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Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is like a new episode of the biggest, most expensive TV show of all time. It’s not the event that the first movie was, and it might not be as Earth-shattering as I expected, but Age of Ultron is nonetheless a fun, exciting and action-packed movie starring all of our favorite superheroes. And therein lies my biggest complaint, which is really a non-complaint.

There’s a familiarity to Age of Ultron that leads to contentment. The movie doesn’t really give us anything new to get excited about, instead delivering just another solid chapter in this ongoing saga.

Movie Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

I liken Age of Ultron to a TV show because that’s exactly what it felt like while I was watching. I may have been in a packed movie theater, and it’s been three years since the last episode, but Ultron was definitely the ‘monster-of-the-week’ in the latest episode of The Avengers. All of our favorite characters are back, their friendly, comfortable banter is exactly what we’d expect, and everything is more or less tied up in a nice, tidy bow by the end. Lessons are learned, a little romance is slipped in, and now we just sit back and wait for the next episode.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way with any movie sequel before. It’s a weird feeling.

But the episodic feel doesn’t keep the movie from being entertaining. It’s an exciting film from beginning to end. In the big picture sense, the movie is amazing. But when you step back and really think about all the moving parts, it’s not without some flaws. Director Joss Whedon juggles a few too many characters, so that some get a lot of attention — like Hawkeye, in some standout moments — while others are little more than props — like Thor, who spends most of his time dropping hints about future movies.

The new characters are a mixed bag. The titular villain, Ultron, is too entertaining to be menacing. That’s an odd way to describe a super villain, but it’s exactly how actor James Spader pulls it off.

I like Age of Ultron, a lot. It’s not as good at the first Avengers film, largely because the spectacle has worn off, but also for a lot of little reasons. Yet overall, it’s another exciting film in my favorite franchise of all time, despite those little reasons.

Join me after the jump for my full, detailed review. And there will be SPOILERS!

As I said above, Age of Ultron feels like just another episode of an ongoing TV show, one that only has a single, giant episode every couple of years. Despite various nods to other movies and ongoing storylines, like Tony Stark’s post-traumatic stress, Age of Ultron is a relatively self-contained movie. They started with the status quo and then had to make sure they were back at the status quo by the end, ready for the next episode.

Thor and the Avengers are trying to track down Loki’s staff from the first movie, which is in the hands of HYDRA. Age of Ultron opens with the whole team assaulting HYDRA’s last remaining fortress in Europe and grabbing the staff. But Tony Stark gets it into his head to use the power of the staff to create artificial intelligence, which he will use to defend the Earth from any future alien invasions. That intelligence, Ultron, immediately turns evil, and decides that the world will only be safe if he wipes humanity from the face of the Earth. So with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch at his side to keep the Avengers busy, Ultron sets up creating an extinction-level event to kill all of humanity, and it’s up to our heroes to stop him.

It’s what they do

The plot, the pacing and the action scenes in this movie are all phenomenal. We understand Ultron’s devious plan, and it’s easy to root for the good guys when they’re trying to save the world. The earlier movies in the Avengers franchise took care of all important introductions, so Age of Ultron is free to jump right into the action, and it’s a thrill seeing all of our favorite characters together again. This probably isn’t the first movie somebody should watch if they’re new to the franchise, but c’mon, who hasn’t been watching all these Marvel movies?

But this familiarity is both a great thing and a hindrance. On the one hand, it’s great seeing everybody side-by-side again, because Whedon’s dialogue is as wonderful as always, and everybody seems so friendly and comfortable together. They banter, they bicker, they get mad at one another, and they deliver inspirational speeches to pump each other up. It’s a great feeling.

Avengers Bro-fist!

On the other hand, there’s none of the head-butting that made the first movie so good, when everyone was still a stranger to one another. Yes, sometimes the characters get mad at each other in this film — the other Avengers aren’t too thrilled when they find out Stark is messing with A.I. — but the anger doesn’t last, and soon everybody’s working together again. They’re all friends, and that takes away some of the energy.

There are also too many characters on the screen. Along with all of the returning favorites from the first film, including Maria Hill and Nick Fury, Whedon and Marvel add Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Ultron, War Machine, Falcon and Vision to the cast, and Whedon doesn’t really waste any of them. Everybody gets more than one moment to shine, whether it be a joke or an action scene. Nobody really fades into the background. But with so many characters sharing the spotlight, some get more attention than others.

For example, Hawkeye is the Avenger that gets the most attention in this movie. It’s great, but it comes at the expense of, say, Captain America, Iron Man or Thor getting that same attention.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Hawkeye

Hawkeye gets all the best lines, and all the best jokes are about Hawkeye. Both Whedon and Hawkeye himself, played by Jeremy Renner, are fully aware of Hawkeye’s position as a normal human on a team of gods, and they have a lot of fun with that. It’s great! The jokes are funny, and Hawkeye’s speech to the Scarlet Witch during the climax, where he has to convince her to find her courage in the midst of a massive robot battle, is a great speech!

