(While this is my first review, keep in mind I wrote it when the film first released and contains predictions and thoughts on future films that have since been released)
Ok, so I've decided the latest Avenger's film would be the perfect choice for my first proper movie review, actually it's more of a film analysis than review but hey, potatoes/potatos. Growing up a dedicated marvel fanboy (no shame in that) I've obviously been really digging this whole shared universe trend going on right now with Marvel and Hollywood. The anticipation felt leading up to the release of Age of Ultron was truly immense. Like a lot of you, I've been following each new installment of the franchise with bated breath, rushing to cinemas on release day, scouring the net for news, reading the comics, watching all the tie in tv shows ie. Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, even downloaded netflix just to watch Daredevil. Basically i haven't been too disappointed with any release thus far. Sure Thor 2: The dark world felt a little rushed, and Iron Man 2 and 3 felt a touch too silly (for me at least) at times, ie. Tony's serious alcoholism, which was a defining story in the history of the comics (demon in a bottle) reduced on screen to nothing more than party boy Stark dancing (and peeing) in the Iron Man suit. Or how about that shock Mandarin reveal in Iron Man 3? While a clever plot device, still kind of left fans, myself included, feeling rather cheated. Or when Pepper wears the Iron Man suit ugh.... but again, i digress. Apologies on my tendency to rant. Small gripes aside, all the films have been pretty darn great, Winter Soldier being my own personal favorite. So why you ask am i talking about all these past Marvel releases when reviewing the all new chapter in the biggest of Marvel's blockbuster franchises The Avengers? Well its because to get the most out of the film you really have to have been paying attention to the whole story thus far. Spanning all the different franchises within the one franchise. Discovering the entire 'deliberate' bread crumb trail of info, fan service and easter eggs representing everything from comic book references to possible future film story lines, but... does the film work as a solid stand alone film. Even without all the franchise ties. Like every great sequel film should? Well I'll answer now. I'm going to say at times, yes... but mostly, no unfortunately. For me at least, I found the whole thing a touch underwhelming. Kind of like setting up future films was more important than putting a focus on this films story. To me, it was probably the biggest let down so far of all the Marvel productions. Not because it is the worst film Marvel has ever released. I think as a film its probably better than say, Iron Man 2 or Incredible Hulk, but it had so much more riding on it, and failed to live up to the hype train. Which just made it all the more disappointing when all we got was just "ok". I entered the cinema giddy with anticipation, and struggled through what seemed like endless previews. Mainly trailers for this years future Marvel releases. Ant Man with Paul Rudd. Which by the way I'm still super pumped for, despite the loss of one of my favorite directors Edgar "Shaun of the dead" Wright. My hope's still (surprisingly) haven't diminished. I've always liked Rudd, and think he'll be a good fit for Avengers. Granted Scott Lang instead of Hank Pymm is an odd move I admit, but at least an aged Pymm will still feature, passing down the antman legacy to Rudd's 'Lang'. The other trailer was for Fox's new Fantastic Four. Which im honestly still not sold on. Im a typical fanboy in the way I like my adaptations to feel true to the source material. Since Josh Trank (the director, Chronicle) has made it clear he is not a fan and has even gone so far as to discourage his crew from reading the comics leave's me feeling uneasy for it's success. I don't like the teen-ifying, the character/origin changes, or the dark and gritty vibe it seem's to be going for. That's just not F4 in my opinion. Admittedly the trailer is decent, but not once did it feel like the comic's I grew up with and loved. I've always liked the lighthearted sitcom touch of the comic. When everything else is dark and mature it's nice having a fun and over the top alternative. However im still looking forward to reviewing it. Who know's may turn out brilliant? Perhaps I'll eat my words? Now usually i would be happy watching the trailers. Sure iv seen them all before but it's always nice viewing on a big screen, but tonight was different. Tonight was meant to be Marvel's big game changer. I was in a hurry to get this party started.
So firstly, lets talk about the good points, of which there are many. So what exactly worked? The action for starter's. From the very opening scene it was like a punch to the face... man that opening scene! One word "exhilarating" another two words? Touch corny, but in an awesome, stylish (and completely over the top) flinging motorbike kind of way. It begins with the teams assault on castle Strucker. The team we know and love, working together, pulling off these death defying acts in perfect unison. Showing off spectacular team ups. Hulk plowing through bunkers, causing immeasurable damage with ease. The rest flaunting all appropriate powers. Widow's acrobatic, gun's blazing approach. Hawkeye firing arrow's long range with absolute precision. Iron Man attacking from the sky, clearing paths through baddies with bombs and lasers. They all get time to shine. It really was the beginning i expected from a sequel to one of the biggest, most expensive blockbusters of all time. A great way to show us fans just how much this once rag tag group of super powered individuals, have grown as a team. Now practically unstoppable. The intro really showcased that. Joss Whedon has an amazing eye for action bordering on 'George Lucas' (Star Wars series) sized spectacle, but unlike Lucas, Whedon is equally adept with his writing skills. In fact his even more talented. His scripts are filled with great dialogue and witty banter. Due to the fact he has been honing his skills writing and directing super teams on television for years. Long before he landed a gig on the biggest team film ever (Buffy/Angel/Firefly/Dollhouse) It's no coincidence he is hailed as a God among the geek community, but this is the very reason why Age of Ultron was so disappointing for me. Sure the comedy aspect worked, with some truly hilarious lines, but in doing so it feels like the light hearted touch is at odds with the film when it changes tone. Its basically the robot apocalypse and millions of lives are at risk, lets crack some jokes at each other's expense ummm what? If you superheroes aren't taking this whole affair seriously, why should I? Just felt like it was struggling to find its own identity. Something that Guradian's of the Galaxy had aced flawlessly last year, but this, this however felt like dark subject matter made light by an uneven script.
