**WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AEAD!!**
Ok, folks, the time has come... Wether or not you care about my opinion, I’m going to spew it toward you (because, what else is the internet for?). So, here’s my official review ofMarvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (also referred to as A.o.U.). Enjoy!
Let’s start off with what we all already know, writer/director Joss Whedon has done it again! A true comic book nerd and fan of the source material, Whedon clearly knows what he’s doing behind a camera. I had doubts that I’d be as entertained with A.o.U. as I was with 2012’s The Avengers, but I was quickly reassured that this time around would be just as great as the first time. Really good sequels are rare, but as with the second Thor and Captain America films, this is a sequel that promises a lot and delivers. As you’ll read below, I have few complaints with the film (because no film is perfect), but again, they are few and far between. I found that Avengers: Age of Ultron is the perfect way to kick off the summer blockbuster season!
We start right off the bat with lots of action, the Avengers have been assembled and are busy taking out what is left of HYDRA’s secret bases around the world. And right away, we are treated to a global story. So many superhero films take place in only one or two cities (Marvel stories included), so it’s a nice change of pace to see the Avengers as they are in the comics, globe-trotting from Eastern Europe to New York to South Africa to North Korea, and everywhere in between, including a rural farm. It makes the stories more powerful and exciting when it’s not just the same five cities always being attacked in every one of these movies. We also get more of a feel for the characters when we see them in new locations, working as hard as they can to save everyone in the world, not just Americans.
The story is well balanced too. It’s not terribly original, but it’s very well handled. We’ve all seen or read countless stories about some sort of A.I. program (or robot) quickly becoming too smart and trying to eradicate human life from planet Earth in an attempt to preserve it’s own life, as well as that of the planet’s. But, Whedon and James Spader did one thing most of those other stories don’t do, they made the robot more human than most of the actual humans in the story. He laughs, he gets angry, he even has fears. The robot of this story is Ultron and he's created not too long after the film starts, which basically makes him an infant. He has an almost immature understanding of life and the universe, an unlimited source of power and a rage fueled by self-preservation. This makes him a great nemesis to the Avengers. The audience feels for Ultron, we can understand his confusion and anger when his plans do not seemingly go perfectly or when humans don’t agree with his point of view. The film also includes several hints toward Marvel's upcoming films. Some are subtle, some are not, but all are well placed and fun to catch!
And, while the budget for this film was enormous (an estimated $250,000,000), it feels much smaller and more intimate than most big summer epics. This is because a lot of the story is focused on the character’s lives within this hectic world of superheroes, aliens, robots, explosions, and Stan Lee cameos. We get an up close look into their personalities, which is a rarity in big budget films these days. We also get a smart story, that has plenty of character without taking away from the light-hearted humor and pulse-pounding action. This is Joss Whedon’s greatest strength, creating multi-dimensional characters in complex stories that can grab our attention (and hearts) without sacrificing anything.
The characters were another great part of this film. While a lot of people may complain about the fact that most of the characters in these films are getting tired or overused (between the several stand alone films and The Avengers franchise), I have to say, the makers of these movies (cast and crew both), are doing a phenomenal job keeping the characters fresh and real. For example, even though it took a few movies, the audience is finally getting to dive deeper into Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. When they both first appeared (Widow in Iron Man 2 and Hawkeye in Thor), we were treated to two very cool spies, but that was it. They weren’t relatable or even all that interesting. But, as the films went on, and especially in A.o.U., we have seen more and more of who these spies really are, and why we should care about them. It wasn’t until this film that we’re shown what Hawkeye does when he’s not Avenging...he’s a farmer! And a Dad! How adorable! I was astonishingly happy when those plot details were laid out. Because these people can’t be constantly running around, fighting robot and aliens, they have to have some days where they just have to pick up groceries, or take the kids to soccer practice, or fix a broken porch railing (which we do actually get to see Hawkeye doing). So, it was nice to see a more realistic side to at least one Avenger.
We also get a quick peek into the relationship between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). They have a unique friendship, in that they’re both looked up to by the other Avengers, they both hold a lot of the responsibilities on the team, and they’re both kind of lost men. It wasn’t until Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) showed up in Tony’s life that he had any real connection to other people. And Steve is the man out of time, almost everyone from his life is either missing or dead, he feels like he doesn’t really have a home anymore and he wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he wasn’t working with S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers. But, in each other, these two characters can find a balance of humanity and work. Which makes it even more nail-clenching when we see them disagree. Because Iron Man and Captain America aren’t the type to just argue, they ARGUE. During several points of this film, we see where Steve’s and Tony’s ideologies and beliefs clash and when it does... stuff gets broken. This, of course, is to help set up next summer’s Captain America: Civil War, which in the comics, is Iron Man vs. Captain America in a no-holds barred fight to the finish.
We’re also treated to a really neat start to what could be a great love story in coming films...between Black Widow and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). In earlier films, we’ve seen Widow seemingly flirt with a number of characters (which Steve Rogers even jokes about in one scene), but it isn’t until this film that we see those times were never real, it was just fun or apart of her job. And we also get to see a side to Black Widow we’ve never really seen, her vulnerability. She opens up to Banner, she trusts him, she even adores him. For a former brainwashed KGB assassin, trained since childhood to be a killer, this is a big moment for her character. She feels a closeness to Bruce, which is apparently new to her. While Banner shows obvious signs to trying to fight feelings for her, we also get to see that he knows that they share something special. Even in the first Avengers film, it was clear that Widow is not afraid of Banner, not even his ‘other side’. She’s aware that the Hulk has the devastating power to destroy anything, but she still pursues Bruce’s softer side. What, if anything, comes from this budding romance is to be seen in future films.
