MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

Writing by J.T. Johnson

4-stars

DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Ben Davis
WRITER: Joss Whedon
MUSIC: Brian Tyler, Danny Elfman

The Avengers assemble again in director Joss Whedon’s follow-up to 2012’s “The Avengers”. Somehow, the director once again performs his magic and manages to make an ensemble piece where no one is left out. The action is solid, the story is good and the effects are on point in what is most definitely a worthy follow-up to the original film.

This time, the movie opens up with the Avengers assaulting a base in the Eastern Europe country of Sokovia. There, they encounter Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and his forces. The Avengers handle the forces with ease until the intervention of two twins who have enhanced powers thanks to Loki’s Scepter from the first film.

Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) Maximoff take the Avengers head on and Wanda eventually gives Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) a terrible vision. He witnesses his friends die and realizes that he must do more to protect them. That something “more” is using the power in Loki’s Scepter to create an artificial intelligence named Ultron (James Spader). Unfortunately, the only way Ultron thinks he can achieve peace is by destroying all mankind.

The story is simple enough. This is a threat big enough for the Avengers to be called in and it has many twists and turns. Not the least of which is the creation of Vision (Paul Bettany), a truly awesome character to see on screen and one I can’t wait to see more of in future films. Also, due to the fact that the Infinity Gem located inside Loki’s Scepter is the cause of all the problems this time out, this means that we are getting ever so closer to the ultimate showdown with Thanos in the next “Avengers” films.

If you’re not a fan of the comics or haven’t seen the previous ten movies, then you shouldn’t watch this movie. Whedon assumes that people watching the flick are also fans and he definitely caters to them. However, if you’ve seen the ten preceding movies, then you should be fine as the Marvel Cinematic Universe broadens its horizons.

Another cool aspect of this film is the development of the side characters who don’t have their own solo films. We know who Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are, so this time we get to learn more about Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Whedon also allows for us to get to know Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch.

The amazing thing is that Whedon somehow manages to give all of these characters their time in a movie filled with an extremely large cast. We even get a few great cameos from other supporting members including James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). It’s a hard film to balance, but Whedon somehow manages pull it off.

The actor of note for this particular film is actually the Avenger that most people consider second-rate to the bigger members. Renner’s Hawkeye is given a surprising amount of development this time around and he also has some of the best moments. He’s the character that gets to point out the absurdity of all the things happening around him and can even be considered something unexpected: the soul of the team.

For those wondering how the action is, they needn’t worry. The action sequences amp up as the film progresses and this is another aspect of the film that Whedon properly balances as well. We get a healthy dose on the wintery fields of Sokovia and then another great dose with the Hulk/Iron Man face-off and the climactic return to Sokovia for a showdown with Ultron.

What was also great to see was the Avengers’ compassion for those they are trying to protect. Take note “Man of Steel”, the Avengers never forget what they’re fighting for and that’s to protect as many people as they can.

There are a few minor notes, but they are really barely noticeable compared to the rest of the film as a whole. The action can go into overload and it’s easy to miss things, but that’s what repeat viewings are for. Also, while the chemistry between Ruffalo and Johansson is there, their potential love story does feel like it was squeezed in to the overall story being told.

However, neither of those small criticisms matter. I left this film completely satisfied and ready for the next chapter. That’s really all anyone can ask for and since it looks like Whedon is bowing out of the MCU after this film, I give him my thanks. My only goal was to make it to “The Avengers” in 2012. Now, with this sequel, Whedon has given us even more awesome sights and another stepping stone in the history of the MCU.

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