Once the ball gets rolling and the action slows down. For a little while at least, we are introduced to the two newest Avenger's additions, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Comic fans will recognise these popular characters as the children of X-Mens resident big bad, Magneto. Woohoo! Does that mean the X-Men are finally joining the MCU? Has Fox's stranglehold released? Unfortunately no, while Fox own all thing's X-Men (on film anyway) the mutant twins are also long serving Avengers in the comics. Thus Marvel also being allowed to use them on film, but alas comes a list of legal guidelines to obey. So, no mentioning the word mutant ok? Oh and definitely no mention of dear old dad. So new origin's were conceived. Now orphaned by a building collapse due to an explosion, and now out for revenge on the culprit, none other than Stark industries. They gained their powers through Strucker's experimenting (who needs mutants?) with the duo beginning the film as villains. It's actually pretty clever how Marvel have bypassed the whole Fox thing and turned what could have been a clumsy inclusion into something that felt organic and helps serve the story. Legal wrangling's aside, how do they fare? Especially when compared to Evan Peters fan favorite Quicksilver portrayal in Fox's recent smash hit "Days of future past"? Well lets just say Marvel didn't put up much of a fight. I actually really like Aaron Taylor Johnson. He always plays a likable part in everything iv seen him in. From "Nowhere boy" to "Godzilla", he has yet to let me down. He played an endearing Kick Ass (great film) and despite my many, many gripes with the disappointing Kick Ass sequel, none of those gripes were aimed at Johnson's performance or acting ability. So I was excited to see him in this, and he did good... with the very little he had to work with. The poor guy barely gets any attention. Which is a real shame because the small exposure he does get on film, he aces flawlessly. He is a very different character to X-Men's cocky teen version. More in line with the comic depiction, dark and serious, while still being arrogant and sarcastic. I liked him and thought Whedon really missed a great opportunity by strangely treating the character as unimportant? Im now convinced Marvel realised how popular he was to the X-Men franchise and decided not to even try and compete. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) fares a little better in terms of character development, but honestly, not by a huge margin. The Olsen twins have left a bad taste in my mouth, going all the way back to the 'fullhouse' days, luckily i have seen 'Silent House' and 'Godzilla' (also starring Mr Quicksilver, Taylor Johnson) and this Olsen has actually got some decent acting chops. Her mind altering powers are represented well as she instills premonitions inside the minds of our favorite heroes. Thus leading to some truly huge scale action (can you say HulkBuster Armour? :P) as well as a somewhat ham fisted plot device used for littering clues regarding the future films in Marvel's franchise. This is sort of effective, sort of not. Sure it's exciting for us fans to catch these glimpses and try to connect all the different puzzle pieces together leading to the upcoming Infinity War, but at times these visions/premonitions seemed a touch forced (am i allowed to say shoehorned in?) to set up future films rather than add anything significant to the actual film you have just paid money to go and see. Especially when it comes to Thor's moment. Talk about forced and lazy. Adding nothing to the films plot. Concerned only with Infinity War. Which is like what? Still five or six film's away? Should have just saved that scene for the upcoming Ragnarok. Would have made more sense in that movie. Speaking of forced, a Banner/Black Widow romance subplot?? Whoa that came out of left field? It felt completely at odds with her characters depiction in all past Marvel films. Not to mention never actually happening in the comics. Also... BETTY ROSS IS BANNERS GIRL. DAMN YOU WHEDON!!! Nerd rage aside, they're relationship just didn't hit the mark properly. Not only due to the complete lack of chemistry between both actors, but the whole love angle just felt totally rushed. A last ditch effort to include a romance sub plot... because a film like this apparently needs one?
Apologies dear reader. I seem to have gotten sidetracked. While listing the films good points, I seem to have reverted to the bad. Which is actually a great analogy for the film as a whole. For every great idea, for everything that actually worked, there was always something letting it down. Too many lame or wasted ideas. Too many uneven plot threads and underdeveloped character/relationships. Always something stopping the film from ever achieving true greatness.
So what next? Well lets talk returning characters. Shall we start with Hawkeye? After spending more than half the first Avengers film, a mind controlled zombie, and no solo film under his belt (awww poor Hawkes, at least Widow get's to chill with the other heroes in solo movies. All Renner gets is a two second line in the first Thor release) Fans haven't been given too much Hawkeye love so far. Well Marvel fans you will be happy to know Mr Whedon took note of this fact and places Hawkeye (Bourne Legacy) front and center here... and Renner actually thrives in the part. He nails it. Its really great to finally see the character shine. Sure the whole hidden family, secret farmhouse sub plot came across a little forced (and silly) but the character is absolutely vital to the team dynamic. A likable everyman among a team of God like beings. It goes a long way to keeping things feeling somewhat grounded (i know, i know, i did say somewhat) As for the rest, i won't go into the other characters too much. If you have been following the previous films you will have an idea of what to expect from Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man) and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) here they all put in a decent, likable performance. Even Johansson, despite her total lack of charisma, still does well in the part, to me she always appeared a touch wooden. Especially in her debut film Iron Man 2, so its good to see her get a better understanding of the character.
I'm sure you have all heard the recent furor caused by one of the lines in the script. Delivered by Johansson. Labeling herself a monster in comparison to Hulk, because the Soviet program that trained her left her unable to conceive children. I refuse to delve into that nonsense too much but it is worth a mention. Aren't we all getting a little too sensitive? If a character, and don't forget, she is a work of fiction. If this character is grieving from some horrible experience in her life, as she is in the film, and she now perceives herself as a "monster" because of it, how can anyone in the audience take offence? It makes no sense. The film isn't condoning this train of thought. