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Three Views: Avengers: Age of Ultron

May 1, 2015

Age of Ultron Poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron – A Walt Disney Studios Release

Release Date: May 1st, 2015
Rated PG for violence and language
Running Time: 141 minutes

Joss Whedon (director)

Joss Whedon (writer)

Danny Elfman (music)
Brian Tyler (music)

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
James Spader as Ultron (voice)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Paul Bettany as Jarvis (voice)

Age of Ultron

Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

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Avengers: Age of Ultron Review By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

“I think we’ve lost the element of surprise,” Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) says during the frantic opening battle of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and this statement pretty much describes the feelings I had watching this sequel.  There are some things to enjoy here, the likeable characters being chief among them, but there also seems to be the nagging feeling that this is just another piece in a much larger machine.  It’s an impressively built machine to be sure, but the genuine magic of seeing this team together for the first time in the superior 2012 film is mostly gone.  What we are left with is a pretty good sequel that’s often fun to watch, but also delivers the sense of just going through the motions.

When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) resurrects his old peacekeeping program in a desperate attempt to keep his teammates safe, the result is a powerful force of artificial intelligence known as Ultron (James Spader), that even his Iron Man suit can’t control.  This invisible entity invades the internet and takes the form of a broken down android, wreaking havoc on humanity in attempts to jumpstart the next phase of evolution.  The film also introduces the twins, speedy Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and clairvoyant Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen), a pair of intriguing genetic experiments gone rogue, who are contractually not allowed to be called mutants or referred to by the names Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

There are some nice moments here between Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), who are starting to develop feelings for each other, and the team as a whole has settled into a nice clip together.  Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) also get some moments to shine, even if they are used more as comic relief this time around.  James Spader does a solid job of portraying the titular villain through pretty menacing voice work, and there are some intriguing moments exploring the philosophical implications of artificial intelligence and the singularity.

Now if only returning writer-director Joss Whedon was willing to go even deeper and darker with these ideas, then he could have had something truly special on his hands.  It’s not that Avengers: Age of Ultron is a bad film, because it’s not, and for the most part it’s actually a pretty good one.  But there are also problems with this sequel that weren’t prevalent the first time around.  A bombastic set piece on the streets of South Africa, between a mind controlled Hulk and amped up Iron Man, comes dangerously close to Michael Bay levels of destruction, and the finale eventually proves that there are only so many ways you can destroy a city with it still seeming interesting or even exciting.

The film also has some pacing challenges, with certain plot points and revelations feeling rushed, and other scenes built almost entirely around one liners.  There is a new character who is only introduced in the last act, and they are portrayed in such a great way, that we find ourselves wishing the film had used them more throughout.  Elsewhere, the portrayal of the characters is a lot more patchy.  A subplot involving Hawkeye feels like something straight out of a corny melodrama, and just doesn’t fit with his character development from the previous film.

There are also inconsistencies with how Tony Stark and Captain America are portrayed here, versus where they were at the end of their last solo outings.  Furthermore, the implications of a revelation about Black Widow’s past just feels off, both in terms of execution and what it implies, with the treatment of her character sometimes seeming unfortunately retroactive and even sexist.  A scene where the female superhero is literally relegated to pouring drinks at a company party, while the male characters discuss her flirtatious ways, is quite problematic for obvious reasons.

Lacking the political intrigue of last year’s outstanding Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the cool soul of the summer sensation Guardians of the Galaxy, in many ways this is the most rambling and uneven of the eleven films in the still impressive Marvel Cinematic Universe.  But in terms of sheer spectacle and easygoing fun, Avengers: Age of Ultron modestly delivers, elevated once again by the excellent cast.  And if you’re going to spend 141 minutes this summer watching an effects-driven blockbuster, it may as well be in the company of these entertaining and genuinely likeable characters.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron Review By Erin Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

In 2013, Marvel released The Avengers, combining the superheroes from their already impressive slate into one super movie.  As in the comics upon which the heroes are based, the Avengers had to battle their own personality differences to work together to save the world.