But comparatively, the likes of Iron Man and Captain America, arguably much more popular Avengers, do little more than be themselves. Cap is stern and heroic, and Tony is witty and eccentric. They look great in the action scenes — especially the big Hulkbuster fight shown in the trailers — but they don’t get much character growth or attention. Though I will say that Cap’s determination to save all of the innocent civilians at the end made me proud to love superheroes.

And Veronica totally lives up to the hype!

The Hulk and Black Widow get more to do than the Big Three, but only because Whedon decided that the two of them should have a will they/won’t they romance. I like both characters, so the romance is cute, but it comes out of nowhere. There was no flirting between them in the first film, and the Widow didn’t say anything about it last year when she appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. She just all of a sudden has the hots for Banner, which given her normally cool, calm demeanor, is a bit unexpected. But Whedon plays it well enough, giving both characters a few scenes to enjoy together, even if they don’t really go anywhere by the end.

Personally, I would have preferred the two have a happy ending instead of being separated at the end of Age of Ultron. But maybe that’s just me.

Somebody deserves some happiness

The various supporting characters, like Nick Fury and Maria Hill, are fine. They do what needs to be done. I especially enjoyed the cameos from War Machine and Falcon on a purely fanboy level. They are important people in the Avengers’ personal lives, so it makes a fun kind of sense to see them in this movie. It really helps the world-building.

Of all the new characters, I think Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch come off the best. I’m a big Quicksilver fan from the comics, so I really liked seeing him on the big screen. I think this Quicksilver was cooler than the one in X-Men: Days of Future Past, despite not having an equally awesome scene as that ‘Time in a Bottle’ moment. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a better actor than Evan Peters and creates a more realistic and interesting character. Peters’ Quicksilver is just a single scene and a terrible wig, while Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver is an actual character with motivation, emotions and a story arc.

So yes, I’m really bummed out that Quicksilver was killed in Age of Ultron. I knew it was coming (due to my foolishly reading a few spoilers ahead of time) but it still stunk. The one character I really liked and he didn’t make it.

Despite my initial reservations, the costume rules on screen

Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch is a really good character too. She’s got real motivations, her change of heart is believable, and her powers are pretty cool. Scarlet Witch has always has weird powers, but Age of Ultron makes them simple enough to follow. I wish Scarlet Witch had gotten a touch more attention throughout the film, but then I wish that happened with everybody. She’s cool enough at least and doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

A lot of reviewers I’ve seen are crowing about how cool the Vision is in Age of Ultron, but me personally, I feel he is entirely superfluous. It doesn’t help that I’ve never particularly liked the Vision. I just don’t. And he doesn’t do anything so vital in the movie to make him irreplaceable. If Whedon had cut him out completely, as well as all the plot and characters associated with Vision, then Whedon would have had more time to focus on the other characters. Ultron’s desire for a humanoid body, that South Korean scientist, and then the Vision himself could all have been cut without changing the movie in the least.

Not that actor Paul Bettany doesn’t do a fine job as the Vision, and especially as J.A.R.V.I.S., but I just didn’t care for him in this movie.

Don’t look at me like that

There was just something off-putting about his face that I didn’t like, and Vision just doesn’t really do anything to warrant such a major inclusion. As far as I can tell, the only thing Vision does in the finale is shut Ultron off from the Internet, keeping him stuck in his single, smashable body. Whedon couldn’t have found some other way to do that? And Vision gets a few good punches in, but there were several other Avengers who could have punched just as hard.

Yes, everybody in my theater gasped when Vision picked up Thor’s hammer, but as a staunch Beta Ray Bill fan, I was hoping he’d be the first Cinematic Universe character to pick up Mjolnir! Such are my fanboy whims.

Finally, we get to Ultron.

He’s waited long enough

Ultron is great. He’s big, he’s imposing, his design is amazing, and he’s an absolute hoot. Whedon and Spader make him nearly as charming and witty as his creator, Tony Stark. After Hawkeye, Ultron gets the best lines. Whedon really goes the extra mile in making him a relatable villain…but that’s a little to his detriment. There are times when Ultron is too witty and too charming to be an effective villain. He’s kind of just this funny uncle causing mischief. I’m not entirely sure if Ultron even really killed anybody. There were some collateral deaths here and there, but I don’t think we actually saw Ultron do anything evil on a human level. Yes, he wanted to wipe out humanity, and he destroyed a lot of property, but those were larger-than-life super villain plans, and the Avengers foiled all of that.

