Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Major Spoilers throughout.

Earth's Mightiest Heroes are all back: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Hulk; the Avengers -- and Joss Whedon; and the biggest Evil Genius currently in film-making. They've returned to save the world again, because that's what they do.

And they're doing it more efficiently and with more pizzazz than ever now that they've already found their footing as a team.

This is one of those rare cases where the plot is not only just a good excuse to make the movie, but is actually making the movie better by taking the backseat. A Joss Whedon plot is always solid, but priority here is given to character. It's the biggest movie of the summer, brimming with action and distractingly cool special effects, but the thing that left the biggest impression was still the Avengers themselves, and their surprisingly not-super, but superbly-human struggles and dilemmas.

Every Avenger has their moment to shine, and their due dose of character development. And I love the way they were prioritized. Avengers who have solo movies -- that would be Stark, Steve and Thor -- stepped graciously into the background a little and gave the other less fortunate but equally lovable heroes a longer turn in the spotlight -- that would be Barton, Romanoff, and Banner.

"We'll be right here if you need us..."

Clint Barton, or Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) after spending most of the first movie playing MVP for the wrong side, gets the extra development to make up for it, and then some. Mr. I-see-better-from-a-distance is hiding a wife and two-and-a-half kids in a farm house situated on some rolling green hills! This instantaneously gives him both a layer of explanation, and two more layers of mystery. And oh, I was so mad at Whedon, because I knew, I knew it was a great set up to sucker-punch so hard, and I never would have forgiven him (again) if he'd done it, but that Whedon is just too unconventional and unpredictable for that, and my favorite Avenger happily lives on. But not only that, he got to live up to his hero potential in the fight scenes, and got some of the best, most Whedon-esque lines to say, which he owned with burning sarcasm. His equally inspirational and hilarious rant at Wanda was just the best.

Hawkeye sitting on his perch like a cool Hawkeye, 'cause Hawkeye is cool.

And then Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce Banner and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and I mention them together, because yes, they are an item now. And first of all, I like that -- Nat's friendships with Cap and Barton are too good to ruin with romance, and Nat and Bruce make an unexpectedly good pair, on and off the field. Natasha is a beautiful enigma, (the kind that is Whedon's specialty) being so cold and deadly at work, but with her elegant hairstyle, and wearing flouncy skirts off duty. And I loved the way she picked Banner and then just went for it. We all know what she's like when she flirts (as Cap says and Tony knows too) and it's great to see the minute but important differences when she's serious. The dynamic between her and Banner is wonderfully unique, and wouldn't be so without the romantic element.

She is always an interesting, complex and fun character, but Whedon's version of her is my favorite.

Banner, though, I don't quite understand. I certainly understand the center of his character -- his fear of himself -- but I don't understand how that motivates him to act. Plus I assume there's more going on in there besides that. Did he run away at the end because of fear, or because he wanted to be alone, or was he just mad at Natasha for kissing him and pushing him off a cliff? Hard to tell, but whatever kind of mixed-up he is, it's complicated, understandable and convincing.

I like these two together. They're both some strange characters with some serious dark sides; not as different as you might think.

Iron Man, or Tony Stark, (Robert Downey Jr.) is the veteran of the team, and has done so much growing in his three solo outings that he hardly has anywhere to grow now, but does seem to have started on an arc that will lead to some interesting places in the future. He gets his share of snide comments and makes everything look cooler, and that's plenty. Same basically goes for Thor (Chris Hemsworth); he has his humorous moments, and his hinting dramatic moments, and all those bits about people being worthy to lift Mjolnir or not, so he continues to be awesome and quite helpful.

Captain America; Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is still trying to find a place where he fits in the world, but he keeps his problems in perspective and concentrates on the problem at hand. It seems like it would be easy to make Cap boring or into a shallow goody-goody, but his well-adjusted persona and predictability instead make him an effortlessly engaging, lovable and sincere character. And I'm glad he got his dance with Peggy, even if it was just a vision.

And now, saying "language!" is a movie reference that even Cap will understand!

Now the newbies; the Maximoff twins, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) or, as they are never referred to in the actual movie, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. They temporarily work for Ultron before switching over to the good side, and for two new characters in an already bursting cast, they make impressively good and compelling additions. Firstly they are important to the plot, but eventually are welcome to the party on their own merit as characters.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of-- well of her anyway. Sadly I can't say the both of them, because Pietro is the one who doesn't make it though the movie. He dies heroically saving Hawkeye and a little boy from a shower of bullets, and it was sad. Sad in a good way -- the kind that actually sincerely induces the word "aww." It made me like the character even more, and gave him that last boost of character he needed. It was neat actually, with Hawkeye being set up for the sucker-punch, and him and Pietro having a testy rivalry going throughout the movie, ending with that reused line, "you didn't see that coming" -- Quicksilver's first and last. So both their development was used up, but now with her being an Avenger and her brother being dead, there's a new beginning waiting for Wanda.

