Movie Review: Avengers - Age of Ultron

From the complex (now overly weary) mind of director Joss Whedon, who helmed the previous 2012 team-up blockbuster that changed the face of Marvel Studios forever, comes his next (and final) turn at showing just how awesome and dynamic his team of famous heroes can be once more. Bringing back the family of colorful, bulking, and mildly dysfunctional superheroes ranging from Iron Man to Hawkeye, as well as introducing a plethora of new characters, Whedon never fails to excite the already-excited. But are all his explosive stunts, one-liners, and ever-increasing hype enough to outrun the preceding classic of the first Avengers?

There's always that one "moneyshot"

You could say the Avengers have been busy. Ever since their first mission to take down brother of Thor and menace of New York, Loki, way back when, the team has been caught up in fighting the always-advancing forces of Hydra. While they may not be cracking the terrorist group from the inside like Coulson and his team on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, they are busting down the walls with everything they've got. Struggling desperately to locate the lost scepter of Loki's, as well as stop Baron von Strucker from unleashing his secret weapons into the world, the Avengers hold their own for the time being. It's not until Tony Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) lasting mistake that the team meets their ultimate adversary. Hoping to create a "suit of armor" around the world, therefore eliminating the need for the whole Avengers initiative, Stark becomes blinded by power and false hope, ultimately releasing Ultron (James Spader), a sentient AI who becomes hell-bent on destroying all life. Forcing the team to combat the mysterious ways of the Maximoff twins, testing both their loyalties and their strength, the Avengers must do whatever it takes to keep the glue of the team in place long enough to prevent a new age of extinction from occurring.  

Ever since the first Iron Man film introduced the always-eye-patched, always-stern Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), uttering the anticipating promise of the ultimate team-up that fans have always desired, Marvel Studios has created nothing but glorious filmmaking and a splendid amount of hype with every new film. While there are those films in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe that lack certain things or don't sit well with fans, Marvel Studios never fails to draw in the crowds. Following one of Marvel Studios' biggest releases back in 2012, with the acclaimed team-up of every comic fan's dreams, Marvel released a mix of fantastic and lackluster sequels, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier to Iron Man 3, which nevertheless managed to increase my hype for 2015's massive sequel to Avengers. Now that it's here, yes, there are some obvious mistakes (I'll get to those later), but it's clear that Age of Ultron is definitely a formidable opponent to its predecessor. With bouts of action here and there (a lot more than the first one), as well as some much needed character development (at least for Hawkeye, Banner, and Black Widow), Age of Ultron may not be the classic that the first one was, but I would say a lot more happened this go-around. 

And yes, the Hulkbuster fight is worth it

So what happens this time that didn't happen in 2012? Well, to start off, the introductions are over. After a satisfying two hours back then of rocky greetings, especially between the top-tier trio of Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, the team is in place now and ready to take on almost anything (for now). While we do go briefly into the history of the newcomers of the film, the Maximoff twins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), we don't spend a whole lot of the time listening to bickering before we get to the gritty action and everyone side-by-side. Speaking of gritty action, there was also a lot more of that here as well. While the first Avengers did a great job at mixing alien invasions with feuding banter, this time we really got a sense of teamwork, as well as some obvious fighting duos, especially with Cap and Thor. With that, the action felt a lot more strategic and grounded this time than in the first film, which just aided more to its glamour as a superhero film. 

However, you can't just have action-packed scenes of gunplay and punches if you want a good superhero film (I'm looking at you, Man of Steel), you also need some interesting characters. While Marvel Studios has done an adequate job at introducing their characters, from the titular heroes to the supporting favorites, there are sometimes the weak links in the bunch. With Age of Ultron, we definitely dive further into the pasts of some characters, but others are left as they were (which may not be entirely a bad thing). From a budding -- yet sappy -- relationship between Bruce Banner aka the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and the secretive spy-turned hero Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to a peek into some surprising secrets about the overly under-developed Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the character development this time is decent enough for a film with so many massive characters. Other than the occasional tease at the future (and destructive) adventures of Thor and the growing misguided tendencies of Tony Stark and his technology, the other characters more or less remain the same as they were when we last saw them. Luckily, we have a few more years of epic not-so-solo films coming up that'll hopefully shed some more light on the struggles of old-man Cap, as well as more on newcomers Scarlet Witch and Vision.

