Avengers: age of ultron

film review

*********** SPOILER ALERT *************

The second Avengers collective film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is proving to be the greatly anticipated blockbuster HULK SMASH that commercials and t.v. spots promised, raking in as high as $227 million opening weekend. Flashy trailers promised an antagonist for the books in Ultron; although altering his comic book iteration genesis as being invention of Dr. Hank Pym (Ant-Man) into being the literal brainchild of Iron Man Tony Stark in a cohesive tale that will not disappoint, at the very least, the general movie fan without vested emotional history with the characters. The Marvel fan children may have their own bevy of complaints, yet hard it is to deny the sheer entertainment that Joss Whedon and his stellar cast brought to the silver screen.

New characters included in Avengers: Age of Ultron were utilized well to the film's purpose. The Maximoff twins, Pietro & Wanda - better known as Quiksilver and Scarlet Witch were a much welcomed addition to the cast, playing a crucial role in the film's building conflict. Outside of the visceral appeal of their powers, Aaron Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen maintained ample control of their parts, having fun with a Russian accent (despite Olsen's slipping from time to time) but generally inhabiting great characters well within their abilities. Director Joss Whedon was no doubt extremely irked that Quiksilver was previously used in Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days Of Future Past considering his writers (allegedly) included Pietro Maximoff in the original Ultron script but his command with the twins translated well to the final product. 

The real standout newcomer, however had to be The Vision. The slow buildup to Ultron's attempted creation to yield Jarvis' artificial intelligence into a bio-technological powered ally. Paul Betany had excellent command in a Marvel role in which he got to do more than voice-acting. In fact, The Vision transcended the struggle between Ultron and our antagonists; emancipated from the power struggle that exists within flawed superheroes and the exponential growth and global domination Ultron is potentially capable of. Gold-caped and engineered with extreme toughness, an aesthetic achievement as well as an intriguing start for a marvelous figure. Once the Infinity Gauntlet storyline with Thanos unfolds further, The Vision should remain a fan favorite given he is harnassing the crucial yellow Soul Stone needed to control the various powers of  the universe when paired with the other Infinity gems.

Ultron promised to be a villain for the ages, as many internet dwellers were speculating a perhaps all-time great film foe. Unfortunately, the script did not allow for such a character. James Spader provides for an excellent voice performance but the writing of Ultron did not provide nearly as much depth and evocative behavior as the trailer forecasted. Ultron delivers many chilling lines and has enough personality to be a great threat but ultimately, he fizzles out under the strength of the Avengers characters, which were fleshed out beautifully. Chris Hemsworth gives his best , fully realized version of Thor, even in abbreviated fashion. The audience felt his warmth, humor and even insecurities shine through in a bit performance that was well-kindled with Robert Downey Jr. and Captain America- Chris Evans. 

This second installment further fortifies the levels of comfort portrayed by each of the main figures- the rockstar bunch portrays an immense grasp on their respective characters.  Clearly, they have assumed their respective roles in comic book mythology. Each recurring hero has a strong, identifiably carved out personality in the part deuce of the Marvel convergence. The retorts and zingers were flying with the force of Thor for some very amusing dialogue; particularly between the God of Thunder himself and the ever-sarcastically clever Tony Stark. However, much of the script includes redundant humor ; running gags that out stay their welcome. Jokes for the everyday consumer that, at times, retract from the gravity of the plot. 

Mark Ruffalo remains the best Bruce Banner to date yet the side love story between he and Black Widow isn't particularly compelling. In fact, it was sublty, blink-and-you-miss-it implied from her Arrow necklace in past movies that a future pairing with Hawkeye was imminent but the audience is shown that the deep purple clad Iowa master archer is just a very busy farm dad and husband. It is not clear when this decision was made and aside from the Hulk's struggle to remain with mortals on Earth, none of the attempted depth of these characters proved to be very fruitful. Hulk disjointing from the Avengers to live in solitude will certainly be a subplot to monitor moving forward but no doubt it will be generically watered down if Black Widow is his super sexy, superpowered ball and chain.

Speaking of the climax of this entry, how many times does the Marvel audience need to be shown battling an army of incidental CG duplicates (Ultron's drones, the Chitauri in the first Avengers, Anton Venko's hacked military mechs, etc.) before we realize that the entire third act of these films will be more or less the same? Is it entirely necessary to contiuously make the same point over and over- that these extremely powerful group of varied heroes can thwart an entire squadron of hostile no-namers? Ultron could have carried an entire third acting with better planning and execution. Spader gave a far more nuanced voice performance than anticipated; Ultron's dark sense of humor and wit were traced from his creator (in this film) genius Tony Stark. The creepiness that exists to consider all private information and digital security that we imprint in the circuit world seems a much more haunting reality than a bunch of inter-dimensional aliens with no depth yet Ultron is compromised somewhat anti-climatically, dispatched fairly easily by The Vision. 

Much like the massive letdown that was The Mandarin in Iron Man 3, Ultron was paraded in trailers and promotions to be one, cold mean son of a bitch who could possibly thwart all of the Avengers and their allies. Ultimately, Ultron's character in AoU was more sarcastic and twistedly humorous than a cold-wired sentient robot killing machine with almost limitless learning potential. The plot did explain the source of his humanity and sharp wit but the impending doom of the trailers was, once again, far more diluted in the film's climax.

With harsh criticism aside, Avengers: Age Of Ultron remains a fantastic summer blockbuster. The action scenes were improved from the previous installment; HULK vs. Tony Stark's Hulkbuster armor delivered on a promising destruction sequence as did the pre-title mission in which the group was given a fabulous 'money shot' pursuing opponents in the winter forests of Eastern Europe. A movie with the levels of action, humor, expensive graphic renderings, cinematography will surely bring a smile to your face for some duration of your viewing. It does not transcend the superhero or even the blockbuster-action genre but what Marvel is doing in the grand scheme is being executed beautifully thus far and the depth that will remain after the upcoming phase of movies will be present all throughout. 

The Avengers are incarnate once again in the theater. Strong familiarity remains with this roster and the actors that have grown into a cohesive unit with fully developed chemistry that now inhabit the historical threads, leather, metal paneling, teflon and harnesses of Marvel's most famous superhero team.