Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Release: Friday, May 1, 2015

[RPX Theater]

Written by: Joss Whedon

Directed by: Joss Whedon

In the chaotic and climactic final twenty minutes a wistfulness arose within me, and though I didn’t let it fully disengage me from one of the year’s most ambitious CGI spectacles I was annoyed I let it happen. I knew it was going to, though. That feeling that, after all of this battling against the hype machine, this was it. This was all it could have been.

And of course it was; it makes sense. Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron may be the much-anticipated follow-up to that most grandiose uniting of superheroes from far-flung corners of the globe but in the end it is still just a movie. At two hours and twenty minutes it’s a lot of movie but even that kind of length ends up shortchanging those who have built this up in their heads as some kind of singular event. I honestly put the blame on Joss Whedon, though. Maybe if he hadn’t made Marvel’s The Avengers such a spectacular escape little old film fans like me wouldn’t have unfairly begun wielding our hopes and expectations like a shield of vibranium against which the man would have little hope of defending himself.

The one thing he won’t have to hope for is a solid box office presence, though. That’s perhaps the only thing that’s guaranteed about his new film.

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AGE OF JAMES SPADER

Age of Ultron arrives at a time when superhero movies have . . . okay, forget that. Instead: yay, summer! Rather than detangling the network of superhero film reel that’s enabled this one to happen, I think it’s best to cut to the chase and talk all things artificially intelligent and Hydra-related. Whedon wastes no time in appealing to our appropriately elevated adrenaline levels by introducing the gang kicking ass and taking names in the remote European nation of Sokovia, the location of a Hydra outpost. Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) has gotten a hold of Loki’s scepter and is using it to experiment on humans. His most notable creations become Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who take pleasure in being the collective thorn in the Avengers’ collective side.

Following their successful stand against some of Hydra’s henchmen, the Avengers return to headquarters and celebrate, but only briefly. Given Stark’s affinity for constantly tinkering with his creations he uses the A.I. he and Banner discover within the scepter to jumpstart his long-dormant and secretive Ultron project, a program he believes will be humanity’s best chance of living in a safer world.

Amidst one of the more memorable scenes — Thor ribbing his companions into trying to lift his hammer knowing full well none of them will succeed, only to be gobsmacked by Steve Rogers’ ability to actually influence it ever so subtly — a worst case scenario rears its ugly head as Ultron’s sentience rapidly exceeds Stark’s ability to control it. Ultron (voiced by James Spader) quickly deduces people are no good; that the only way Earth will be safe is to eradicate them. One thing I was impressed by was how my cynicism was put in perspective in the face of a vengeful, ten-foot tall robot with evil red eyes.

If there’s anything that bundles together Age of Ultron‘s dizzying number of thematic and physical ambitions it’s the notion that not everything created by a billionaire genius can be controlled. Not by him, and not even by Whedon. The arrival of a one-of-a-kind android in Spader, whose own image rather disappointingly supersedes that of his on-screen counterpart, heralds an age in which over-ambition, even born out of purely good intentions, very well might mean the downfall of everything. That’s obviously not going to be the case for the MCU. Still, this bloated sequel is not the joyride its predecessor was.

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SUPERHERO FATIGUE V. SUPERHERO INDIFFERENCE

In propelling the complex mythos and relationships that have endeared millions to this lone property into the future, Whedon has incidentally obligatorily spawned an environment in which everything is expected to get more and more extreme. Unfortunately that’s kind of an issue that can be traced back to the Avengers’ cinematic birth in 2012. How the Infinity War sequels are supposed to top this is anyone’s guess, but there is no doubt Marvel will demand it from the Russo brothers. I suspect we are yet to enter the darkest days facing our fearless heroes, and if this middle film is a barometer of anything, it’s solemnity.

But like Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-man, just because the story takes a darker turn — these properties are, after all, reflecting a reality that seems to be growing ever more hostile — this doesn’t discount Age of Ultron‘s potential to be an enjoyable summer getaway. Rather, I have found it easy to forget about that potential, and much more challenging to be as enthusiastic as Whedon’s canvas continues spreading to include lesser-known players, heroes who are admittedly cleverly worked into the picture, but who don’t mean as much if you haven’t done your Avengers homework. (And I am referring to the comics.) There’s something about the hatred Ultron directs primarily towards Tony Stark and secondarily to the human population at large that screams ‘classic movie villainy,’ yet the same can’t be said about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s decision to shift loyalties.