The only time Ultron was really threatening was when he got mad at Klaw for comparing him to Tony Stark. In that one scene, Ultron was truly terrifying. But it was a fleeting moment. Most of the film was just the Avengers battling Ultron’s useless drone soldiers. We didn’t even get a big Ultron vs. Hulk battle, which I kept hoping for. Ultron had a couple fights, but usually there was a lot of other things going on at the same time, so the fights were never the focus.

And there simply wasn’t a single scene in Age of Ultron to match Hulk punching the Leviathan or smacking Loki around on the floor.

Not for lack of trying

As you can see, I have a lot of individual thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron. There are so many little issues and nitpicks to pick at, and I’m sorry for going into them all at length. But none of these problems bring down the movie, not by a long shot. Yes, some characters got more attention than others, and yes, there were probably too many characters, and yes, Ultron could have been a touch more evil, but overall, Age of Ultron is a damn good movie. It’s exciting as an action film, and it’s beyond thrilling to see all of the Avengers as a team once again.

I can’t wait for the next episode.

Or the Ant-Man spin-off.

Also, honestly, why the hell didn’t this movie have a scene after the credits? Marvel made that post-credits scene a thing. They own it and fans want it, so why the hell would they leave it off? Is it not the most absolute perfect way to advertise your next movie?

How amazing would it have been if Ant-Man had shown up at the new Avengers Academy? It would have been funny, and would get fans excited for the underdog Ant-Man film. Why did Marvel pass on that free publicity?! Sheesh!

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About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on May 3, 2015, in Avengers, Marvel, Movies, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I am also slightly disappointed about the implications for Beta-Ray Bill, but i think the Vision was done very well.
    I am a little disappointed that they didnt have Hank Pym have at least something to do with Ultron (which they could have, because Antman-movie).
    Also, i am excited to see Klaw (Andy Serkis, yeah!) in the Black Panther movie (gonna be great!)
    Antman or Black Panther should have gotten the end-credits scene. That would have bee more fulfilling than the Thanos scene with the fancy gauntlet-thing.

    sidenote: “Hawkeye’s speech to the Scarlet Witch during the climax” — umm… poor choice of words?

  2. But you have to understand how amazing it is that the whole audience gasped when Vision picked up Mjolnir (it happened at my theatre too). Whedon was able to hype up Thor’s hammer so much, that he actually managed to shock the mainstream audience with just the act of a guy picking up a hammer – with just some small superhero trivia. It is nothing short of incredible how much these superhero films can engage the audience nowadays.

  3. Yeah, there was gasping and uproarious laughter for that scene both times I saw it as well.

    Good review, Sean. I disagree that there was a nit needing picking with Hawkeye getting the most attention this go round, though. The Big Three have their own movies, and Hawkeye definitely got shafted with the first slumber party movie.

    Likewise, Banner getting a lot of attention is fine since he doesn’t have his own movies and is unlikely to. Black Widow as well.

    Granted, she was basically the co-star of “The Winter Soldier” last year, but if we had gotten that, “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World,” then came to watch this and barely got any time with Hawkeye, Banner and Natasha simply because they aren’t the most popular three … well, I’d be pissed. Besides, I really am digging the MCU Hawkeye, which surprises the hell out of me since I can’t fucking stand the comics version.

    Oh, on the topic of whether Ultron killed anyone, he got the most notable kill in the movie: Quicksilver.

    Still, a good review, and I can tell you enjoyed the movie. Probably not as much as me, but at least you aren’t one of those folks who feel socially obligated to get up in arms over Natasha’s “Still think you’re the only monster on the team?” line (re: her infertility and murderous past), as though at least that first thing isn’t a dysphoria real women really deal with.

    So, thank you much for that.

    P.S. I think you meant Elizabeth Olsen, not Ashley.

    • Language.

      I guess I just wanted to see Ultron really crush some innocent civilians with his big robot hands for some reason…seems more brutal and evil. And I had zero problem with Natasha’s lines. Seemed fine to me. I don’t disagree that it was great for these non-solo-movie characters to get more attention, Hawkeye was probably the best part of the film. I guess I just wish time was found for everybody to get such attention.

      And thanks for that Olsen catch, I’ll change it immediately!

      • I wonder if the perception of Ultron as less intimidating than he should have been comes down to his eyes. When he speaks to Vision through the final Ultron Sentry at the end, he’s probably more intimidating there, despite the wrecked body, than anywhere else (except for his first meeting with the Avengers).

        The look of the Ultron Sentries was based on Ultron’s look in the comics. Imagine his humorous lines coming out of that thing instead of a construct with vaguely human eyes. Would be way creepier.

      • Hmmm, you may be on to something there. I liked the eyes, but they’re definitely very emotive and human. Also, I think he was just too witty and charming to be sinister. Someone pointed out that he, at one point, refers to Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch as ‘guys’, among other chillax lines.

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