Movie Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

This review contains no spoilers, and you should know that I AM writing this review partly medicated with painkillers so if I start to ramble about dancing sausages you'll know why.

It has been three long years since we last saw the Avengers and quite a lot has occurred during the meantime; HYDRA ripped S.H.I.E.L.D apart from the inside out, Tony Stark lost himself to find himself again, Thor allied with Loki an odd romance has formed and and the galaxy got hooked on a feeling. Joss Whedon once again brings us Marvels' answer to the Justice League and as predicted, just when you thought you had seen it all, Age of Ultron slaps you across the face with an electrified fish and waggles a playful finger at you.

While working for the Avengers, Tony Stark has been harboring a secret project that will help change the world for the better by working on the Ultron project: a complex AI program that can shield the Earth from the dangers of the outer limits of space (ie. the Chitari from the first film). However, Tony must not have read Mary Shellys' Frankenstein because his creation becomes sentient, intelligent and most frighteningly of all, psychotic.

Enter Ultron, (mo-capped and voiced by James Spader) who finds itself/himself simultaneously confused of how he came to be but utterly confident that the only way to save the world is to destroy it and its flesh and blood occupants. With the emergence of HYDRA's Joker cards Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (aka Pietro and Wanda Maximoff played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen respectively) the Avengers find themselves between a rock and a mighty metal fist.

Let me say this first: I was very happy I had the opportunity to see this movie before I caught wind of the inevitable spoilers that are leaked on the internet, and I more or less went into the movie blind. In several interviews Whedon has said that the Ultron story line was the film he wanted to make when he signed up for the first movie so what we see is more or less the film he had a view to make.  I had no clue what to expect whatsoever and I feel it was this mindset that allowed me to watch the movie with a big silly smile. All of the chief players are back and in as top form as you please, this time with further emphasis placed on Hawkeye and The Beasts' homeboy Hulk.

Although I don't care much for the character of Hawkeye (this is no knock against Renner, the guy's a fine actor despite looking like an uppity ten year old at times), I was actually taken aback by how much more Chris Sarandon Mark Ruffalo was given and I feel the character and the film benefited from this shift. We see the soft underbelly of Banner that we've only been fed in dribs and drabs in the past few Marvel films and colour me pleasantly surprised. I also enjoyed the fact we got to know a little more about Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow (several key revelations of the character could have also been a by-product of the fact Scarlett Johansson was preggers at the time this was made) but again, it actually felt genuine despite the fantastical stuff happening in the movie.

Oh, this is one of the more normal moments.
By the way, I had no clue what to expect from James Spader as the homicidal robot Ultron but the man's voice and physicality fit the character beautifully. I think I have a crush. I love me some Spader and his casting certainly did not disappoint. His delivery and mannerisms were perfect to me and you know what? He was actually very amusing for all the right reasons because while he may be fiercely intelligent, he possesses the mind of a psychopathic child who was all but born yesterday. What could be more dangerous than a confused, distressed, enraged and frustrated newborn monster in a matured body? A smart one.

I feel the most difficult part about making an action-packed superhero film is indeed to keep the said action fresh and after everything we have seen in not only the previous Avengers film but basically everything to this point, it is only getting more and more difficult for film-makers to deliver the impact audiences want and I give props to Whedon and crew for understanding that brief and more or less going for broke within the realm of the world and the characters who live in it with some pretty standout fights, the one between Hulk and the Hulkbuster being a highlight.

Some of the stuff is indeed ridiculous, but considering this movie involves characters who can turn into massive green ids, use telekinesis and run at meta-human speed, I'm not about to split hairs. Additionally, seeing the effects of the Scarlet Witchs' powers was certainly a high point of the movie and you get some really juicy insights into the psychology of our heroes and lets just say these moments were mere tidbits of what the future holds.

However, as much as I really enjoyed this movie and as much as I recommend you to see it if you are a fan, I do have a few issues with the film in terms of some of the crucial elements involved. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff come from an impoverished European province which condemns the existence of the Avengers, but we never find out why. We get a clearer idea as to why the Maximoff children don't think highly of the Avengers, but not their country kin. Early in the film it is clearly obvious that the townsfolk revile the collective of heroes, but for what reason? We don't get any background as to why this is so and I feel it was a missed opportunity of sorts not to explore this idea.

The definition of 'savior' is subjective and I wanted to know more about what caused this massive unrest among the people. We do get a vague allusion to the involvement of Tony Stark's weaponry, but that is a nebulous, somewhat tenuous thread in what could have been a far more elaborate tapestry. Did the people hate the Avengers due to a smear campaign from HYDRA? Was there already some type of civil war brewing? In fact, I felt there were quite a few ideas that would have bore investigating.

Don't get me wrong, I am not expecting anything intensely biographical about all of the characters and their circumstances at any given time, but I still found myself wanting in several places. THEN AGAIN. Age of Ultron is prelude to far bigger events yet to come and perhaps it is but a matter of time before we are privy to the answers to the riddles and ideas this film presents. Could have done with more Vision though, I mean this isn't a fancy computer creation that looks like Paul Bettany, it is Paul Bettany and I felt he needed more spots to shine.

Also, what the hell was up with the dancing sausages?

Oh, and I simply must apologize here my dears, but I have to say this, some of the best moments in the trailer do not feature here. Remember that awesome part in the Predators trailer that features Adrien Brody being targeted by multiple red reticules? Same type of deal applies here in this movie and I was actually looking forward to Ultron growling "Puppets tangled in strings" and "There are... no strings... on MEEEE." only for it not to happen.

Boo, I want my sexy menacing Ultron trash talking!


All in all, Age of Ultron is a film that fits as a worthy follow-up to it's debut feature, but it is hampered by some of it's more cock-eye inducing long-winded elements, hanging threads in the narrative as well as the constraints it has placed on itself. Does that make it a horrible movie? If it was, would I have wasted my time braving a rambunctious head-cold to bring this review to you because I love you? (*casts side-eye to 50 Shades Of Grey review and coughs demurely*) Anyway. I say check it out, although your personal mileage may vary with this as an individual feature, it serves as important set up for not only the upcoming Infinity War double bill, but also the MCU as an encompassing whole. The best is still yet to come and I will certainly be there to usher it in. How about you?

To the more eagle (I didn't say 'hawkeye' because I don't fancy getting inadvertently sued or being made to apologize for offending the Faux Feminists) eyed among you, how about some of those Easter Eggs? Here's hoping the cameo by Andy Serkis a certain smuggler means a certain Wakandan prince is on the horizon.
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