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Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) — All The Eye-Popping Spectacle You Want, No Strings Attached

But of course this is a Marvel Studios film, and ALL strings are attached, but does Avengers: Age of Ultron surpass the original? Luke Miksa reviews:

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-bann

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a movie that genuinely needs no introduction. If you are not familiar with billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark (aka Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.), Asgardian prince Thor (Chris Hemsworth), or time-displaced World War II super-soldier Steve Rogers (aka Captain America, Chris Evans), then perhaps you have been in suspended animation the last eight years. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to the 2012 superhero team-up film The Avengers and the 11th film in the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time, the Avengers must again team up to fight a power of their own creation, the sentient artificial intelligence known as Ultron (James Spader), a being with the intent of cleansing the world of humanity.

The boys are back (plus a girl or two, I guess).

The boys are back (plus a girl or two, I guess).

The movie opens right in the thick of The Avengers raiding the Hydra base of Baron von Strucker to regain the sceptre seen in previous films. Director/screenwriter Joss Whedon doesn’t bother with building up the opening — we have seen this before — so jumping straight into the action from the get-go is the perfect way to establish what this movie is all about: all action, all the time. This opening scene in particular features a wonderful long tracking shot following all the characters battling the Hydra army, with many insta-iconic imagery coming from just this single scene; welcome back, everyone!

The most praise I can lay on Avengers: Age of Ultron is the tone. Whedon — returning from The Avengers — has got this comic book movie thing down to a fine art. When other studios think that comic movies need to be dark and joyless to be taken seriously (the term gritty pops up a lot), the Marvel films are fun, intriguing, action packed, and bright — Avengers: Age of Ultron is the template on which these movies need to be based. Just because they wear bright costumes and crack one-liners does not mean these movies are just for kids — the box office results will attest to that — they are designed for everybody, and you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face and adrenaline rushing through your veins. That’s what these movies should be about!

Iron Man MK: BIG

Iron Man MK: BIG

With the copious reliance on CGI in our current generation blockbuster, action scenes are basically a dime a dozen: the action is exciting, sure, but it is quickly becoming cookie-cutter and generic. It takes a special movie — with visionary filmmakers — to make action scenes stand out as something unique and special (I find this is normally achieved when the attention is focused back on practical effects). Age of Ultron has an unbelievably high CGI budget, and what you see on screen is technically well-made and composited, it just doesn’t seem that special any more. It’s actually more expected these days. But the amazing thing about Age of Ultron is that it isn’t just the (terrific) special effects that this film.

It’s the characters and their relationships which takes Age of Ultron to another level. Whedon has a history of developing characters with pathos and depth, so his filmmaking sensibilities are perfect for this massive ensemble. Of course, he has the benefit of the (as of now) 10-strong Marvel Cinematic Universe to build the major players which populate this universe. Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor each have multiple stand-alone entries in the canon, which is why it’s brilliant that Whedon scripts these characters carry the plot of the film so that the personal drama and growth can be bestowed upon characters that have — thus far — have been largely relegated to the sidelines; namely Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).

This is the scene where a pissed off Terrance Howard crashes the party.

This is the scene where a pissed off Terrance Howard crashes the party.

Hawkeye in particular finally gets his well deserved due, getting the best one-liners, plenty of self-referential humour, and a great mid-movie sub-plot. Out the core Avengers line-up, Hawkeye was always kind of treated like an afterthought; the bow-and-arrow mortal human surrounding by his extraordinary colleagues was always going to be a joke unless he was given appropriate character development, which to date has been non-existent. Hawkeye in Age of Ultron is self-deprecating in this regard, constantly the butt of his own jokes as he has been of all of ours (whether we realised or not). We get to see Hawkeye’s home life, and he finally gets to be portrayed as a selfless hero; the human, moral compass of the Avengers, if you will.

Hawkeye’s non-romantic relationship with Black Widow is also explored, as is the budding relationship between Black Widow and Bruce Banner, a relationship which may initially appear out of left-field, but given plenty of gravitas due to Banner’s little ‘rage issue’.

Avengers: Genisys

Avengers: Genisys

I’ve stated it in reviews past, but I may be tiring of the villainous android as a protagonist. Robots have been a staple ever since Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi classic Metropolis, but there’s been an over-abundance in recent years (and there’s more to come). In Age of Ultron‘s defence, the best way to negate the familiarity of the titular Ultron is to infuse it not only with the unmistakable voice of James Spader, but also his offbeat mannerisms. In fact, Ultron is actually an interesting character, in that he is a sentient being with a god complex, taking personal issue with Stark — his ‘father’ — despite sharing many similar character traits, as parents often do with their offspring. Things only get more interesting when the Vision comes into play and adds another wrinkle into the storyline of Stark creating sentient artificial intelligence.

For whatever reason, The Avengers composer Alan Silvestri has not returned for Age of Ultron, being replaced by frequent Marvel score-master Brian Tyler with additional contributions from industry icon Danny Elfman. Tyler incorporates themes from previous Marvel movies with the end result being an exciting yet serviceable score for a superhero film. Elfman’s input happily doesn’t result in a Tim Burton milieu, which at this stage is a relief.

Whether Avengers: Age of Ultron is superior to its predecessor is a tough question. The Avengers was an unbalanced movie; it reached ecstatic, dizzying highs but it also had large, dull stretches and scenes that did not click, which brought it down. Age of Ultron is a lot more balanced; it is 100% non-stop action, comedy and drama. It improves where Avengers failed, but it also doesn’t include the instantly iconic moments that made Avengers such a phenomenon. They are both very good, and I think the overall quality of both evens them out. I’d call it a wash, as they are both amazing films — two of the best in the genre — but if I had to choose, I’d go with Age of Ultron due to its consistency.

The question remains, how long can Marvel keep this quality up?

Llama Score: 8The concept of ‘Superhero Fatigue’ may or may not be a reality, but if real, Avengers: Age of Ultron is the kind of film that stems the tide with it’s amazing cast, light tone, and non-stop comic action. You already knew what this was going to be, so I’m just here to reiterate: Avengers: Age of Ultron is everything you wanted it to be: no more, no less. I have no complaints, yet there is a small part of me that maybe wanted more.

Award: Golden LlamaAward: RecycleAward: Fury

Highlights Banner

– Whedon managed to sneak in a few cheeky dick jokes between Stark and Rhodes.

– Every character (even Hawkeye, finally) gets their chance to shine.

– The dinner party in the first act was extremely entertaining.

– This is Joss Whedon, someone’s gonna die. Prepare.

Lowlights Banner

– The powers of Scarlet Witch are grossly undefined.

– We may have hit a point of diminishing returns in regards to the action sequences. Where do we go from here?

– Also possibly getting tired of robot/android antagonists.

Further Viewing Banner

The Avengers (2012)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Everything Avengers available on Amazon

Directed by: Joss Whedon Written by: Joss Whedon Produced by: Kevin Feige Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, James Spader, Paul Bettany Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Run length: 141 minutes Australian Release: Out now in all major cinemas

 

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