Sunday, May 3, 2015
Movie Review - "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" (2015) - There Is No A.I. In "Team"
If you were to ask me what the best summer blockbuster film was, Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" would be very close to that top spot. Not only did it encapsulate everything that Marvel had been working on up to that point, brought together a vast range of characters, actors and storylines into a solid cohesive plot, but it was non-stop entertainment.
If it wasn't showcasing a sprawling action sequence, it was delivering the laughs with Robert Downey Jr. taking everything in stride or Chris Evans not understanding anything about the 21st century, to suspenseful moments with Loki and Bruce Banner. "The Avengers" is everything that I ever wanted out of a popcorn film. Even if you don't read comics or know anything about these characters, there is something to be admired out of what "The Avengers" was able to accomplish.
So naturally, my hopes for "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" have been pretty high. Given the build-up surrounding this film, including adding in more heroes, James Spader being casted as the villain, Joss Whedon himself comparing the sequel to "The Godfather: Part II" and many more, it is safe to say everyone has something to look forward to. Ultimately, this sequel does live up to some of its expectations but does not always deliver on the goods, leaving a film that removed some of what made the first film so great.
After much searching, the Avengers have now located and captured Loki's staff from rogue Hydra agents. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) intends to take it back to his home, Asgard, but Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) finds out that the staff runs on a computer-like system that is more advanced than anything he or Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) have seen, and theorize that this can be used to create an artificial intelligence - a machine that could create peace in our time. It's just too bad this robot, Ultron (voiced by James Spader) sees that the only way to bring peace is to whip out all of humanity.
Now it is up to Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the rest of the Avengers to bring down Ultron and his twin "enhancers" Quicksilver (Aaron-Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).
Let's start with what really worked in "Avengers: Age Of Ultron"'s favor - the elements that separated it from "The Avengers." Namely, the teamwork and how this group has evolved. In the first film, it was about heroes who were used to doing their own thing coming together and facing something bigger than themselves, while still having a sense of character for each member. In this film, everyone acts as a group and uses their strengths to make their comrades better. From Captain America and Thor combining their shield and hammer to create devastating attacks, to Black Widow using her charm to calm the Hulk down, this feels like a complete unit, not a group of rag-tag heroes.
What I love about this film, as well as the first film, is that the Avengers do feel like heroes, and not just guys taking out a massive threat. They put innocent lives ahead of everything else, as their first priority is always civilians and making sure they are safe before dealing with the threat. This is heavily emphasised in "Age Of Ultron" as Captain America and Hawkeye go out of their way to make sure single individuals are fine, even when hordes of robots are coming their way.
To be honest though, I felt that the best character in this film was Hawkeye, than Iron Man or Captain America. We see that Hawkeye, also known as Clint, has more to his character than just a bow-and-arrow and a snarky attitude. He is given several standout moments, where he breaks Scarlet Witch out of her shell and develops a strange rivalry with Quicksilver to see who is faster. But the best moment comes when we realize that he is a family man and wants nothing more than lead a simple life where those that he loves can be safe and secure.
Hawkeye develops from this background Avenger with one cool trick, into the most human member of the team. Which leads me into one of my biggest complaints with the film - the lack of development for the others.
While the team is a big part of the film, I do not feel emotionally connected to the other people. We're not given anything new with Captain America or Hulk (other than a budding relationship with Black Widow), and it felt like Thor did not contribute anything to this film, other than the running joke of who could pick up his hammer. Black Widow had an opportunity for development when her assassin back story is explained, but it ultimately goes no where and is never brought up again.
This becomes a problem when "Age Of Ultron" insists on a more personal conflict, attempting to divide the Avengers and make them destroy each other. But we're not emotionally invested in these people, only the team. Though the film tries desperately to get us invested, it ends up jumping around to characters fighting internal struggles that add nothing to the film, which also hurts the pacing of the film.
When the climax begins, I was unsure where most characters stood or if they were over their personal struggles. The film seemed to think everyone was buddy-buddy again, when nothing was necessarily resolved. Not to mention, while the final fight is happening, characters keep jumping around, with Iron Man fighting alongside everyone one moment, then he's miles away a few seconds later. It made the fight very inconsistent and clunky at times.
So did I hate "Avengers: Age Of Ultron"? Not at all. In fact, I enjoyed it way more than I disliked it.
Much like the first film, the action sequences are captivating and imaginative. My personal favorite was Iron Man in his massive Hulkbuster armor fighting a raging Hulk, with an automatic repair-bot flying above, ready to give Iron Man new parts after they get torn to shreds. Robert Downey Jr. gets lots of great lines as he fights a monster that only gets more angry as you beat it up. Because of this, and several other lines scattered throughout the film, the comedy is consistent and works rather well for the egos that these characters carry.
However, while I did have fun with "Age Of Ultron," I can't see myself watching it many times in the future, like I have with "The Avengers." The first film often felt like it wasn't even trying and that many of these scenarios wrote themselves. "Age Of Ultron" though often tried a bit too hard to be different from the first film, especially in the poorly paced middle. When it was good, it was a blast. But other times, most of the character moments just fell flat.
Final Grade: B