The way their powers are portrayed is cool -- glowing red magic for her and a jagged blue trail for him.

And now -- dun da-dun-dun duuuuun -- Ultron himself. I never really wondered or cared how good a villain he'd be, I suppose because I knew he wouldn't be able to compare with Loki, no matter how creepy he can make children's songs sound. Another point for Joss and Marvel; Ultron doesn't even try to fill Loki's shoes. He even forgoes doing evil plan-revealing monologues! James Spader does his thing that only James Spader can do, and turns Ultron into the most amusing and sinister artificial intelligence that is hip on pop culture you've ever seen. He is a lively robot, and seems to have every human emotion that your typical delusional murderous maniac would have -- right down to temper tantrums. He also looks great; his robotic face is very expressive and just creepy enough, and the way he is every one of his minions adds importance to every kill an Avenger makes. Overall he's just very well planned, designed and acted super-villain.

He will crush you -- and look so patronizingly bored while he does it.

Mentionable, but less featured characters include Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue (you know it's a huge movie if Andy Serkis only gets a side mention, but he does get the biggest side mention, because his short screen time doesn't decrease his awesomeness), Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Cobie Smulders as Agent Hill, Don Cheadle as the War Machine; Anthony Mackie's Falcon, Stellan Skarsgard's Dr. Selvig, and of course Peggy Carter -- Hayley Atwell.

Paul Bettany's Vision is almost a side character, except he's almost not even a character at all -- he's every bit an unwaveringly good AI program, and very little like a human pretending to be a robot. The snarky AI computer JARVIS has always been a favorite of mine, and having the computerized butler become Vision was a great inclusion that fit in ideally with the plot. He may not technically be JARVIS anymore -- floating elegantly through the air on willpower and creating capes out of nothing like some strange celestial being -- but if he sounds like him, is sharp-tongued like him, and yes, looks like him, then there's certainly no loss.

Ultron: "You're unbelievable naive." Vision: "Well... I was born yesterday." Yep -- JARVIS's personality definitely stuck around.

There's only one real problem in this entire picture, and that is that there were a few times during the action scenes where it was hard for me to tell who I was watching and what was going on; most prevalently in the Avenger Tower scene. That's it. Another viewing or two and it will disappear. Otherwise the action is styled perfectly to suit our heroes -- occasionally ever-so-slightly on the cheesy side, but fun, original, fun, magnificent, fun, entertaining, and definitely fun.

There is one thing that can be taken as good or bad: Age of Ultron is basically a replica of the first Avengers. It's the exact same formula -- the exact same ingredients, baked into the exact same cake. Its icing is different of course, with different details, more colors and extravagant decoration -- that is, it's bigger, three years more advanced and filled with more fantastic Whedonisms -- but underneath it's still the same. Here's the thing though; it's a really delicious cake. It is perfection, and everyone knows you don't mess with perfection. Unwritten movie rules try to say that you can't just add details to the original formula for a sequel and make a good sequel at the same time, and often that's true, but I'm glad Whedon ignored the rule and did what he wanted, because this movie was almost exactly the same as the original, and exactly what I wanted it to be.

So congratulations on the resounding win!

With the signature style of Whedon, the Avengers gives us a plethora of brilliant jokes to laugh at, countless moments to surprise and wow us, tricky mind games to worry us about the fate of our favorite heroes (or was that just me he was torturing?), and a couple deeper thoughts to tempt us to chew on that complements our popcorn. It gave us a long but fast-paced and epically scaled clash of a plot line, ending with a grand climactic battle in the sky against a totally evil and dislikable, but never annoying villain -- to a perfectly satisfying conclusion. Every technical aspect was sharpened to a fine point; superhero-ed cinematography style, clean and bright special effects, a meticulously honed script for maximum cheekiness in banter, and a cast that obviously had so much fun, yet delivers on the involving performances from the smallest side character, to the mightiest of the many mighty heroes.

To put it very, very simply: this movie is awesome.

10 comments:

