Howdy ladies and gentlemen of the internet, if you're a big comic book fan or film fan in general chances are you would have seen the recent beast of a film by the name of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and if you haven't yet you should. There is so much going on in this film and that it would be impossible for me to not do a long spoiler-based discussion on the film, so after seeing it three times I believe is it time to talk about it in a great deal of detail. So if you haven't seen the film read my spoiler-free review, then come back here. Alrighty then for those of you still here, let's get started.
Now before I get into this I just want to clarify a two things:
- The following thoughts are just the opinion of an avid film/comic book fan
- I am not a blind fan boy, if a film has issues I will not pretend like they don't exist and will bring them to light if necessary
So with that in mind I am going to talk about what worked, what didn't and what could have been improved (though the latter will technically be attached to what didn't work because most of those points collide with each other).
What Worked In Age of Ultron
Now I'm going to talk about my highlights of the film and what I felt worked.
As a Whole, the film turned out Great
Avengers: Age of Ultron was always going to have a lot going up against it. Firstly it had to out do the first Avengers film which was a pretty damn good film and is regarded to be one of the best comic book films ever. Secondly it also had to fend off the great Phase Two films from 2014; Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Thirdly it had to take the already established characters and bring in a new villain and three additional characters. And finally the film had to take several storylines and set up for future films and make it work in one cohesive manner.
In the end I believe Joss Whedon, the writers and everyone involved in this project did a good job at making it work. This film represents everything that you like about the first film, but introduces a lot of new and interesting elements that work very well too. The film moves at a breakneck speed and continues to evolve these characters and the world of the MCU.
I think the main thing I took away from Age of Ultron the first time and again on my subsequent viewings was how awesome Hawkeye was. After being Loki's puppet for the majority of the last film, this time round he gets so much love. He has a lot of the best scenes, great dialogue and really is the core of the Avengers team. Even though he is just human with a bow and arrow, he's aware of his limitations and makes do with the skills that he has. Whether he is making a great speech about the ridiculous nature of battle with Scarlet Witch, chilling with his teammates or talking to himself about taking out Quicksilver, he comes across a totally cool, fun and relatable person, and anyone who has dismissed him before should be pleased with the way he was handled here. Oh and the fact that he had a hidden family stashed away in a farmhouse off the grid was the biggest surprise ever! I thought it was a trick or dream sequence, but it WAS real, totally unexpected and add a big layer or depth to him, he's not just a fighter, he's a family man and has something to fight for beyond his teammates.
One of the key elements of this film that I think were better than the previous film was the character interaction and quieter moments between the Avengers team members. As great as the action sequences were, some most entertaining parts involved the characters just talking to each other. For the established characters it was about them just enjoying each other's company and cracking jokes, but it was also about seeing how far they've come and learning more about their insecurities and trust issues (especially after their encounters with Scarlet Witch). Whether it is conversations between Vision and Ultron or watching Tony and Steve debating over different ideals while chopping wood, it is all good stuff. I think the best character moments (besides Vision and Ultron's conversation near the end of the film) is the relationship between Black Widow and Bruce Banner/Hulk. Both of them are troubled and hurt individuals, they find each other, they flirt with the idea of being together, but in one scene we see how they tragically wouldn't be able to make things work out. Banner fear's that the Hulk would still be threat and that he wouldn't be able to have children, and then Widow drops a bomb; she's been sterilized so she can't have children. Damn, that's some heavy stuff there. Add on top of that the wonderful interaction that Hulk and Widow have on the battlefield and when she used the lullaby to turn the Hulk back to Banner, they are soft and beautiful. Oh and that last scene when Hulk leaves Widow and flies off into the unknown on his own, it's very special and on top of everything they've been through together already, it just adds to drama their characters and their potential relationship.
Humour has always been half the fun of a Marvel Studios film and while it hasn't always worked, in The Avengers it was one of the best parts of the film and here it is no exception. The jokes are witty, quick and work both verbally and physically. Whether it is all of the men trying to pick up Thor's hammer, Quicksilver getting shot in the arm after the police are told to ceasefire, Ultron referring to Cap's Vibranium shield as a frisbee, Tony Stark getting giddy over a secret door or Vision picking up Thor's hammer in a casual manner, there is plenty to make you laugh. The jokes feel a little less forced than some of the previous films and it works because it's used in the midst of dangerous situations or adds to the character interactions.
