Sunday, May 3, 2015

Movie Review: "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015)

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Movie"Avengers: Age of Ultron"
Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: PG-13
Running Time 2 hours, 21 minutes

The Avengers have been hunting down Hydra cells around the world in search of Loki's missing scepter. Meanwhile, Hydra has been using the scepter to develop new technology, as well as developing a pair of enhanced humans, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), aka Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch. The Twins had their home destroyed and their parents killed by weapons made at Stark Industries, and now, they want revenge. In the battle to retrieve Loki's scepter, Scarlet Witch uses her mental powers to show Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) a nightmare future where all the Avengers have all been killed. This nightmare inspires him to use the retrieved scepter and develop an artificial intelligence based on its technology with the sole purpose of achieving world peace. This A.I. is called Ultron (voiced by James Spader). Ultron scans the Avengers' computer J.A.R.V.I.S. (Paul Bettany) and the internet to learn the history of the Avengers and mankind. Ultron then determines the only way to achieve peace is to eliminate the cause of war: humans. Now, the Avengers must stop their own invention, the most powerful A.I. in the world, before he destroys the human race. 

The Avengers are back in part two of their collective story and they are just as great as ever. The film opens with the Avengers raiding a Hydra stronghold, which sets the tone for this action-packed affair. Just because there is a lot of action in the film doesn't mean it is short on a good story. This is a silly argument we have heard many times online, that people are tired of the amount of "formulaic action" in these Marvel movies, but we say, why call it an action movie if there is no action? More on this later.

A few new characters are introduced, including the super A.I. called Ultron, voiced brilliantly by James Spader, who carries a hefty mix of both cynical and snark in his voice. Since we do not see his face, our perception of how imposing and scary Ultron is is contingent solely upon this voiceover, and Spader is absolutely magnificent and menacing to boot. Much to our fears and as many movies involving artificial intelligence have determined in the past, the only way to achieve peace is to eliminate war's primary cause: people. Unlike the Avengers, who are reactive and try to eliminate conflicts as they arise, Ultron is proactive and wants to eliminate the possibility of any problems before they ever get a chance to begin. Joining Ultron are Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and her twin brother Pietro Maximoff, played by no stranger to comic books adaptations, Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Wanda is also known as the Scarlet Witch and her powers involve telekinesis and telepathy, as well as the ability to create energy fields. Pietro is also known as Quicksilver and he has the ability to move at least hypersonic speeds, if not faster. These two grew up on the front lines of a war-torn country called Sokovia, fueled by weapons built by Stark Industries. They are both sympathetic villains who are simply victims and collateral damage of a war they did not cause or partake in, and much like the Avengers, they are simply reacting to the threats against their home. The Maximoff twins are drawn in by Ultron's powerful influence, initially aligning with Ultron's want to destroy the Avengers, and this produces some really excellent scenes of fighting between the two groups, who may have more in common than they initially think. By using her powers of telepathy and telekinesis, the Scarlet Witch begins to tear the Avengers apart from the inside, showing most of the dark scenes from their past or future that will shake them emotionally and break them down mentally piece by piece. These flashbacks and flash-forwards provide a great gateway to bring back some old characters who were already introduced and set the stage for movies yet to come, which is a staple within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is also the brief introduction of Ulysses Klause, played by Andy Serkis (GIVE HIM THE OSCAR, ALREADY!!), who will likely appear again in the upcoming "Black Panther" film since he is the Panther's nemesis. The final addition to this movie is another A.I. Android called Vision. Though he is a new character, he is played by a familiar voice in Paul Bettany, who has been the voice of Tony's computer J.A.R.V.I.S. since the original "Iron Man" movie. Vision is a bad ass character and is a phenomenal addition to the Avengers, and will also be a great addition to future movies, too. Paul Bettany's voicing of J.A.R.V.I.S. has always been a wonderful element to the "Iron Man" franchise and to see him come to life is just awesome and brings a much-needed voice of reason to all the destruction.

Beyond all of these new characters, many of the existing characters start to receive more depth and we also get to see some new developments about them as well. We get a much deeper look into Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye and his life beyond the Avengers. This is a much needed and very welcomed addition as Hawkeye has never had his own standalone film and he has always been the least developed of all of the Avengers. It looks like filmmakers knew there would never be a major motion picture specifically with Hawkeye in mind as the main character, so "Age of Ultron" serves as his coming out party. Hawkeye knows he is the least talented and leave favorite Avenger, and his self-awareness about this fact makes for a lot of hilarious moments of self-deprecation and reflection about his place on the team. It was fun to see Hawkeye shine while he had the chance. Filmmakers also begin to plant seeds of conflict between Captain America and Iron Man, of course, reprised by Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. These small lines of dialogue made a big impact on us since we know the future film "Captain America: Civil War" will serve as a catalyst for more strife between the Avengers as a whole. Another newly introduced storyline here is the blossoming romance between Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk, and Black Widow, played by Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson. There are some tender moments between the two, and this is where some of the heart-wrenching parts of the film come to fruition. Oh, and Chris Hemsworth's Thor is still in this fight, too, doing his same old Thor thing, being a general bad-ass and all godly and stuff, making women swoon, you know, that old chestnut.

Though all of the individual characters get their moment in the sun so to speak, to us, the film all comes together quite well and we're not really sure why people are complaining. Right off that bat, you will notice there seems to be a lot going on in this film, and there is, but like we said, it's not hard to follow if you simply pay attention. One must also realize that despite having a bunch characters, many of them have been developed in past films. If you are going to watch this movie, it does help to have seen the previous 10 movies in the series as they all converge into this one film. It is a mighty undertaking, but you're truly missing out on some great movies if you choose not to watch them. Coming into "Avengers: Age of Ultron" saying you don't understand all the characters or items or plot points in the film is like beginning a television series halfway through its second season and complaining that not enough was explained in "that one episode." Sure, this movie differs from the comics here and there, but this has happened a lot within the Marvel universe, and we ain't complaining. We're not "fanboys," we're just fans of good movies, and folks, this is a good movie.

In the end, "Age of Ultron" manages to be both rich in story and in fun. If you can sit in the theater during this film and not have a good time, we might question whether or not you even have a soul, because films like this are what fantasy action films should aspire to be. Michael Bay and all the writers he employs for movies like "Transformers" and the new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" reboot should take some notes from Marvel and realize that it is possible to make great action films with compelling characters that don't have to be completely mindless and dumbed down to infantile levels. Chances are, if you're a fan of fun, you will at least be able to say you enjoyed this movie a little bit, but hopefully, a lotta bit.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!
For our "Iron Man" review, click here.

For our "The Incredible Hulk" review, click here.

For our "Iron Man 2" review, click here.

For our "Thor" review, click here. 

For our "Captain America: The First Avenger" review, click here.

For our "The Avengers" review, click here.

For our "Iron Man 3" review, click here.

For our "Thor: The Dark World" review, click here.

For our "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" review, click here.

For our "Guardians of the Galaxy" review, click here.

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