  1. This movie was so goood! :D
    There were so many teasers in it!
    I liked what they did with Natasha and Banner also Haweye but Tony Stark was a bit weird through out the movie and a lot of his action seemed like he was doing because it said so in the script to be honest like making Vision it was a little weird the way he was made.Although Vision's character was awesome and when he lifts the hammer,that is a funny scene.Did you know Captain America and Black Widow have both held Thor's hammer in comics.I also like how the struggle between Bruce Banner and Hulk was portrayed and I think it was both accepting each other that made Hulk go away not wanting to hurt anyone.He seemed so sad when he saw how much destruction he had caused under Scarlet Witch's spell.Although I loved Hulkbuster suit of Tony Stark it was so awesome! :D
    Captain America and Tony Stark gave way for other members I liked that move as well because otherwise it'd have felt like the other characters are there just to talk with the main 3.I am not a big Hawkeye fan but I kind of liked him in this movie and the sarcasm is awesome his line about killing Quicksilver and that noone would know still cracks me up xD
    I could've lived with Black Widow having a mysterious past that made her seem much more cool.My favourite Black Widow movie has to be Winter Soldier though because that is where she is doing a lot of awesome stuff or as she said she's multitasking :P
    Wanda twins were awesome!I couldn't hate them even when they were on bad side mostly because I knew how awesome they are in comics and I am a fan of those actors.They were really well written especially considering they couldn't use the mutant thing for them like in comics.When Quicksilver dies it made me feel so sad and to save a boy with Hawkeye that was sweet :)
    PS comic trivia "SPOILER AHEAD IN THE LINE" : Scarlet Witch and Vision are a thing :P
    My favourite freaking out moments were with Thor though because they set up future movies with him!!All the stones were revealed and Vision have a stone!Makes me want future movies even more.
    I am so psyched to see Andy Serkis return in Black Panther next year he'd be awesome in it seeing how awesome he was in 10 minutes he got in the movie :D
    Samuel L. Jackson is always fun to watch.I feel like sometimes Whedon reserves all the good lines for him in any conversation he has in the movie :P
    And Ultron!He was hilariously evil.I liked the Pinocchio song he was singing through out the movie.When the twins ask him if he wants to kill Avengers his reply is so cool :P.Ultron is awesome in comics as well.They included Ultron's creation so skillfully it is amazing considering that his original creators movie is coming out later this year.
    This movie set up so many future movies!Thor 3, Cap : Civil War,Black Panther,Infinity Wars!!
    And that end credit scene did you watch that! O_O
    Thanos!He grabbed the Infinity Gauntlet!! >_<"
    You are right, it is a 5 star movie! :D

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    1. Yeah, I figured they were setting up Tony for his role in Civil War, but I don't know exactly how that supposed to work, so yeah, I was a little confused about him too. Vision was super awesome, and that was a great moment! I want to see this movie again just for Vision! And then again for everything else. :P I did know about Cap lifting Mjolnir (and he made it budge a little!) but not Black Widow. That's interesting because she didn't try to lift it... Yeah, poor Banner just can't catch a break with that Other Guy. That makes sense for why he left, but I'll be very interested to see how he explains it -- if he ever does.

      Yeah, was very glad they did that. Hawkeye has always been my favorite, so I'm really happy with all the extra development he got. Hahaha, yes that line was great! I'm glad you liked him better in this movie. :D

      Hmm, yeah, but she still does have some mystery in her past, we just know how she got her start now. And it does give her depth. She is pretty awesome in The Winter Soldier. I like how casual she is. Kicking someone off a roof and then trying to set Cap up with someone... just a typical Tuesday afternoon!

      I liked them a lot too. More than I expected to, I think. Just know that they'll eventually be on the good side kept me from disliking them. The two actors are really cool aren't they? They have really good chemistry. I am increasingly saddened by Pietro's death now. I'm really going to miss him next time I see Wanda in a movie and he's not there... :/ It was a good death though.

      Really?? Wow, I kinda want to see that now! :P

      Yeah, I could tell they were setting up his next movie too, but still with not knowing what it's going to be about exactly, it was a pretty ambiguous, which was even more intriguing! Only two stones to go!

      Oooh, he's gonna be in that? Yes. That will be awesome. Haha, yeah, you know the good lines won't be wasted if you give them to Fury. He always sounds awesome.

      I was really surprised at how funny Ultron was! He was fantastic and so amusingly crazy and actually fun! I bet he is good in the comics! That Pinocchio stuff was so creepy.

      Yep, I think they must have hinted towards every upcoming movie they possibly could! Haha, yes!! Thanos is getting fed up with waiting around, and it's about time! :D

      Glad you agree Neal!

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  2. I really loved, as you said, how the characters who don't get their own movies had so much screen time and development. Nat has such great relationships with both Cap and Barton, I'm glad that those were left as they are; she and Banner go so well together, and their romance betters their relationship. They make such a great pair. I love how now we know what Nat and Barton talk about; she teases Cap about getting a girlfriend, and she and Barton talk about the remodeling he's going to do. :) The relationship between Nat and Clint is so well balanced, or rather, they balance each other perfectly. I loved how much time and focus was given to the characters themselves instead of the plot or action. I agree with what you said about the plot sort of giving way to the characters, and it's impressive that the movie didn't weaken because of it, but instead was all the better for it.

