Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

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RATING:
(3 STARS)

Because it begins, ends, and is about something, Avengers: Age of Ultron already has a leg up on most other Marvel movies. And boy, it needs that leg up because there are times when this feels like one of the laziest studio movies in years. At other times, however, it reaches the sweet spot you hope films like this reach. It’s funny, focused, and packed with character moments that it works to earn.

The film opens with our merry band of six super friends—Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)—invading the snowy compound of Hydra agent Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann). Their goal: reclaim Loki’s scepter.

Once in their possession (as if that was ever in doubt), Tony Stark and Bruce Banner discover a sort of brain inside it and decide to tap its power to realize a long-standing dream of “Ultron,” a team of smart robots that will encase the Earth and protect it from another alien invasion. This brain is basically a more developed version of Jarvis, the voice that powers Stark’s Iron Man suit, and when he gains consciousness, he nearly destroys Jarvis and builds himself a crude metal body. He’s on a mission: To protect Earth, he must destroy its most present threat: mankind.

Ultron is easily the best villain of the Marvel film series to date. (Tom Hiddleston is great, but Loki as a character never did much for me.) His plan is coherent, and he’s a genuine threat to our heroes. He’s born of Stark, so the two share a number of character traits (including a twisted sense of humor), and as such, the film is very much about defining and saving one’s legacy. But what’s most interesting about him is the way he divides the Avengers. Stark wants to save him, still thinking a benevolent version of Ultron is necessary to protect Earth. Banner is reluctantly on his side. Captain America couldn’t be more opposed; He wants to destroy Ultron and everything (and everyone) he’s created.

Thor, meanwhile, is torn thanks to a little lady called Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who, along with her twin brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), does a real number on our heroes. The latter twin is a physical threat, someone who can move faster than one of Hawkeye’s arrows. Meanwhile, the former twin is a mental threat. She hypnotizes Thor and several other Avengers over the course of this film, making them see their worst fears and using those visions to manipulate them into doing her own bidding. What’s their end game? They want Stark dead. A rocket with his company’s logo on it killed their parents, so they team up with Ultron to destroy the Avengers.

As with the first Avengers film, Age of Ultron is at its best when it’s quiet. Whether it’s a well-placed quip—like the incessant ragging on Captain America for his hatred of profanity—or a thoughtful(ish) discussion of the ethics of Stark’s experimentation, the heart of this film are its character moments. It took a while for me to relent and give myself over to them, but credit Joss Whedon for persisting and not turning this into an extended preview for Captain America: Civil War or The Infinity War or something. His mind is squarely focused on Age of Ultron, and I really appreciated that.

The film loses steam whenever it transitions into action, and it’s never worse than when it explicitly invokes 9/11 in “Africa” (because Africa can’t have city names). A building collapses in on itself, and citizens flee, covered in blood, dust, and debris. It’s a tough sequence to watch and even tougher to swallow when the heroes just happily move on. Destruction for destruction’s sake (there’s no other way to describe this sequence) adds unnecessary minutes to an already bloated film.

The climactic action sequence looks cool but, like nearly every big and loud sequence in this movie, it goes on way too long. That said, Age of Ultron‘s missteps are easy enough to forgive. Put quite simply, it’s a fun time at the movies—nothing more, nothing less. I like the way it moved from point A to point B, and it serves as a very nice way to kick off the summer of 2015.

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2 Responses to Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

  1. Wendell May 20, 2015 at 6:24 am

    I did enjoy the movie, but certainly not as much as I did the first. I liked Ultron, but I still say Loki is the MCU’s best villain to date, both complex and nasty, played amazingly by Tom Hiddleston. Ultron could’ve been that, but they dropped the ball on him a bit. His connection to Stark should’ve made him special, but it wasn’t explored enough. The 9/11 style portion of the movie is unfortunately startling. My wife generally doesn’t notice or pay attention to cultural references such as this one, yet even she was taken aback by this. That said, it’s still a very good film.

    Reply
    • John Gilpatrick May 20, 2015 at 11:38 am

      Glad you enjoyed it. I’m not a fan of the original, so I was pleasantly surprised how much this one worked for me.

      Reply

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