Even though this character is only in the film for a short time, he leaves a very big impression. Vision is a combination of JARVIS and Ultron, but is his own entity and from the time he is introduced he's very interesting. He's calm, assertive, intelligent and articulate. There's something very clean and pure about him, but it is the way interacts with characters that makes him brilliant, whether he's speaking with the Avengers or talking with Ultron (which are some of the best moments in the film), the guy is just really awesome. It also helps that he pick up and use Thor's hammer and is a complete badass in battle flying around dismantling robots and shooting head lasers. Paul Bettany should be noted for his lovely performance in this film, Bettany as JARVIS has been one of my favourite minor characters in the MCU films (much like Agent Coulson before he got killed in Avengers) and to see him evolve into a physical being where can interact with the Avengers.
While Ultron doesn't have the same kind of charm, likeability and elegance that Loki has, the guy is clearly the best villain the MCU has had in a while (besides Winter Soldier). Ultron wasn't just another typical evil villain looking to take over the world, he wanted to purify it by evolving the human race and taking out those who didn't fit into his grand design of a perfect world. It also helps that he was smart, quite funny, big-headed and could go into a temper tantrum like a child at anytime. Oh and Spader's voice work, excellent, I really helps elevate a character if the right voice is behind it.
The Ties to the MCU
This is just a small point but I really liked the sense of continuity in this film as it ties in nicely with not only The Avengers but also some of the previous Phase Two films. Seeing the film the first time, I just got so happy at the party seeing not only Rhodey, but also Sam Wilson as well. Both of these guys are some of my favourite side characters and to see them conversing and interacting with characters beyond the solo films is delightful, funny and again adds to the continuity. Also having War Machine coming in and fighting with Iron Man when dispatching the Ultron drones was awesome, those two haven't been together on-screen since Iron Man 2, so its nice. And of course there's Thor's vision about the Infinity Stones/Gems and the mid-end credits scene with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet which not only ties this film with Captain America 1, Avengers 1, Thor 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy. Oh and with Andy Serkis' Ulysses Klaw (who was great by the way), we've gotten a piece of the puzzle from the upcoming Black Panther which will happen in a few years. SO MUCH REFERENCING!
Straight from the beginning of the film this film straps you in for this action thrill ride and never let's go. I mean the introduction of the film jumps right into an action sequence which shows not only how well these heroes work individually but also as a unit. It is incredibly well-choreographed and features that awesome slow-mo shot of the team together from the third trailer. Some of the fight sequences feel like they are ripped straight from the pages of the comic books, it's that accurate. And it is not just the team together that have the best scenes, Thor happens to get a lot of love in this film and has the best fights I've seen him in since Avengers 1, possibly even Thor 1. Also Captain America's strength from Winter Soldier has carried over to this film and its put to good use. It seems like Cap and Thor have a good connection as they seem to seem up a lot and do cool combo attacks too. Everyone has their moments to shine, Black Widow is cool, Hulk is a beast, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are lovely, and the list goes on. I have to say one of my favourite moments was seeing Iron Man, Thor and Vision are striking Ultron down together, it was pure badassery. Though, I believe the slow motion battle sequence where the Avengers defend that one spot against the Ultron drones has to be the best in the entire film. The way it is crafted is done with such care, style, beauty and it is pure fan service to the fans.
What Didn't Work/What Could Have Been Improved
Now to talk about what I believe wasn't that could and/or could have been improved.
A Bit Too Much Going On
I think this has been the main point/problem with Avengers: Age of Ultron, that there is just a bit too much going on. I have to say on your first viewing the film it can be a bit overwhelming. There are a great deal of plots to follow with the Twins, Ultron, Ulysses Klaw and the Vibranium, Black Widow and Bruce Banner's relationship, Thor's quest to learn about the Infinity Stones, the creation of Vision, etc... It can be a bit much and since there will be specific stories you get invested in you will either end up get engaged only to switch to something else or get stuck with something that doesn't interest you or have a piece of story that feels like it detracts from the main narrative. While Joss Whedon did well to balance out all this ambitious amount stories and didn't make a complete mess of things like Spider-Man 3, Iron Man 2 or The Amazing Spider-Man, the film has clearly suffered from an oversized plot which needed to be much more straightforward. If certain characters were removed and things were streamlined then the film would have flowed a lot better, though personally I wouldn't know what to take out because I liked everything for the most part.
