Avengers Age of Ultron Movie Review
By: Finnian Durkan, edited by Sierra Christman
It’s been a few years since I’ve written one of these, so give me a moment—time to blow on the cartridges and jiggle the wires a bit before I dive head-first into my first movie review in 3 or 4 years. One can’t rush the assembling of adjectives and nouns sprinkled with terrible puns, right? Add to that the fact that I’m older and wiser (read: no f-bombs and hangovers wreck me for 48 hours now) and this should be a learning experience for both of us.
Last week I finally got around to seeing one of the 2015’s summer blockbusters that I’ve been anticipating the most. Along with Tommorowland, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Max: Fury Road and of course Jurassic World, The Avengers: Age of Ultron is on my short-list of “must see in the theater” films rolling out this year. Other than Furious 7 and its Paul Walker-related emotional baggage, no movie of the “Summer” 2015 slate has stirred up quite the anticipation and subsequent controversy than Avengers: Age of Ultron. For those of you that are unfamiliar, the first issuance of The Avengers franchise back in 2012 set the bar pretty high, managing to demolish the competition with a $1.5 billion worldwide box-office while at the same time delighting comic fanboys and girls—no small task, that. It didn’t hurt that the film was written and directed by Joss Whedon, he of Firefly and TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. This gave it near bulletproof street-cred with card-carrying Comic-Con crowd, but it also gave it something even more important: a writer/director that understands the delicate balance between serving the needs of story arcs that stretch beyond the confines of a single film, while giving casual audiences a great action movie they can jump into with zero background.
Avengers: Age of Ultron seeks to pick up right where the last movie left off, but with the added history and behind-the-scenes shenanigans added to the mix by Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This makes the movie a little less digestible for the non new-comic-Wednesday crowd or people who haven’t seen a majority of the Marvel Universe franchise films up to this point.
The movie starts off with a highly-choreographed action sequence highlighting the skillsets and personalities of each character. It’s visual exposition at its finest, allowing the audience to get comfortable and acquainted with each superhero via punches, kicks and pithy one-liners as only Joss Whedon can achieve. Chris Evans as Captain America is great as the out-of-place-and-time WWII American hero, while Robert Downey, Jr. is at his quip-laden and sarcastic best as billionaire genius Tony Stark who flies above the fray in his Iron Man suit and drops sarcastic attitude and laser blasts into the battle in equal measure. Chris Hemsworth is very literally Thor at this point, so much so that I seriously doubt anyone else other than CGI Chris Hemsworth could do the job.
From that bullet-ridden opening sequence, Tony Stark then tries to jumpstart a dormant peace-keeping program, which as always when tampering with Artificial Intelligence in a movie setting, leads to a possible extinction level event (see: The Matrix, The Terminator, I Robot, etc.). Instead of the Terminator’s Skynet, here we have Ultron: a sentient security program perfectly voiced by James Spader and embodied by an inexhaustible supply of Stark-engineered battle drones, looking to wipe the human race from the face of the Earth. Ultron teams up with two disillusioned super-powered twins the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who were orphaned in a military conflict in their home country and blame Tony Stark for their family’s death. Elizabeth Olsen, the more functional younger sibling of Mary Kate and Ashley, does a phenomenal job of embodying the delicate nature that defines the Scarlet Witch: massive and underestimated power combined with an emotionally unbalanced and dangerous personality. Her brother, the pure embodiment of speed Quicksilver, is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass and Godzilla) who does his level best to measure up to Olsen’s performance, but falls a little short. While Taylor-Johnson struggles with the accent of the made-up Eastern Bloc home country of Sokovia, he still makes up for it with his balance of dry delivery and aloof charm. Being the weakest link in this group of actors is kind of like being the worst player on the Dream Team, so think of Taylor-Johnson as Christian Laettner.
The movie has its amazing set pieces, and Whedon’s writing is spot-on, perhaps even funnier and more self-aware than it was in the first film. The actors are all more comfortable with their characters this time around and seem to have developed a true rapport with each other. There is great chemistry between the actors and there are more subtle relationship wrinkles going on this time around, all of which land pretty well. And yes, that includes the blossoming romantic relationship that seemed to take down Twitter last week with Bechdel Test-waving Social Justice Warriors looking for something to be angry about.
Bottom line, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a great second offering in the franchise. It hits all the notes necessary to keep the franchise moving forward while also standing on its own in spectacular fashion. Just because it might not hit quite the heights of the first film doesn’t make it any less impressive. It’s hard to compete with your first time at most anything, be that sex, drugs, or nerdy action movies, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them again.