Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Ultimate Comic-Book Movie: Our Review of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015)

Directed By: Joss Whedon (The Avengers

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizebeth Olsen, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments

Run Time: 2 hours, 21 minutes

Synopsis: Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) discovers a way to create an artificial intelligence he dubs Ultron that could potential protect the world so The Avengers can retire. When Ultron (Spader) becomes sentient, it immediately decides to best way to protect the world is to rid it of mankind…starting with The Avengers.

REVIEW

Andrew: Hello dear readers! Our sincerest apologies for the long time between reviews. Simply put things have been crazy for the Kecks the past year or so. We moved from Connecticut to Georgia and then back to Connecticut in the span of 15 months. We each worked full-time jobs that had some pretty strange hours that limited our ability to see as many movies as we would've liked, as well as cut into our recording/transcribing reviews time.

But now we're back in Connecticut and our schedules have opened up to allow for more movie-seeing and reviewing! And what better way to make our comeback then by reviewing the presumptive summer box office champ?

Sarah: Yes! Tuesday night we were fortunate enough to be invited to an advanced screening of Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron thanks to our good friend Kevin. AOU brings back all of the Avengers from the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films as they band together to fight a sentient robot named Ultron that Tony Stark creates through artificial intelligence in an effort to create a sort of "shield for the world."

A: That is basically how Tony pitches it. So with AOU we see some old faces that we're familiar with and some new faces involved - James Spader (NBC's The Blacklist) as the face of Ultron, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen (previously seen as a married couple in Godzilla) as siblings Pietro and Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who work with Ultron…

S: They're never called that though, they're never called by those names, it's always Pietro and Wanda or The Maximoffs.

A: Good point! Then there's also a new character whom…I guess we can include him in the review since he's been included in plenty of promotional material for the move, we're introduced to The Vision as played by Paul Bettany (A Knight's Tale). We'll touch on him more later on.

S: There's a massive cast in this movie. We've got other non-Avengers characters coming back from the previous movies like Anthony Mackie's Falcon, Don Cheadle's Rhodey/War Machine, but there's also some other new characters like Andy Serkis (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) as an arms dealer that Ultron deals with named Ulysses Klaue - a future villain we'll see down the line in the MCU - plus old S.H.I.E.L.D. stand-bys Nick Fury and Maria Hill, played by Sam Jackson and Cobie Smulders. Again, it's a huge cast.

A: Oh, and there's one other relatively well-known actress in the movie but I'd rather not discuss how she comes into play as I don't want to ruin anything regarding her role. But suffice it to say I liked her addition.

S: Agreed.

A: Okay, so let's get into it! Sarah, what did you think of Avengers: Age of Ultron?

S: I really, really loved it. It had such a different feel, I felt, from the first one. We weren't having to get our characters together this time as they're already together, but dysfunctionally together as we find out. They're a team but they're not quite the team that they think they are.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was balls-to-the-walls action the whole time, which I loved, intermixed with the quick wit that we've come to love and cherish from our Avengers characters. I thought it was very impressive and I really, really enjoyed it. What did you think?

A: I'm right up there with you. I had a smile on my face the entire movie. It is immensely entertaining, and as you said, it is action-packed. It blew my mind how much superhero and comic book action was going on in this movie on the screen.

But it was also mixed in with the occasional - and much needed - emotional and slower moments. There were a lot of good character beats in this movie, which I think it did incredibly well. Joss Whedon wrote yet another great script. He has such a great grasp on these characters and he clearly cares about them. He gave his actors great stuff to work with. But man… it's a truly impressive feat of film-making.

S: It was. I will say this: I thought it was the first time that we've seen a MCU villain not named Loki that was really well-developed. And I think so much of that goes to James Spader.

A: Oh absolutely, Spader as Ultron is…

S: He's a complex character. He's not just a mindless, killing robot-machine. He has consciousness. He's a sentient being that comes across as… after having just seen Ex Machina and its themes of artificial intelligence and dealing with the Turing Test, I felt like we weren't watching a robotic character, we weren't just watching one of Tony Stark's creations… we were watching an actual living and breathing character.

A: I completely agree. I think Spader completely embodied Ultron. His voice is so good. He is so awesome in that regard.

S: He brought great humor to the role…

A: Humor, scariness… I mean he's a scary character.

S: He brought emotion to the character, and emotion that I was not expecting. Because up until now it seems like all of our Marvel villains are all anger, all the time. We don't get much else from them. So I really…I thought that was a breath of fresh air.

A: Exactly. And you know…obviously Loki is the best villain in the MCU, and part of that is because he is, by far, the most three-dimensional villain in the MCU. But Ultron gives him a run for his money. And again, I give credit to Joss Whedon for that as well. Ultron could've very well been a two-dimensional character, but he's filled with pathos and he's got daddy issues with Tony Stark.

