the spotlight relatively evenly. It’s difficult to set new benchmarks within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially with a forthcoming barrage of installments still to come, but for now, “Age of Ultron” can proudly stand tall and lay claim to being one of the better films to emerge from the MCU’s concluding “Phase 2”.
Not that we expected anything less though. With Joss Whedon at the helm and $250million to play with, we were rightly expecting something rather extraordinary!
As most sequels tend to do, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” picks up following the events of its predecessor “The Avengers” and other solo flicks including “Iron Man 3” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. Away from the remaining crew, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) are in constant debate regarding an artificial intelligence program that is capable of worldwide security, or as Stark puts it, “a suit of armor around the world”.
After the “Ultron” system (superbly voiced by James Spader) is unknowingly released and revealed to have other agendas, Stark and his team of super buddies must reassemble to fend off the unrelenting foe before he and his ominous plans for “peace” come into full action. With a couple of new sidelined threats to tackle on top of Ultron, The Avengers have their work cut out for them, especially after their dark secrets and pasts resurface to play pivotal roles in the story.
Conflicted internally as well as externally, is this the greatest threat Earth’s mightiest heroes have faced yet?
To kick things off, “Age of Ultron” must be commended on its consistency of style. For someone who takes continuity in all areas heavily into account, I enjoy seeing various sprinklings of unique character nuances placed in the mixing pot that is the MCU, more specifically, The Avengers. It’s fantastic to see Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) back together again with The Hulk and Iron Man.
I do however take a little bit away from the tonal inconsistencies, primarily produced from the dialogue. For a film that is significantly darker in tone than the original, “Age of Ultron” (as alluded to from its first “No Strings” trailer) is going for the more serious aspects of the narrative at hand.
This is fine; in fact, it’s great. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing each character’s darker side and unflattering pasts, but what “The Avengers” is essentially about is fun and excitement.
These two qualities can definitely coexist within a film, particularly a comic book superhero film; it’s just that the film is littered with these distracting one-liners that take you out of the mood trying to be set by the action, cinematography, music and overall style.
Joss Whedon knows dialogue, and for about 90% of the film, it’s perfectly fine, sometimes genius.
It’s just there’s a time and place for both darkness and light, but those opportunities are few and far between, and when not capitalised upon, it’s hard to make other moments work as effectively.
That being said, there is a lot to love about the script. When the excitement reaches breaking point as it usually does in 10-minute intervals, Whedon seizes the time and place to get the most out of simple lines that provide some witty, clever humour, some of which may even make you laugh hysterically.
There is an obvious balance that Whedon is trying to achieve within “Age of Ultron”, fun and seriousness. For the majority of the film, this is achieved very well, it’s just on a few occasions the dialogue hinders instead of helps the tone.
“Age of Ultron” gave fans more, much more. There were new characters introduced (including Paul Betanny’s “Vision”) and returning faces whichever way you look, as well as exciting new additions such as the famous ‘Hulk-Buster’ armor of Iron Man. In what I believe to be the most exhilarating and well-structured scene of the whole film, the ‘Hulk-Buster’ scene is not to be missed if not nothing else.
Not only is the point in the narrative an excellent time to splice it in, the effects from both the collateral damage caused by the energy-fuelled fisty-cuffs and Ruffalo’s Hulk are near faultless. The biggest credit you can give to an animation is that you simply didn’t notice it. With Ruffalo’s Hulk, it was truly astonishing how well detailed he was.
Nowhere near as masterful as the simians from “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”, the animation team behind the motion-capture Hulk deserve to be praised highly nevertheless as we got another solid dose of the best Hulk put to screen.
James Spader as Ultron may very well be one of the best casting choices made all year. Although it’s merely a voiced role, there is no shortage of credit for Spader; he completely sold me as Ultron with every word he threateningly spoke.
The bellowing, robotic speeches given out by the central antagonist is accompanied by an unwavering sense of foreboding. Ultron is the best villain to emerge from the MCU since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, but then again, Marvel has become notorious for their underwhelming plethora of filmic villains.
The reasonably lengthy runtime shows how well written an ensemble cast can be. There was a lot more to work with in “Age of Ultron”, and although there were particular characters I would’ve liked to see more of (Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Kalu for example), the writers have done a very good job in sharing the load and not making it the Tony Stark show.
“Age of Ultron” delves into Hawkeye’s story in a lot more detail, which is great to see. The first film didn’t allow for the audience to understand who Renner’s sleek archer really was, but the direction they took him in the follow-up definitely does the character a great service.
Johansson’s Black Widow also gets to step up from last time around which is also pleasing. After she impressed in “The Winter Soldier”, it only seems natural to amplify the female badassery levels a little this time around.
Two central characters that are introduced to the story are Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). The pair of Russian twins add to the conflict of The Avengers as a unit through their unique abilities and association with Ultron himself.
Having seen them as lovers in last year’s “Godzilla”, the fact they were now brother and sister required some severe blockage of memory on my part as to avoid anything weird coming from it.
Their performances are solid, as well as the effects that accompany their moments in the spotlight, but those Russian accents they were trying to scrape together detracted a little bit from their engaging qualities.
Taylor-Johsnon’s incarnation of the character is not as impressive and show-stelaing as Evan Peter’s Quicksilver from 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, however he made it his own and that’s got to be worth something.
The action, fun, thrills and explosive chaos are all here once again within “Age of Ultron”. The $250million blockbuster is set to rake in more cash than it will know what to do with, most likely outrunning the original (which was incidentally the third highest grossing film of all time).
Will this gross the most for the year? Most likely not, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will be yet another ultra-successful Marvel property.
So, business as usual for The Avengers, except this time around we’re given some history, some darkness, some drama and some genuine threats from the strong villain.
There are some narrative turns that don’t quite add up after leaving the theatre, as well as some clunky tonal shifting throughout certain scenes, but ultimately, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” lives up to the hype, it really does.
It’s a great old time at the movies and I personally recommend seeing in 2D on the biggest screen you can find.
And if your holding out for the famous end-credits scene, don’t hold your breath, it’s a mid-credits tease with this one.