Perhaps my detachment from the Maximoff twins, in particular, stems from my failure to be entertained by Elizabeth Olsen trying on a Russian accent. Equally distracting is Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Beach Boys hairdo. These two needed their own cinematic introduction before showing up in ostensibly pivotal roles here. The Vision means little to me, although his . . . odd genetic make-up is something to behold. If this all sounds like a personal problem, that’s because it likely is. Whereas some are experiencing the inevitable ‘superhero fatigue,’ I find I may have accidentally banished myself to the realm of superhero indifference.

What Age of Ultron ultimately assembles (and stop me when this sounds familiar) is an overstuffed extravaganza that tries, mostly succeeding, to incorporate as much of the popular Marvel legacy as a single film can handle before breaking and before turning off as many of its several hundred million viewers as possible. It’s the epitome of blockbuster in a blockbuster age. It’s a mighty compromise between getting really technical and remaining lowest-common-denominator entertainment. I feel as unique as the Avengers are, they deserve something not quite as mundane.

At the same time, what else could I have expected out of a summer movie? While I don’t feel like my expectations turned on me as drastically as Stark’s program did him, like him I am reluctant to admit it was pretty much my fault. . .

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3-5Recommendation: Featuring Whedon’s trademark comic relief and ability to weave together multiple story lines, Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron unfortunately might signal what has been coming down the pipe for a long time. It’s a film of excess but also a film that minimizes enjoyment to pack in as much information and spectacle as possible. Diehards will no doubt lap this up. Anything less though, are sure to find things that could have been much better. A recommended watch in the large format, but unlike the first one I can’t say you need to see it twice in such a fashion. There is a mid-credits scene that you should stick around for.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 141 mins.

Quoted: “Everyone creates the thing they fear. Men of peace create engines of war. Avengers create invaders. Parents create children, that will supplant them.”

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Photo credits: http://www.moviepilot.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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51 thoughts on “Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron

    • Hey thanks for the nom Drew! 🙂

      I actually was not a fan of the selection of James Spader. Ultron ended up being merely a disembodied James Spader voice. All I could picture was the actor in the role and not this incredible A.I. but even still, being able to picture someone like Spader is better than a lot of the other campy choices they could have gone with I suppose. The villain did have some pretty good lines in there, too.

      • No problem, man. You deserve it!

        That’s too bad you didn’t enjoy Spader as much as I did. But I agree, now matter how you feel about him, he was better than going with some generic robotic voice. A character like Ultron definitely deserves more than that.

        Although this goes against my original comment, my biggest gripe against Ultron was that he was *too* humorous. I don’t think it quite fit with a humanity destroying robot. But in the end, Spader did well and was a good choice.

  1. Fantastic post, man! What a great read. Haven’t seen this one yet (maybe tonight) but I’m not awfully excited. Whedon’s “trademark comic relief” is such a turn-off for me.

    • Yeah it works for some and not for others. Personally I was glad for it because otherwise this thing would be a heck of a headache. Im just not that big of a fanboy for the comics. A fact that really hurt me here. 😛

    • I had fun, but this film is an example of Marvel’s blockbuster formula kind of working against the story. I’d even read that Whedon was in a big struggle with the studio to keep the farmhouse scene as the studio wanted even more action and stuff instead. I thought that was kinda lame! Haha. But yeah. I find the first one to be a total blast.

      Thanks for reading this ridiculously long post Natasha! 😉

  2. I’m in the same boat as you. This was a labored attempt to set up Avengers: Infinity War (separated into parts 1 and 2 of course) with the introduction of all these new characters instead of just focusing on the superheroes we know and love.

    I liked it fine but I’d take a lucid plot over a cinematic incubator for future films any day. 🙂

    • Exactly. Apparently Whedon and Marvel didn’t see eye-to-eye on the development of Hawkeye re: the farmhouse scenes were supposed to be cut in favor of even more bombastic action. Can you imagine?? Talk about overkill…..

  3. Great review. I think the film was good but still quite disappointing.
    Not sure if it is in comparisons to their reason great films but it felt like a foot note rather than a solid film of its own.
    2 hour trailer for phase 3 is a bit harsh but not wholly untrue.

