Dylan Boaden, host of the Marvellous Podcast, gives his two cents on the biggest blockbuster of the year.
After being teased with casting news, concept art, movie posters, teaser trailers, domestic trailers, international trailers and trailers to trailers for what felt like forever The Avengers: Age of Ultron is finally here and the question on everyone’s mind is, can it live up to all the hype? I’m glad to announce that if you loved the first movie you will love this one too. Is it without its flaws? No. But is it an entertaining time spent with your favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe characters? Definitely.
Looking for a way to keep the world safe without having to put themselves in harm’s way time and time again, Tony Stark secretly develops an artificial intelligence using Loki’s mind bending staff and the infinity stone embedded within. Building upon robot sentries he’s developed for crowd control and civilian protection around public Avenger battles, he initiates the Ultron program. Things go horribly wrong when Ultron (a giant sinister version of the Iron Man armor) becomes sentient and decides the only way for world peace is to destroy humanity and start anew. Step one to achieving that goal of course being the destruction of the Avengers.
The characterizations of every core Avengers team member are once again perfect, their clashing personalities and jokey jabs at each other bring a dimension to the movie that only Writer/Director Joss Whedon can provide. Straight from the beginning, when Iron Man lets loose with some minor profanity boy scout Captain America gives him a firm “watch your language”, “did you really just call me out on language?” Tony retorts as Steve sheepishly replies “sorry it’s an old habit”. This gets the ball rolling on the fun banter and becomes a light hearted running joke throughout the rest of the film. The real treat in an Avengers movie is seeing everyone interact and for that this movie is perfect.
It’s these clever little moments, of which there are at least forty sprinkled throughout the movie that make this so good. From everyone taking turns trying to lift Thor’s hammer to whose girlfriend is more accomplished to Tony marking his territory on a pile of wood (that description makes it sound way weirder than it is) its these one liners, side remarks throwaway jokes that really makes the experience. There are so many in fact that repeat viewings are necessary just to take them all in.
Which is odd to say. That in a superhero movie the parts I look forward to are the next talking scene, the next exposition scene, the usual boring interim between the next big action sequence. But again this is truly where the movie shines, the relationships between the characters and the ways you know they’ll act in any given situation is because we’ve got to know them individually so well and these team up movies have earned that.
While seeing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes fight side my side in the opening scene got me giddy (during one long take just like the great New York battle scene in the original Avengers movie) the action here seemed too fast for the camera to capture. I had a hard time keeping up with what had just happened and the incredible moment in the trailer where they all leap in to the air together in attack formation was blink and you’ll miss it. This wasn’t the case for all action scenes though, the highly anticipated Hulkbuster vs Hulk punch up was everything you’d hoped for, decimating city buildings and streets across a whole city and jam packed full of fun little beats in-between. It’s during the latter action scenes however that I felt myself getting Transformers fatigue. In order to give everybody a chance to feel meaningful in the fight it caused battles to drag on, especially scene after scene after scene of herding innocent people on to life rafts. Though I give Joss Whedon and his stunt team huge props for coming up with fresh and different ways for the team to use their powers together (evident especially in the use of Captain America and his many different shield related assists).
The core team and their established friends/associates all seem like they’re having a ball working together (especially Don Cheadle stealing his scenes) and as promised Hawkeye has a more prominent and unexpected role (which I won’t spoil). The Hulk even starts a blossoming relationship if you can believe it. His moments shared with Black Widow while coming down from his rage outs are touching and yet tragic at the same time. James Spader is hypnotizing as Ultron, through his body language and limited facial range he is menacing, evocative, charismatic and surprisingly very funny too. As a villain though he’s really not all that bad, sure he has a world destruction scheme but he doesn’t directly hurt many people (less than The Avengers themselves do in the first battle alone) and at the end of the day as cool as he is he does sadly feel somewhat de-powered from his hinted potential. I suppose this is in order to give our heroes a chance at defeating him but at the same time it diminishes him as a real threat.
I mean he can transfer his consciousness to any other drone but continues to fight our heroes one on one in prolonged fight sequences. He can travel anywhere through the internet and access any information in a second but doesn’t bother to track the Avengers down. He has unlimited access to Vibranium yet doesn’t make himself indestructible using it. It was speculated that Ultron would build himself out of Vibranium (supposedly the strongest metal in the world and what Cap’s shield is made out of) but in the end all he did was use it to build engines and drills to power his very own meteor made out of a small city, which makes his trip to Wakanda (the fictional African setting for Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther and the only place Vibranium exists) all the more pointless. Andy Serkis has a bit part as questionable arms dealer (or should I say arm dealer) Ulysses Klaw selling the metal to Ultron and sporting a cool South African accent, I am sure we will see him pop up in the years to come too.
The new additions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch have a fair amount of screen time and their history ties to Tony’s past giving them ample motivation and working them in to the narrative of the story organically. Scarlet Witch really was presented as a witch creepily scuttling backwards in to doorways, casting spells on people and using her mind manipulation to create some incredibly eerie cameo filled nightmare visions for our heroes. Quicksilver had a few moments to shine, dismantling a gun and laying out all its bullets in a moment and some slow motion punch outs in bullet time spring to mind but didn’t bring the same immediate wow impact his Days of Future Past counterpart did.
What felt completely inorganic though was The Vision who was I’m afraid to say, an utter disappointment. There was some serious uncanny valley going on between where Paul Bettany’s face ends and the CGI and practical effects begin and his look felt old school comic bookie and garish. The comic book origin of Vision was the one thing I found interesting about the character (being made by Ultron to destroy the Avengers but in the process finding the beauty of life, loyalty and love through their bonds, therefore changing his view on the world and motivating him to take up arms against his maker) but here he feels shoe horned in worse than Venom in Spider-man 3. In all of five minutes he’s made, born, introduced and then after a very brief speech trusted in to the team immediately after a similar experiment went terribly wrong putting them in this very dire situation! Nobody but Cap stops to say hang on this isn’t this just exactly what you did before?!
Though interviews and trailers have teased this as a darker movie with heroes turning against heroes it’s really isn’t. Outside of a few very brief heated conversations between the team it is hardly the buildup you’d expect for a full on Civil War to come. The next Captain America movie will have a lot more to fit in to its running time, with no real ground work laid down here for the upcoming conflict and everyone leaving on good terms. While standing on its own as a self-contained story the movie works well, honouring the existing universe narrative and yet also further building elements for it’s future but does get in to some Iron Man 2 territory becoming a slave to setting up future instalments. While I can understand some of these elements (particularly most of Thor’s tangents) may seem out of place for general audiences not in the know as a fan I appreciated every little tease of events to come which strangely enough didn’t focus on its next two projects (Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War). With so many characters vying for screen time it was always a tough balance but Whedon has managed to pull it off again, unfortunately while everyone gets their moment or two it’s the running time that suffers making the movie feel too long and dragging in some places. Don’t get me wrong Avengers Age of Ultron is a thrilling joy ride that will entertain young and old alike it just wasn’t the second coming I was hoping it to be and strangely left me exhausted rather than anticipating more. Once the fatigue has worn off though I’ll be ready to jump back in again for another ride now knowing what it actually is and not what I wanted it to be. From large spectacle to smaller scale Ant-Man will be next up to continue the Marvel legacy that looks to have no end in sight. Just keep in mind, Marvel weren’t kidding when they said there is only one credits scene so do yourself a favor and head home straight after that so you too can join in the discussion.
Review by Dylan Boaden