Avengers: Age of Ultron - Review

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The Avenger re-assemble for another battle of epic proportions - Age of Ultron
In this conclusion to the second phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Joss Whedon once again sits in the director's chair and now has the team of superheroes face off against the villainous super-advanced robot Ultron.
With the first Avengers movie being the third highest grossing movie of all-time, there sure is a lot of pressure and high expectations for this second reunion of the Avengers.
Supposedly much darker in tone judging from the trailers and Joss Whedon's descriptions, Age of Ultron is apparently much more aimed at a disaster movie feel.
However, with the additional introduction of the characters of Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Vision joining the big battle, there is quite a lot of stuff happening in Age of Ultron.
But is it enough to recapture the feel of awe that audiences felt when the Marvel heroes united for the first time on the screen in 2012's Avengers?

 



The plot:
When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth's Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for a global adventure.
Source: IMDb


Right off the bat, Avengers 2 initially feels like a movie that doesn't want to waste much time on slow introductions. Not wanting to fall into the trend of "yet another overlong 3 hour movie" director Joss Whedon luckily heads right into Age of Ultron's story now that the Avengers team has already been successfully assembled.
With that said, it should be a no-brainer by now to say that viewers not familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe's lore (MCU) should definitely first watch the previous Marvel flicks. While not every previous Marvel movie shows the same amount of impact on Avengers 2's story (for example Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 3 seemingly didn't affect Age of Ultron at all), there is a big amount of references woven into Age of Ultron's dialogue and happenings. The amount of those references is much bigger in Age of Ultron than in previous Marvel flicks, since the Avengers movies apparently stand as big conclusions of each of the MCU's "phases". And while Age of Ultron connects strings very well and does a neat job in introducing new story threads and characters to the universe, it itself falls a bit short of standing strong as a climax itself and resultingly feels in many ways a bit more like just another step in this second phase in the MCU rather than its intended big conclusion.

The Avengers assemble for Round Two!

As already mentioned, Joss Whedon doesn't waste any time in Age of Ultron's roughly 2 hour ride.
Therefore, looking at the movie's dynamic and pace, there is pretty much no downtime in Age of Ultron. Either focussing on action or dialogue, each scene in Age of Ultron has a distinct purpose to develop the story further. It's no surprise that Joss Whedon, director of the first Avengers movie, knows how to keep his viewers' attention at pretty much all times.
However, occasionally Age of Ultron throws in important plot points and introductions a bit too suddenly. Most notably the big introduction of Ultron himself comes quite a bit out of nowhere in the midst of a dialogue, making viewers initially feel like they missed Ultron being mentioned in an earlier dialogue or Marvel movie.
Ultron's rushed introduction only goes to show that Age of Ultron's several welcome and interesting new additions to the MCU are introduced inconsistently well. Age of Ultron wants to show off many new characters and ideas and unfortunately sometimes just loses focus on a necessary and good build-up.


"Hey guys, did I ever tell you of that super A.I. I am planning to make?"

In comparison to the first Avengers movie though, Age of Ultron might action-wise be definitely at the same level of quality but somehow lacks the feel of an epic conclusion.
With so many new plot threads and characters revealed or introduced, the entire movie itself mostly feels like yet another step to something even bigger (Avengers: Infinity War) rather than its own big climax. Even though the movie's numerous action scenes are all gorgeous to look at and seeing how the Avengers fight their enemies in entertaining teamwork never gets old, Age of Ultron's story comes off a bit inconsequential for the MCU's entierty.
Ultron appears, he wants to destory mankind, the Avengers have to take him out - this is pretty much the main plot in Age of Ultron and aside from some new introductions here and there, there are pretty much no sub-plots or side stories. Sure, it is nice that Age of Ultron therefore feels very much like a self-contained story, but it's the several introductions and hints at future happenings in upcoming Marvel movies that ultimately diminish Age of Ultron's aimed at "conclusion feel".
With that said, Age of Ultron doesn't really feel as novel or epic as the first Avengers movie mostly due to Marvel's ill-advised decision to already announce all of the Phase Three Marvel movies prior to Age of Ultron's theatrical release.
Without any definite knowledge about what stories or movies Marvel would do next, all the subtle hints in Age of Ultron would've been much more interesting, subtle and less distracting.

"Let's go. I will lead the way to Thanos."

However, what additionally extends the MCU lore even more in Age of Ultron is the surprising amount of backstory given to some of the Avengers. Especially Black Widow and Hawkeye, the two characters that are nobody's favorite, are the one's that are certainly given the most attention when it comes to backstory. Without spoiling anything, both of them are now feeling much more interesting and human. While some of the revealed information about them is definitely quite a bit dark, it's nice to know that viewers seemingly learn more about the characters making them develop with each movie. The fact that new relationships between characters are also being developed on new and more intimate levels that we haven't seen before, makes Age of Ultron's more dialogue heavy parts particularly strong. In that sense, the emotional human elements in Age of Ultron are made way more obvious than in the first Avengers movie, albeit that they are now handeled way less subtle (thanks to some of the character's personality traits and fears being visually showcased in illusions etc.).