    I'm still in shock from seeing the Vision offhandedly pick up Thor's hammer. That was great. He says something about there being no way to make them trust him and then that they need to go and then just hands Thor his hammer, 'cause he likes Thor and respects him. And suddenly, yeah, they trust him. That was so perfect. He's a new character and he's being added to The Team half way through the movie, we've got to trust him someway fast, and yet how...that was just perfect. And I love how he's still got Jarvis' voice and personality, even if he isn't Jarvis.

    The action was so well balanced with humor; and the Whedon's one-liners just get better and better. "If they hurt you, hurt them; if they kill you, walk it off." And the new joke is so perfectly suited to Cap, "Fury, Cap doesn't like that kind of language" "oh, come on". :D

    I love how they brought in the falcon and other side characters. It was so fun to see everyone. It's like the Avenger movies are getting to be family reunions.

    I'm looking forward to seeing it again. :)

    xx

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    1. Thanks Sarah! I'm glad you agree and liked that aspect as well. Nat gets along well with everyone, doesn't she? She's so awesome. And it's so cool how she can have three great relationships with three different men, but there's no love triangle thing going on or any annoying drama like that. I think the Nat/Barton friendship is my favorite -- like you said they balance each other perfectly. And they obviously care for each other a lot, just not romantically. It's more like she his honorary sister, and his kids do call her "aunt" too! :) Yeah, even with action movies I think characters are most important and the best movies know to pay attention to them -- especially if they are all so well-loved as the Avengers are!

      Oh my goodness, yes. In my showing when he picked it up there was a huge gasp, and then everyone started cheering. It makes perfect sense that he should be able to lift it but I just didn't see it coming at all. It was brilliant. And they don't even say anything, they just stand there like "well, this is awkward..... oh right, yeah, let's go defeat Ultron now." It really was perfect. Vision is JARVIS 2.0! And Paul Bettany plays him perfectly.

      I love Joss's sense of humor so much, and he knows what kind of jokes suit which characters too!

      Yeah, even though they didn't get to do much, it was good to see them. Yeah, like a family reunion, and we get to feel like part of the family too! :D

      Me too. Very much so. :D

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  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you! I have read so many bad and negative reviews towards this film, that Nat was completely out of character, Brucenat was horrible, ect. ect. that I was actually worried when I saw it that I wouldn't like it.
    Thankfully, my worries had no solid ground. I adored the film, I loved that we saw another layer to Nat's personality, loved Brucenat, loved the hilarity of it, the heart of it-just everything. I fell in love with the characters again, absolutely fell for Clint's character, and Wanda is just amazing and I can't wait to see where they take her character, my heart broke because of Pietro and Jarvis, but Vision is just amazing, and I have so many feelings towards this film that I'm going into fangirl mode, and I just can't stop it! It is such a fantastic film, and a hilarious film, and I've been itching to see it again since! Excellent, excellent review!
    -Tegan

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    1. Yeah, I went into it a little worried too after seeing some negative reviews too, but nothing was founded! I didn't hear about people disliking Natasha though until after I wrote this. Now I stand by it even more -- I absolutely adore Natasha's character in this movie! It's a great movie, I really don't understand those fuddy-duddies who seem to be looking for problems with it.

      I totally agree, as you know, about Clint too, and Wanda I'm looking forward to seeing more of, and I'm really sad we won't see more of Pietro! Vision tempts me into fangirl mode too! I want to see it again just to figure out why he's so incredibly awesome! Thanks so much Tegan! :)

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  4. *Spoilers*
    I can’t agree more!

    Ultron’s knowledge of pop culture was so fun and expected. But, it makes sense. He is modeled on Tony’s personality to a degree, and he absorbed everything on the internet.

    I can’t wait to see Andy Serkis in Black Panther! He is such a great character actor. And those that did not watch Agent Carter likely lose a part of the emotional investment of the scene. In Agent Carter, we know her as a character, and how much she longed for that moment as well, so it works from both perspective.
    Your analogy about the cake is perfect. You could not phrased it better. Personally, the first Avengers edges AOU at the moment, but I can’t wait to re-watch AOU about.... 200 more times! lol Excellent review!

    -James

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    1. Exactly, he's like the internet if it had a personality. And it makes sense that if the internet had a personality it would be as evilly condescending and socially relevant as Ultron! Hehe.

      Oh yes, that's gonna be great. Andy Serkis is the man. Oh I know, seeing Peggy for that brief moment was probably for us who loved her in Agent Carter very similar to how Cap felt at seeing her again. Thanks very much! I feel like the original is still the better movie overall, but right now I adore AOU so much more because of it's newness! Thank you, James!

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  5. This movie was so good!! I can't believe it's getting hate. I'm practically mystified. XD

    Excellent review! I had to wait awhile to read it so I can get to the movies though, LOL! :P

    ~Jamie

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    1. I'm glad you loved it as well! I suppose the majority of people like it, but it is ridiculous about all the petty complaints some people have! Thanks Jamie! :D

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