    • Haha i like that idea: 2 hour trailer for phase 3. In some ways it is. It’s also suffering a bit of middle-child syndrome. It wants so much attention all at once but we’ve have the novelty of The Avengers beforehand and now we look forward to the epic drama that Infinity War(s) will hopefully provide.

      I think Age of Ultron was facing a mighty challenge. It needed to do something incredible to remain a ‘relevant’ bit of film, if that makes sense. And sadly I didn’t think Ultron was the best thing about this film. I couldn’t help but just picture James Spader the entire time, which isn’t the worst thing in the world at all since I love that guy, but this villain wasn’t as threatening as I’d hoped it’d be. Which is kinda why I intro’d this review a bit with my expectations rambling. Expectations are a lot of times to blame with these big blockbusters, aren’t they?

        • I knew this film was in a spot of trouble awhile back when expectations were just……sky-high. Part of why I made this review so long was me trying to explain where I was mentally going in and how a film is kind of doomed when we start thinking its going to be an event. A movie is just a movie. But I suppose we can also partly blame the marketing around these things. They love to make these into events, rather than just a means of escape for film fans.

  4. Great review here Tom, I think there’s a bit of fatigue for me so I didn’t care about this as much as I did the first film.

    P.S. Sent you an email earlier, hope to hear from you soon 🙂

    • Cheers Ruth, the superhero fatigue isn’t so much of an issue with me as my ignorance to what some of the more novel heroes here were. In other words, I wish I had known more about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch and the Vision before this film. I think a stand-alone film with at least QS an SW would have been good to introduce us to what they’re bringing to the table. Expand their background so that when we see the introductory fight we are really kind of empathetic to why they hate Stark so much. And the Vision just felt like he was flung in there at the last minute. Superhero fatigue is definitely legit at this point but I’m still a fan of these big ass movies. Homogeneity is definitely an issue when trying to cater to so many global fans, so we have to at least give Whedon that credit. This was a good time, but not as great as I was hoping.

      • My review of this is up now, I’m quite generous in my rating given how I feel about it. I do still give props to Whedon for somehow not making this a huge a mess it could’ve been.

        P.S. So did you get my email? Pls let me know asap if you can take part or not.

        • Could have sworn I responded in my last comment that I had seen the email, I guess that was the comment I left on your blog! Haha. sorry i’m absolutely overwhelmed right now with stuff with the blogathon I’m running with Mark from Three Rows Back and doing posts on my own post and trying to get a job at the same time. You’ll have to forgive my lack of organization. lol. I’ll try and think up a question here in a little bit if that’s okay. How late can I respond tonight?

  5. That’s a great final line to a really solid review mate. You and I are in accord here I think it’s fair to say. Whedon did about as good a job as he could to with the sheer amount of plotlines etc that Marvel necessitates from its Cinematic Universe.

    • Age of Ultron is a film so impossibly connected to everything else it seems a bit unfair to criticize the film when Whedon had so many things to deal with. But the entertainment value just didn’t feel as high as the first. And that one still had the lofty task of coherently uniting six heroes together. Then putting a big obstacle in their way. Ultron as the villain could have been something really scary but I think it was just average here.

      Appreciate the love man, this was a heck of a review to write. Definitely waffled on a bit much. 😉

  6. Excellently worded, so much so was the grief you were giving ‘Ultron’ I was surprised by your final 6/8 verdict, nevertheless a lot of what you said is true and somebody had to say it. Superhero fatigue is a thing, I have it, but superhero indifference is something else, and I feel like I want a slice

    • I was really hoping to be able to give Ultron a 7 but a 6 is definitely still pretty positive, you’re right. There was a lot of stuff to admire and enjoy about this. But I couldn’t help shake the feeling that there was a great load of potential missed. Chiefly in the evil of Ultron, the characters of QS and SW and the Vision were spoon fed to us rather than convincingly tied in (and the Russian accents Olsen and Taylor-Johnson were using were just terrible, though that’s kinda nit-picky lol), and the formula of action scene – dialogue – action scene – dialogue – grand finale was kind of lame.

      Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a film that I didn’t appreciate as much as everyone else, successfully broke from the mold and I was kinda hoping this would do something like that. But it was essentially a carbon copy of The Avengers.

  7. Great review Tom. I must admit that I am pretty wary about this one, I was not a fan of the first one. The trailers for this one piqued more interest for me though, so we will see.