For some Avengers, things get much more intimate.

But what about the new characters themselves?
Ultron as this movie's newly introduced big antagonist is definitely a character that will heavily polarize the fanbase. Whereas the idea of one of Tony Stark's own creations going rogue leads way to many new conflicts even inside the Avengers group is definitely an interesting premise, Ultron himself is kind of hard to characterize or judge.
Despite the fact that Ultron is a highly advanced artificial intelligence, Ultron himself isn't really behaving like a rational thinking robot. To many viewers' surprise, Ultron in most cases behaves like a human villain. Mostly conveied through his gestures and speech right from the start, Ultron can feel anger, make jokes and overall feel emotions. He therefore clearly transcends the cold hearted rational behaviour from a robot that many were expecting. This decision to make Ultron a villain with emotions is a big mixed bag, since on the one hand his emotional character now becomes much more complex and overall enjoyable to watch, but on the other hand robs him a whole lot of the menace that would've come from a cold and purely rational thinking machine.
It has to be said though, that a depiction of Ultron that wouldn't have been that emotional would've made a great counterpart to the movie's human elements on the Avengers' side. Though this is also clearly aimed at in the movie, the message of "what makes us human" ultimately gets a quite a bit muddled in the mix through Ultron's "human-robot-mix personality". It all comes down to Ultron being pretty much a "love him or hate him"-kind of villain. 

Should we do a human villain or robotic villain?...Why not both?!
 
Aaron Taylor Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch are the two new mutant additions to the MCU.
Without spoiling their roles in the movie for you, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch come off as quite a bit "tame" in Age of Ultron. Despite having several cool moments and their characters being given explained reasons to be involved in the happenings of the movie, their characters certainly need quite a bit more backstory and most of all personality to stick out if they want to stick around for more Marvel movies. In Age of Ultron, they are mostly still placed in the role of sidekick characters without too much influence on the story as a whole.
Considering that their role here is also their first introduction to the MCU, they do a good job to be likable and dislikable at the same time.
Hopefully we will get to see more of their developed personalities in upcoming Marvel movies.

Hopefully there is a stronger character development for those two incoming.

Looking at the action, Age of Ultron is literally packed with several great action set-pieces.
From a kickstarting attack on a terrorist base in the snowy mountains, over a battle between the Hulk and Tony Stark in the Hulk-Buster, to the big climactic showdown with Ultron and his robot army, it wouldn't be an over-exaggeration to say that Age of Ultron is way more action oriented than the first Avengers movie.
And even though there is definitely a certain lack of novelty and a slight been-there-done-that feel to all of the action scenes, director Joss Whedon nevertheless manages to still make each action scene in Age of Ultron still feel incredibly fun and entertaining thanks to a good mix of creative fight choreography and occasional comedy mixed in. It also helps that interactions between each of the Avengers on the battlefield are now much more commonplace. Therefore, cool looking combos pulled off by Thor and Cap and others are showcased more frequently.
Additionally, since robots are now the common enemies in Age of Ultron, the movie also doesn't need to hold back in terms of any potential gore. So, be prepared to witness the many ways in which a robot can be dismembered.
Long story short: people looking for action will definitely get their money's worth.

That sure isn't going to end well.

Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a good albeit not the expected "amazing" movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Fans of the Marvel movies will definitely be entertained by the movie's several great action sequences, trademark humor and cool newly introduced characters.
What nevertheless makes Age of Ultron be a step behind the first Avengers movie though is not primarily the lack of novelty, but most of all the occasionally rushed pace of some introductions and lacking feel of a big and epic conclusion. Among the several new character introductions and hints at upcoming and already announced future Marvel movies, Age of Ultron's rather self-contained story itself feels rather like "yet another step" in the franchise instead of a true climax. With the knowledge that the Avengers will sooner or later have to face off against the looming true mastermind Thanos, it all makes this movie's antagonist, Ultron, to some part unjustifiedly seem like an inconsequential throwaway villain without any devastating impact on the MCU itself.
Despite that however, Age of Ultron does a great job in continuing to develop its characters' personalities through a surprising amount of new backstory delivered. While not handeled as subtle as in previous movies, the backstory succesfully makes especially the previously more uninteresting members of the group, Black Widow and Hawkeye, much more human and likable as a result.

Let alone seeing your favorite superheroes reunite again on the big screen to kick some ass with the trademark Marvel goodness delivered by Joss Whedon should be reason enough to just go ahead and see Age of Ultron in theaters. Sure enough, Age of Ultron is going to be a good time for viewers even despite its share of rather minor flaws and lack of the same amazing impact of the original Avengers movie.
Age of Ultron is therefore another overall solid entry in the MCU that brings us one step closer to finally facing off against Thanos.



Final Verdict: 7 out of 10

 

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