Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Expectations were met in a beautiful swell of sensible chaos. That is the initial reaction I left with after departing yesterday’s screening of my most anticipated film of 2015.

Image by Marvel Studios

Certainly, The Avengers: Age of Ultron didn’t waste any time getting back in the swing of things. The film opens with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes leading a raid against presumably the final HYDRA compound, said to hold Loki’s scepter, last seen in Captain America: the Winter Soldier.

The team kicks ass, captures Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, played by Thomas Kretschmann, and secures the scepter. Too easy? Don’t worry, it sets up the inciting incident where Iron Man, played by Academy Award nominee Robert Downey Jr, brings the scepter back to Avengers Tower and unknowingly brings the titular villain, played by James Spader, into existence and true to Joss Whedon’s word prior to the start of production, Ultron has a bee in his bonnet and he means to take it out on the Avengers and humanity by taking a small Eastern European hamlet, ripping it out of the ground, raising it high into Earth’s orbit and turning it into a planet-killing meteor. Inventive.

In all the time, I’ve spent covering this movie I’ve been listening to Joss Whedon’s ideas and reasons regarding why he made the decisions that he did, why he made the promises he made for this film and in watching everything unfold, he and the film live up to the promises and expectations set for them.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is established with a grand design; it reaches and sprawls to go beyond the limitations and boundaries set by the previous installments of the previous films of the Avengers Initiative. This appeased my fandom of comic book mythology, hinting and referencing what has been done and what will be to come later, and does so with a sense of fervor that just can’t stay still.

The story is strong but it just becomes more spectacle than substance after a while, but that is a good thing. Also, there are some film moments and periods of humor and wit that lighten the heavy mood set by the genocidal-prone A.I. and his two helpers, the Maximoff twins, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, as the try to tear the team apart.

I thought it was nice seeing Marvel give audiences a little slice of Hawkeye, played by Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner. I’m not really that familiar with Clint Barton’s backstory, but to see him live what I like to call the Philip Rivers-lifestyle-I’m a Chargers fan BTW-certainly caught me off guard; man with a loving and growing family in his personal life while living life as professional badass? Respect.

I also found the romantic connection between Academy Award nominee Mark Ruffalo and Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson something of an eye opener. Like watching a comic book rendition of Beauty and the Beast between Black Widow and Bruce Banner/Hulk with a touch of Ann Darrow and King Kong thrown in. Still it’s a shame both of their characters can’t get their own solo-movies; people will pay to watch Mark Ruffalo play the Hulk and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in their own motion pictures. WTF can’t Marvel do something about that?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the cast doesn’t disappoint. Seeing these actors firmly entrenched in these roles as these characters is fun and watching them work just doesn’t get old. Downey owns the Iron Man character, Ruffalo is solid and wild as the Hulk/Bruce Banner, Johansson rocks as Black Widow, Renner doesn’t miss a beat as Hawkeye, Chris Evans is a perfect fit as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth is Thor and there is no doubt about that and you can say the same for Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. It was certainly fun to see familiar faces return to the fold such as Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, Stellan Skarsgård as Eric Selvig, Colbie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, and the new guard including Spader, Taylor-Johnson, Olsen and Paul Bettany get promoted from Iron Man’s digital butler/PA to this superheroic powerhouse is stellar.

The visual effects are top notch, as was the sound-effects, the art-direction, costume design but it feels as if the visual elements outshines the remainder of the technical aspects of the film such as Danny Elfman’s music. Also, I was so lost in the visual appeal that there was no time to appreciate the cinematography of Ben Davis or the editing Jeffery Ford and Lisa Lassek.

If there was one overall flaw with The Avengers: Age of Ultron it’s that the entire film itself gets by and gets off on being one entire wow-factor. It deprives itself from being able to take a moment and allow it to wash over it’s spectator; it’s spectacle after spectacle after spectacle and it doesn’t slow down to let a moment sink in.

Photo by By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, via Wikimedia Commons

I will credit Joss Whedon for bringing home the central theme of Phase 2 to the closing chapter that is this film:

“everyone creates the thing they dread.”-James Spader as Ultron

This movie sets up the events to come in Phase 3 in one manner or another. In Andy Serkis, there is a nod to the upcoming Black Panther, the seeds of dissent between Captain America and Iron Man have been sewn for Civil War, which will then jump-start other Phase 3 projects.

Where I felt Whedon fall short was when he said that this film would be smaller. It’s definitely more painful for these characters, but this universe expanded and I failed to find where and how it would be smaller.

There are wow-moments and funny moments in the story and also moments of irony as well. The Avengers fought off the Chitari in the Battle for New York and that campaign took hours (I think) while a Scarlet Witch affected-Hulk vs. the Hulkbuster leveled the city of Johannesburg in a matter of minutes. Sure.

Also, I feel that Whedon left big shoes for the Russo Brothers to fill, since he expressed that he will not direct the sequels to this film, but I can see why he called this venture exhausting.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are the stars of the reigning mightiest motion picture on Earth. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but who cares? It was fun to behold.

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