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New Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Updated on November 6, 2015

Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johansson, James Spader (voice), Jeremy Renner, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Don Cheadle, Anothony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Linda Cardellini

The 2012 Marvel blockbuster The Avengers was a comic lovers wet dream, a movie that assembled a number of iconic superheroes -- Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Captain America (Chris Evans) -- and made them into an unstoppable, crime fighting team. The idea behind the movie was ingenious; the reality of it was even better than one could have hoped. With jaw-dropping special-effects at the service of a tightly structured narrative, clever and gut-busting doses of humor, a wonderful chemistry between its heroic figures, and a villain everyone loved to hate, the original movie was not only the best movie of that summer (and that was the same year as The Dark Knight Rises), it was a reminder of why people love these Marvel movies so much in the first place.

With the bar set so high, it would be unfair to expect The Avengers: Age of Ultron to completely match it. Sequels are rarely ever as good as their predecessors, and while that's certainly the case with this movie, you'd still expect it to at least be a fun time at the theaters. What's surprising is that, taken on its own terms, The Avengers: Age of Ultron is really not a good movie. The action scenes are pedestrian and underwhelming, the film's tone is surprisingly dreary, and the chemistry between the main characters is practically absent this time. It's the epitome of a bad summer blockbuster: all action and special-effects, with very little story and no sense of fun.

The trouble begins right from the beginning, with the movie dumping us in the middle of an action scene, with the Avengers (who are back together, and without explanation) raiding a Hydria outpost in Sokovia to retrieve Loki's scepter. Tony Stark believes he can harness its power to breathe life into his Ultron project: a global defense program powered by artificial intelligence. If it works, then machines will protect the world from any future alien invasion. Of course, we all know what happens in movies where man relies on A.I. for help, and once the Ultron sentient (voiced by James Spader) is brought to life, its first thought of creating peace involves wiping out the Avengers.

This leads to a number of action scenes that are as repetitive as they are unexciting. The original movie climaxed with a big, effects-laden set-piece set within a major city. Age of Ultron tries to one-up its predecessor by throwing in not one, not two, but three big, effects-laden set-pieces set within major cities. The final, climactic action scene stands apart from the others in that it takes place in a city that's flying high into the clouds, and the heroes have to spend as much time fighting as they do evacuating and protecting the citizens from the carnage happening around them. It's unique when compared to the other action scenes in the movie, but even still, it's not very thrilling.

This should have been a lot more fun! :/
This should have been a lot more fun! :/ | Source

Part of the problem with that lies with the way writer and director Joss Whedon works with the characters this time. The bow and arrow wielding Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is given a family here, although it does nothing to deepen his character. There's a bizarre, out-of-nowhere romantic subplot between Bruce Banner and Natascha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), that feels forced and awkward. Tony Stark has much of the spark and wit drained out of him, and Downey, Jr. doesn't seem to be having any fun playing him anymore. Thor has been given a vision set on Asgard (don't ask how; it doesn't make much sense) that has him moving in and out of the movie, almost at random. As for Captain America, he....well, he's in a lot of the action scenes, but that's really all that can be said about him.

The villains this time are especially disappointing. In spite of Jame Spader's best efforts, he can't do much to inject life into Ultron. He's not scary, threatening, charming, or menacing. He's quite forgettable, and Whedon's decision to have him referencing the Bible is an especially odd touch. There's been quite a bit of build-up for the characters Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), mutant twins who have the power, respectively, of lightning fast speed and telekinesis. Frankly, they're not given a whole lot to do, although one character's description of them leads to one of the movie's best line: "He's fast and she's really weird."

As was the case with the previous movie, the special-effects here are aces. The floating city at the end of the movie is marvelously done, and there is one decently executed scene where Captain America and Thor save a number of pedestrians trapped in their cars as they topple off a bridge. Familiar faces like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Sam Wilson, a.k.a. The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine (Don Cheadle) show up, and although the actors are fine in their roles, they are, for the most part, relegated to the background.

Perhaps the biggest difference between this movie and the original is one of tone. Apart from a couple of decent bits of humor (Hawkeye walks away with the movie's funniest scene), the movie is overall a dreary and lifeless enterprise. It's one thing to try to take this franchise down a darker path; it's another thing all together to take away the joy and energy that made its predecessor (and many of the Marvel movies) so much fun.

"I won't stop screaming until you give me more screen time!"
"I won't stop screaming until you give me more screen time!" | Source

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently number one at the box office, and it'll have to be if we want to see future installments in this franchise (which I, personally, do). There's an extra scene halfway through the end credits that's meant to prepare us for future Marvel movies, and it has me excited. With the next Avengers movie another three years away, here's hoping Whedon and company come up with something more exciting and engaging than what they've written here. Because this movie at least left me wanting to see where the next chapter in the franchise is going to go, I guess I don't regret seeing it. But it's not one that I care to see again.

Rated PG-13 for lots of action and violence, some suggestive comments

Final Grade: ** (out of ****)

What are your thoughts on this movie? :)

2 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)


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