The film was a critical (not to mention financial) success and brought together the heroes believably for a fun ride.  After The Avengers, the next three films in Marvel’s winning slate dealt with how a few of the key heroes were changed from the events of the final act.  In Iron Man 3, we saw Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) deal with the very real reality of the aftermath of battle – PTSD.  This truly elevated that film, as well as added an extra element of depth to the character, and a unique aspect to a superhero film.

Thor: The Dark World, to me, was more a continuation to Loki’s connection to The Avengers.  As the interactions of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are always fun, the film, (while not one of the best in the lineup), was quite enjoyable.  Then, there was Captain America: The Winter Soldier last year.  After The Avengers, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is both more assimilated into the modern world, as well as alienated by it and its ways. While trying to reconcile his moral compass with that of S.H.I.E.L.D’s, old enemies and personalities from his past come back to him as he faces a battle with an impossible moral dilemma.  

The style of filmmaking, sharp writing, and current questions The Winter Soldier brought to the table quickly cemented the film into a top tier spot in the lineup.  As we saw ample growth and change to the characters of both Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), as well as the introduction of the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), it set the bar high and raised excitement for the next film – Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Well, that day is here.  Ultron has opened, and the wait is over.  Unfortunately, the growth that the main characters have experienced has been lost and forgotten at times here.  Only Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) appears relatively untouched.  What feel like character inconsistencies often distract from the film, and moments where the film starts to explore deeper themes are quickly cut off by witty banter or more explosions.  I must stress I don’t think it’s a bad film – just that I hoped for better, and maybe was a little spoiled from some of the previous films.

Ultron‘s plot deals with new threats in the form of genetic enhancements and AI.  After opening with an action assault by the Avengers on a secret research lab, we are quickly introduced to the twins Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson).  Like the many new characters introduced, while they are given a backstory, their development seems rushed, perhaps a case of having so many characters now on screen, that is increasingly harder to develop each one efficiently.  In order to deal with new threats the team can’t explain, as well as the power of an Infinity Stone, Stark takes it upon himself to try to create protection for the world in the form of Ultron (James Spader).

Soon, however, Ultron wrests control from Stark and the team has to try to deal with a threat that knows their every weakness and is more than willing to exploit that.  As the plot moves swiftly ahead, it is entertaining, but never comes close to touching what Winter Soldier achieved.  At this point it feels like the onus is on each audience member to create the depth of the characters through projection from what we know from previous films, and it makes me wonder if further character exploration is often pushed to the side in the writing process, or at the very least not kept consistent from film to film when dealing with different writers/directors.

Overall, though, we get to see our favourite heroes in action, enjoy the visuals, and escape for two hours into the world of the Avengers.  I don’t doubt that fans of the Marvel universe are going to enjoy seeing their favourites onscreen again.  And while it has its flaws, Avengers: Age of Ultron is still a fun film to watch.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron Review By Tony Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Avengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to the 2012 film bringing back all the heroes to combat Ultron (menacingly voiced by James Spader), a mechanical humanoid with artificial intelligence powered by Loki’s scepter bent on purging earth of humanity. Ultron is aided by the Maximoff twins (here enhanced by HYDRA, otherwise known as mutants in the rival X-Men franchise): Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) with Dash-like speed and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) with powers of telekinesis and messing with minds. As in the first film, conflicts within the team are exploited by their antagonists and a lot of collateral damage is inevitable, particularly in a town in fictional Sokovia and the streets of Gangnam.

Like any sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron has the challenge of maintaining interest without the novelty of the original film. The excellent cast manages to pull it off among all the busy battle sequences and an unexpected and not totally convincing secret family for one of the team. At 141 minutes it is a bit long, but is generally worth it.

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Consensus: Although more inconsistent than the first film, and not as strong as other recent entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Age of Ultron is still a fun and mostly entertaining sequel, that is elevated by the great cast and characters. ★★★ (out of 4)

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