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Avengers: Age of Ultron – Movie Review

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Avengers: Age of Ultron – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been mostly successful in transferring the comic book company’s iconic superheroes to the screen in one shared film franchise, with Avengers: Age of Ultron expected to break box-office records this weekend. The last entry Guardians of the Galaxy was a very entertaining shot in the arm, showing the vast possibilities and wacky ideas that can happen. Unfortunately, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a step backwards into a standard formula and a lot of it feels like set-up for the next adventure. At about two hours and twenty minutes, one would think this would be a more eventful chapter, but it feels surprisingly empty. Even with the best efforts of director/writer Joss Whedon, this is a disappointingly forgettable experience that shows some of the biggest cracks in the MCU’s armor.

Joss Whedon’s ability at giving the proper development and interaction to each superhero in The Avengers was a large reason that movie was a joy to watch. That element is surprisingly absent through a lot of Age of Ultron. Even Whedon’s trademark banter lacks the bite we usually associate with him, including an odd running joke involving Captain America’s out-of-nowhere issue with profanity. A lot of the heroes are underwritten with Thor serving as mostly a background player and Black Widow being thrown into a forced possible romance with Bruce Banner. Rhodey, Falcon and Nick Fury appear to be included just to tie into the other Marvel films, but otherwise serve very little purpose. Rhodey, in particular, is relegated to having a single character trait and running gag, when Tony Stark’s best friend deserves a lot better. The new additions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are similarly uninteresting. Even without comparing him to the scene-stealing variation of the character in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Quicksilver is nonetheless a dull screen presence and there lacks a real sibling connection between him and Scarlet. It’s not helped by their rough and unbelievable Russian accents.

On the positive side, Hawkeye is given a lot more to do in Age of Ultron than when he was a hypnotised goon in The Avengers. The best parts in this film are surprisingly not the action sequences, but instead a portion of the movie where the Avengers lay low. It nicely develops and looks into Hawkeye’s life outside of his hero-doing and archery. We learn more about Hawkeye in those sections than we did in any of his other appearances in the Marvel movies and it’s greatly appreciated. That’s when Whedon’s penchant for strong dialogue is at its most evident and one character’s emotional discussion with his significant other shows the writing that would serve this film well when not trenched in formula. One of the most frustrating flaws in a lot of these Marvel pictures is the weak villain that keeps appearing. Outside of Loki, all of them have been boring copies with the same evil plan of ruling and destroying the world. Ultron is no different, despite the possibilities existing to explore the consequence of a machine breaking from its mandate.

The action sequences continue the high-octane excitement expected of the Marvel films with a highway chase ending up as the spectacular highlight of the film. Plus, in an exquisite one-take shot, the camera pans around the various Avengers as they siege a castle lair. The special effects team behind these multiple films are also comfortable enough with bringing these characters to life that we easily buy them in these environments. The Hulk is a particularly impressive effect as the animators give him the necessary realism and emotions. Whether it’s through Mark Ruffalo’s motion-capture work or the animators who worked on him, somebody deserves a medal for Hulk’s emotive expressions. The climatic battle, while mildly entertaining, does consist of the same action-heavy ending that finds its way into most Marvel pictures. How many times do we need to see the villain completely destroy a city as scared civilians run around? The Avengers even do battle with an army of generic clones, just like their last outing together. It eventually reaches tedium.

Even with the likeability of the superheroes intact, Avengers: Age of Ultron has a middle chapter syndrome as we await when things get really serious in the next Captain America movie. Marvel Studios and Joss Whedon have set such a high bar for themselves, that even a film as reasonably entertaining as this one should not be given a pass when the character development falls short. The Marvel formula needs to be played around with some more. They already have the devoted audience who see their films as guaranteed escapist fun and for good reason. Some experimentation wouldn’t hurt their films and that loosening of the chains is what made Guardians of the Galaxy the best movie in their Cinematic Universe. As this multi-connected universe becomes larger and more characters are added to the Avengers roster, Joe and Anthony Russo will hopefully be able to get them back into shape when they take over the reigns from Whedon. With the novelty now having worn off, there needs to be more under the surface to carry the weight of all of these iconic heroes.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

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