The cast of the film was much like the first one, dynamic and eye-opening. While it was exciting to see the Avengers cast back together again, equipped with new digs and fresh banter, it was even more amazing to see the flock of new faces that managed to make the team seem even more united. Again I loved Robert Downey Jr. as the arrogant playboy Tony Stark, as well as Chris Evans leading the team as the fragile but fearless Captain America, both providing the same yet seemingly more complex performances than in their solo films. Chris Hemsworth was once again hilarious as the thunder god Thor, especially once Paul Bettany's poetic Vision comes into play. As awkward and surprising as it may be, the relationship between Ruffalo's Banner and Johansson's Natasha Romanoff seemed convincing at times, as well as quite intriguing, as most expected her to fall for Renner's witty Hawkeye or Evans' Cap. A film focusing on a team of mix-matched faces and abilities, you can't argue with a star-studded cast such as this. 

Continuing with the cast, the newcomers had to be one of my favorite aspects of the film. From the Maximoff twins, Pietro and Wanda, to the menacingly mindless Ultron, it felt refreshing to get something new, just as it did with last year's Guardians of the Galaxy. Starting with the twins, it was quite surprising to me at first that these two would show up in the sequel, especially after 20th Century Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past used their own version of Quicksilver before Aaron Taylor-Johnson made his debut. But, even with a frame of reference for the speedster Quicksilver and little knowledge on who Scarlet Witch was or what she could do, Joss Whedon managed to bring these characters to life with his versions of the duo. While we may not have gotten a whole lot of history on the twins, like how they got their abilities or how X-Men's Magneto plays into being their father (which can't really happen in the films), Whedon provided just enough to make me want to root for these two (well, at least for Scarlet Witch). 

Another new character introduced, Ulysses Klaue (played by motion-capture
 expert Andy Serkis), will definitely be a formidable opponent as a villain of Black Panther

As for the big bad, Ultron, he was without a doubt one of the best villains of the MCU, but he didn't really go through with his plan of world destruction in the most efficient of ways. Voiced by the devilish and brooding James Spader, who provides a whole-hearted and compelling robotic voice for the evil AI, Ultron's development through the film was nonetheless fun to see, him getting bigger and badder with every scene, but his amount of motivation was clearly flawed. At first wanting to break down the foundations of the superhero team and his creator, Stark, later on all he had a desire to do was make the people of Earth into prehistoric dinosaurs, and drop a meteor on them. Yes, while he may have looked awesome as the towering, metallic figure of doom and lost hope, and the words he said flowed out of his mouth like a waterfall of chocolate, his overall motivations are what make him such a flawed villain...But perhaps his continually changing agenda for world peace was just because of his character's fresh adolescence and his immaturity, which made him overly indecisive and his motives questionable. 

Overall, Age of Ultron manages to successful grasp the attention of myself and millions of other fans with its promise of big budget action and undoubtable teases towards future installments, as well as provide enough stimulating dialogue and unexpected surprises to keep you on the edge. If you're a fan of Marvel or you just love fun action films with witty dialogue, you know it in your heart that you'll be seeing this more than once in the theater. Delivering enough hype and suspense as the first film, even with the toned-down number of one-liners per scene (it can't be all funny, can it?), Age of Ultron packs a willing punch, and definitely prepares you for the coming wars, both Civil and Infinity.  

I gave this film an 8 out of 10 for its entertaining action and story, its intriguing character development (no matter how cheesy it may be), and its awesome new characters, who will definitely throw some bigger punches in the next round. While the film did have its flaws, like all films do, it was a satisfying sequel for fans of the MCU and its ever-growing universe of aliens, robots, and conflicted superheroes. 

That may have seemed long and drawn-out, but at least I didn't mention Spider-Man this time! Anyhow, stay tuned this week (hopefully) for my overview of the summer's biggest films, from the glorious new Mad Max film to the sleeper hits of Marvel! Share and follow for more.

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