Time Devoted to the Twins
I really liked the inclusion of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, they added a lot of interesting elements to the film with their powers, close sibling relationship and their reasoning for joining Ultron and then later converting to the side of the Avengers. That being said at the same time, if handled differently they could have been removed and it would have given more screen time to other characters or helped streamline the plot. It kind of feels like they're around just to show off their powers and eventually join the other heroes. I wish there had been more screen time given to their characters to see more of their close bond, maybe see flashbacks when they were children or when they were being experimented on by Strucker or using their powers for the first time. Just small things like that would have helped.
With Ultron I was hoping to see more of how he came into being, saw the world, grew to see its problems and then decide that things needed to change and turn evil. The jump from his creation to him having a plan to take out the Avengers and make humanity evolve or be destroyed was pretty damn quick and I believe a little more time spent with him, giving him some more development and screen time would have done wonders. Also I wanted to mention his physical transformation, I was hoping to see more of a gradual transformation and more bodies, maybe even see him take one body and get morphed/upgraded in a machine, but no, we go from one body to the next pretty swiftly which was a little disheartening.
As much as I loved the action in this film which was gorgeous and kick ass, at the same time this time it felt like it had a little less "wow" factor to it. I'm not the only one to say this, some other have mentioned that the action this time round, while really good, there wasn't as many memorable scenes/sequences as the first Avengers or like Winter Soldier where there was a lot of cool hand to hand combat which blew my mind. And while the action is usually very clean, wonderfully framed and pretty, the CGI looked a little inconsistent, some of the action was done with a few too many quick cuts and sometimes the shots seemed a bit too zoomed in, but that's nitpicking for sure.
Repetition From Avengers
One of the other major complaints that's come from this film is that it rehashes a lot of elements from the last film, mainly the final act where the Avengers go up against a villain with an army. Just switch the Chitauri with robots and the final fight is almost exactly the same. I give this film credit for raising the stakes and creating a more life-threatening situation with Ultron taking a piece of the earth and using it like a meteor to crush the rest of the world below. But besides that it is essentially the Avengers, trying to save civilians and fighting an army.
No Big Continuity Related to Iron Man 3 and Thor 2
I think this was something that a good few fans and critics brought up around the time the film was released early to the press and here in the UK. Winter Soldier is clearly the most referenced film in Phase Two with its use of Falcon, the mentions of the hunt for Bucky and Baron Strucker saying he worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. when Cap said he worked for Hydra. But beyond that Iron Man 3 continuity feels non-existent, besides having Rhodey around, there is nothing to be found about the film, no mention of Tony's anxiety attacks or why he started building suits again after he blew most of them up and had no lab to work in. And Thor's last film feels invisible, besides seeing the Aether in his vision and a mentioning of Jane and the convergence, his film feels like it has had little consequence going ahead in this film.
Other Notable Points
There are just a few other things I wanted to mention like:
- Baron Von Strucker: When I saw Strucker at the end of Winter Soldier I thought he would have a substantial role in this film, and while he was fine and the same time I thought he was incredibly underutilized and could have been featured more many in some flashbacks or addition scenes with the twins.
- Doing More With Scarlet Witches Visions: Besides what was done with Tony Stark and Black Widow, the other members of the team members' visions weren't that damaging or extreme. Widow relived the dark days of her past and Stark saw his worst fear, those scenes were handled well. But I wish we'd seen a little more and done things that were psychologically more damaging for the team.
- It Felt Like Returning Characters Had Their Personalities Reset: This is just a minor thing, but while observing the film it seemed like most of the characters in this film were back to the way we found them in the first Avengers. Cap's still Cap, Tony is still a wise-cracking douche, Thor's aggressive and lively and so on. Besides Hulk, Widow and Hawkeye, most characters feel like their still the same as they were before and nothing from their previous films has matured or affected them in any way.
In conclusion Avengers: Age of Ultron is a bloody good follow-up to avengers and while it didn't turn out like a lot of people had hoped, when you think about it could have turned out a lot worse. The first Avengers film came out at a time when comic book films were really starting to become a big deal, but they were not as frequent or as popular as they are now. The MCU was also very different too, The Avengers was the first of its kind as since then, the world has expanded and there is more characters populating it, and since the MCU is all connected there is a certain expectation from the fans to see how one film affects another. Age of Ultron does suffer from being part of a larger world and with the multiple plot points things can get a little messy. That being said, again this film is still a good time, it is hilarious, action-packed, full of fan service and character development and the most important fact is that it is fun. The film is entertaining and at the end of the day that is all you need a film to be right?
So what did you think of Avengers: Age of Ultron? Is it the film you hoped for or not? And do you agree with any of my points or not? Whatever your thoughts are be sure to leave them below and I'll see ya on the next blog post yo! :D