Because Tony is very much Ultron's father. He creates Ultron thanks in part to Loki's scepter from the first Avengers movie - this film starts with the group tracking down the scepter, and they wind up finding it - but Tony uses the scepter's power or knowledge to create Ultron. And it's Tony's idea to create Ultron as a peace-keeping weapon…or a shield for the world, as you put it earlier, so The Avengers don't have to protect it anymore.

But Ultron doesn't quite think on the same level as Tony. As is pointed out in the movie, Tony is scared, and I think Ultron is, too.

S: Yes.

A: Whereas Tony's fears lead him to create Ultron, Ultron's fears lead him to want to destroy humanity. Essentially he wants to create another extinction event so…

S: So Planet Earth can be reborn.

A: Yes. It's heavy stuff, really, but it's handled really well and the way that Ultron ultimately tries to accomplish this, I thought, was very smart and breathtaking.

S: I thought it was, too. It was… it was definitely new. It was a new way of looking at these characters and finding out that they're not perfect and they're not necessarily the heroes that we thought they were. That, for the most part, they're still human which I thought was interesting and changed some dynamics.

I was really glad they brought in the "Miracles" - the Maximoffs - and that they get to be a part of this world now. So we're seeing more magical, more mystical creatures that Marvel fans have always known about but seeing them on-screen kind of ties them all together.

A: So let's talk about that a little bit. I really liked the Maximoff twins, especially Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch. I think she had some really good scenes and she has a big impact on the movie because early on she pretty much single-handedly lays waste to The Avengers…

S: Easily. In one fell swoop…

A: By making them see visions of things that scare them and it's really trippy. These vision scenes were fantastic. Particularly I'm talking about Cap, Natasha and Thor that are given these visions where Wanda rattles them. And not only are we seeing some things from the past, like for Cap and Natasha, but we're seeing the future for Thor which is setting up his future movie Thor: Ragnorok. And it's all done really well and it's eerie and unsettling in a good way.

S: It really is unsettling, especially to see that a character like Thor - not of this world - can be laid to waste by this young woman. And he's the only one who recognizes the vision for what it is and then uses that to see what's coming.

A: Right. Thor's vision sends him on a bit of a side mission, a side story that deals with the Infinity Stones…

S: And for all intents and purposes truly brings those to the forefront even more than Guardians of the Galaxy did.

A: And I thought that was a great. 

Switching to the other Maximoff twin, I thought Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Quicksilver was good. He didn't have as much to do as his sister but he had some really good scenes and I thought Taylor-Johnson was good in the role.

S: He didn't have to say much so he was good for what his role was. I wouldn't say he's the best of the actors in the film, but I was thankful they gave him an Eastern European accent because Taylor-Johnson's real voice is kind of high pitched and it just wouldn't have fit. But they had him deepen his voice and throw in the accent and it was well done. I actually enjoyed watching him on-screen in this film.

A: I also liked this film's execution of his super-speed. Whedon had a challenge in that his version of Quicksilver was the second one to reach the silver screen after X-Men: Days of Future Past had theirs come out first - and to a fair degree of success. But I liked what they did with Quicksilver here and I especially liked that he gets out of breath after running so much.

S: It humanized him even though he's a mutant now. Excuse me, he's a "Miracle."

A: Right, Marvel isn't allowed to call them mutants!

So now then let's talk about the other new character added to The Avengers, and that is The Vision as played by Paul Bettany. I don't want us to get into how he comes into being, I don't want to get into what he ends up doing, let's just say that The Vision is pretty cool.

S: The Vision is very cool. And funny.

A: He looks awesome, too.

S: He looked amazing. He was compelling and Bettany did a great job in his limited role. As we all know, Bettany has been the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. since Iron Man so it's a voice we're familiar with. But The Vision is not J.A.R.V.I.S., let's clarify that. I guess I was not quite expecting that, either, because I didn't really know anything about this character going in. So I really, really enjoyed his addition to the team.

A: And one thing I want to say is I'm excited to see where they go with this because with The Vision in the MCU now, as we mentioned with the Miracles, it's taking these movies, the MCU into - much like with Guardians of the Galaxy - kind of another realm of comic book-ness and I'll be interested to see how audiences react to it. Because this is where the MCU is going. This is where we're headed with Doctor Strange and Black Panther and Captain Marvel and Avengers: Infinity Wars parts 1 and 2. 

S: This sets off Phase 3?

A: No, this is the second-to-last film in Phase 2. This July's Ant-Man is the last film in Phase 2, which is a little strange, but it is.

S: Okay, but we can confidently say that Age of Ultron starts setting up Phase 3. 

A: Absolutely. Phase 3 will start with Captain America: Civil War which has already begun filming. So yes, lots of seeds being sown here for the future films in the different phases of the MCU.

S: Which is so exciting.

A: And lastly I would like to talk about Hawkeye. Jeremy Renner…Joss Whedon totally made it up to him here for making him a mindless zombie for much of the first Avengers film. Hawkeye is the emotional core of this film.

S: He really is, and…I get why they did it. I get what Joss was trying to do. I'm not sure that it was…it was maybe a little overkill? That's the only thing for me. I loved his storyline and I loved, like, his emotion that they let him show, because he has a secret that I didn't see coming at all…

A: Me neither.