    • Gracias amiga!!! I’d be interested to hear your take on this given you didn’t like the first. I think Ultron just offers more of the same but with less satisfactory returns, in my book. The first was cool cuz we saw how they all weren’t at first able to come together and be successful as a group. Here we are now used to them fighting as a unit, and we’ve gotten used to them through their various stand-alone films. I kind of had this paranoia that this film was destined to be a bit of a letdown b/c it’s going to have to do something insane to “refresh” the senses, if that makes any sense at all. I hope you enjoy it though all the same!

    • Cheers dude, i didn’t think this was a great review at all. Hahah I let myself waffle on way too long here. 😛

  8. I did enjoy this, as did my teen kids, though it seemed to me not so much overstuffed (it is a BIG film experience) but compressed. Whedon’s director’s cut purportedly came in at over three hours, but Marvel (no doubt looking for more screenings per day) got it down to 141 minutes. One minute less than its predecessor. Wonder if they’ll re-release it down the line, à la AVATAR, with Whedon’s version. Another fine review, Tom.

    • The Age of Ultron was a little bit much for me. And I kind of started losing interest in Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch both in performance and in the roles they played. Like I said in the review, I think they need some prior experience before their involvement here really makes an impression. That was how I saw it. Thanks for the comment Michael. 🙂

  9. Interesting that you bring up the superhero fatigue point, because I reckon I was getting there. Going into this I kept thinking to myself, “what’s the point – what are the stakes?”. But I ended up buying it. It swept me away for the vast majority of the two and half hours.

    Ant-Man might have a tough job on its, um, antlers, but I reckon Age of Ultron is Marvel succeeding. Nonetheless, really intriguing read Tom. I wasn’t exactly bowled over by the Maximoff accent work either!

    Adam.

    • Age of Ultron is just. . . so. . . big. Hahah. So much movie. My unfamiliarity with some of the characters that ended up playing a bigger role than I was anticipating distanced me from the heart and soul of this film. That’s not to say I wanted it to be all of the original guys taking everything by the reigns of course, but I am a firm believer that Quicksilver/The Scarlet Witch ought to have had their own film before this behemoth arrived.

      I really look forward to Ant Man. I think that’s gonna be a great “little” flick and one I hope will have the same kind of quirkiness and outrageous action that can be found when RDJ debuted in the original Iron Man. 😀

      • I won’t disagree with you on the Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch point. They were lost in the shuffle a tad. I guess the problem is that they’re villains, so how do you market a standalone film centred around villains as prep for Age of Ultron?

        I hope Ant-Man does the business. Big fan of Paul Rudd. The trailers are quite zany, which is a promising change of pace!

        • I think a villain-based movie could work. After all, we will be seeing Suicide Squad fairly soon, right? Though, I’ve seen a few leaks of that. . .well, I say leaks. . . but I guess I”m referring to Will Smith’s god-awful-looking Deadshot costume. It has me a bit ancy to see how it’s all going to come together. So maybe I should hold my breath! Haha

          • Are the Suicide Squad proper villains then? Excuse my lack of comicy knowledge! I think a cool villain-led movie could work, but are the Maximoff twins cool? Maybe they could be.

            Yeah I saw Smith in his costume. Looks a bit like Slade Wilson from Arrow.

            • From what I gather (and I haven’t kept up with the comics whatsoever) the Suicide Squad are purely villainous. It’ll be made up of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, the Joker, Captain Boomerang, Lex Luthor, Rick Flagg and maybe a few others.

      • How have you not heard about this yet dude?? Hahah it’s one of the more interesting investments of the MCU I’ve learned of since their risky Guardians of the Galaxy. You should check out a trailer for it right away! 😀 😀

        • My pop culture exposure is sporadic at the best of times, I don’t have a TV and none of my mates are into stuff like that. I thought it was some kinda of prank, but its more like a cinematic nightmare come real.

          At least blockbuster shit like The Terminator was still an awesome watch. Ant-Man in comparison sounds like a Pixar children’s film.

            • Hahaha nah, just that super-hero films seem to take over everything people are talking about re- film whenever a new one comes out. And I can’t stand them so I have to try and keep my mouth shut as much as possible and stop myself from writing a review hating on it.

              • No you should totally write a scathing review man. Some of my posts that I labeled ‘rants’ are for that purpose only and they’ve generated a lot of traffic actually.

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