Bruce Banner and his alter-ego the incredible Hulk, is also another winning character in this film (as well as in The Avengers). The Hulk is a Jekyll/Hyde type character for our age, but one that is very hard to portray. In the comics, the Hulk can be a very fun character to read, but quickly becomes very boring on screen. So, when we get to see Ruffalo’s performance as the timid Bruce Banner, shy away from his true power and then embrace it when he knows he needs to, is an absolute joy to watch!
But, the real star of this movie is the titular villain himself, Ultron. Played by James Spader, this 9 foot-tall killer robot is anything but just that. As I said earlier, Ultron feels more human that a lot of other characters do in some stories. I think one of my favorite scenes that proves this is when two of Ultron’s allies discover his true plan for world conquest and they leave him, he simply looks toward them and in a downtrodden voice says “Aw, Come on, guys...” and then gets upset. That is such a human way to react to that situation, it seems odd, but unrelentingly satisfying to see it coming from a robot. In another scene, as the Hulk starts to come after Ultron, he simply sighs as if he is annoyed, which again, is almost funny because for the most part, evil robots in movies usually don’t display those kind of emotions (if any at all). And Spader has such a great vocal range, that Ultron has personality in his voice, he doesn’t just talk, he serenades anyone that’s listening. Spader’s vocal and physical performances (he did both the voice as well as motion capture to bring Ultron to life), are so astounding that it feels like there actually is a giant maniacal robot in the movie, fighting with our beloved heroes.
Overall, I was immensely happy with this film. At no point was I bored or finding myself let down, it was the exact continuation that this franchise needed, expanding on the universe, while still leaving room for growth. I loved the end of the film, we get a full story that introduces not only new characters, but also new Avengers that will no doubt, grow into a great franchise on their own.
This section will be much shorter than the above, as I have very few complaints about this film. The first being: money.
Don’t mistake me, I know where the money for the film to be made is coming from. What I’m wondering about is the money in the film. It was believable in the first film when all the characters had was a few S.H.I.E.L.D. bases, a Hellicarrier, and Stark Tower. All of those things were provided by either Tony Stark or the mentioned international peace-keeping organization, S.H.I.E.L.D. But, after the events of last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. no longer exists. All of their bases, weapons, vehicles, etc. should be (for the most part) gone. And, understandably, Tony Stark is a billionaire, but even so, there is no way he could afford all of the stuff the characters use in this film. Multiple vehicles, multiple bases, new outfits, endless amounts of weaponry, unlimited access the most advanced technologies in the world, lodging, etc. It all adds up and even to a billionaire, that would be quite a bill to pay.
Another problem I had with the film was it’s opening. The story is fine (it sets up the entire film, obviously), but some of the CGI looked weird, not bad mind you, just weird. At one point, Captain America is riding his motorcycle, then he does a front-flip while lifting the motorcycle over his head and throwing at some bad guys. I don’t have a problem with that happening, it’s something Captain America could feasibly do. But, the CGI used looked really cartoonish and it happened too fast for the audience to fully take it in and enjoy. And, shortly before that, Thor is seen flying up and down a watchtower, fighting several bad guys and the CGI Thor is moving at a very odd pace, randomly speeding up and slowing down. It’s jarring and just took me out of the moment of the film.
And, finally, my last complaint with this film, is actually a complaint I’m starting to have with all Marvel films...the famed end credits scene. When, in 2008, the first Iron Man film debuted, there was no actual set plan for an Avengers film, so when, after the credits, we saw Samuel L. Jackson come in as Nick Fury and surprise Tony Stark (and the audience) by saying “I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.” it was completely mind blowing. At that point, the idea of an actual superhero team up movie was exhilarating!
But, as time goes on, Marvel keeps announcing which characters will be getting their own films and when those films will be coming out, as well as the next installments of Avengers films. This makes the mid- or end-credits scenes easier and easier to guess, which in turn, takes a lot of the fun and surprise out of them. Twentieth Century Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past was released on May 23rd, 2014, but the title of the film’s next segment (X-Men: Apocalypse) was announced long before that, so it was no surprise to see that the end-credit scene was setting up the comic book’s Apocalypse storyline. This is why I enjoyed the mid- and end-credit scenes from last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, both scenes were totally enjoyable without worrying about setting up whatever is going to happen next in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or the M.C.U.).
So, I guess what I’m proposing to Marvel is to use these credit scenes not try to and gives us plot points for the upcoming films, but rather just something fun to enjoy seeing. The now infamous “Shawarma” scene at the end of the first Avengers was perfect. It was short, funny, and had no real point. These scenes should be something that the audience doesn’t have to see to help fill in story gaps in other films.
That being said, I have to say, Avengers: Age of Ultron is definitely in my top 5 favorite M.C.U. films (The Winter Solider still my favorite). It is by no means their worst or best film. These movies keep getting more and more enjoyable, and I have high hopes for all that they have to release in the future.
Overall Rating: 9 out of 10.