S: And I thought it was really great, and touching and it really ties some stuff together. So I enjoyed that aspect of the film, but I did feel like they said, "Yeah, we short-shrifted him last time so here's all the Hawkeye you could want!"

A: It's definitely a bit of a makeup move to Renner and his character, especially because he's not going to get his own movie, so they gotta give him something.

S: And they did give him a nice story.

A: I thought it was good. And one of the reasons I liked it so much is because it placed emphasis on how he's human. Hawkeye is not a superhuman…

S: Right. He and Natasha are regular humans with specific skill sets among these superhumans and gods, and they're best friends and have been through a lot together and this part of the story fills in some of those areas where we wonder just how important they are to each other as well. It was really nice for Hawkeye.

A: And not only is he the emotional core for the group this time around but Renner gets a lot of great lines. A lot of the movie's humor comes from Hawkeye, which I thought Renner pulled off very well, and they're legit laugh-out-loud moments. The movie does have it's fair share of laughs, too.

S: It does, which is one of the things I loved most about it.

A: So we can probably start to wrap this up. We haven't really talked too much about Iron Man or Cap or Hulk, but honestly that's because while they get a lot of nice moments, they get their shining moments and stuff, but the Avengers movies do a great job of focusing on the other guys in the group that don't necessarily get their own standalone movies.

S: The more secondary characters, absolutely.

A: So kudos to them for that.

S: I did enjoy that. And yes, let's wrap this up. This film is certainly brand new so I might need to let it simmer a little bit, but it's definitely my favorite of the two Avengers films.

A: Agreed, and here's my thing: The Avengers probably had higher highs than this one, but it also had lower lows (the first 15-20 minutes, for example). It was kind of roller coaster-y. People were just giddy to finally see The Avengers working together on-screen. This time it's just cool to see them…

S: Truly working together from the get-go.

A: Right. I mean, the movie starts with a great opening action scene where The Avengers are on a mission to find the scepter, and they're bouncing off one another and working together to utilize each other's super powers. It was awesome how they work together. So it's more of that throughout this movie, even when they're at each other's throats sometimes (and sometimes quite literally), but this sequel is steadier. It may not reach the same heights as the first one necessarily but it's more consistent with it's awesomeness.

S: I agree, I completely agree.

A: Heck, the final battle scene alone is bonkers and - I think - blows the New York City battle out of the water.

S: That's debatable, but it's really good.

I enjoyed Age of Ultron, I had a blast watching it and can't wait to see it again. We are so thankful to our friend Kevin for getting us in to the screening. It was just a lot of fun and definitely, definitely is one to check out. I mean, everyone is going to see it, but they totally should.

FINAL VERDICT: A must-see in theatres!

(Individual Scores - S: 5/5  A: 5/5)




Photo Courtesy: Disney/Marvel Studios

2 comments:

  1. I usually agree with you guys! I just don't on this one, for the most part.

    I will see this one again, in a couple weeks, but my first time through it I thought Ultron was really under whelming, and I actually thought the opposite, that he was really rushed as a character and his arch didn't really make sense.

    I thought his arch was really rushed and I think Ultron should have been someone you spent multiple movies with. The fact that he was evolving into this unstoppable force, or so they said, and then just seemed to be defeated way too easily at the end was a little disappointing. Those robots were like Puddies from the Power Rangers, they just broke apart with one hit lol.

    Also, why do they kill Strucker so easily? He was really wasted as a character. To put him as an important part of a post-credit scene previous to this and then to just kill him off camera was just a waste. The mid-post credit scenes are losing a bit of luster to me.

    The opening sequence while it was cool and action packed, I think the CGI in the opening sequence, especially with Thor, was just bad. It looked very TMNT to me.

    I can see why this is only getting a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes because it was not the best movie. They did a lot right with it, including the Hawkeye story, which was awesome, but there was not enough of that time out of the super suits where they just talked to one another, where I thought the first Avengers did it way better. Those character moments where there isn't CGI, there just wasn't enough of that.

    The Thor stuff was confusing too. I think a lot of stuff was cut explaining what the little pond thing was because for casual movie goers, they just kind of say, "oh, this water is on all worlds and we just kinda found it" yeah... no plot holes in that at all... lol

    I would have said like 3.5/4 out of 5 for age of Ultron. I thought Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy were both better than this one.

    I agree its a fun movie and that it needs to be seen on the big screen, but it's not one of the better "complete films" they have put out in awhile.

    And I'm going to make a comment that might surprise you but I think the MCU in Phase 2 has been over shadowed by the Marvel TV universe. I enjoyed watching Agents of Shield, (Season 2 at-least) and Daredevil way more than all the MCU phase 2 movies, other than Cap 2 and GOTG.

    Granted, Phase 2 is still not over, I'm super pumped for Ant-Man, but the TV world has been whooping ass lately.

    But again, I agree, this is a movie people should see in theaters and it's a really fun movie, but just not the best they have done as of late.

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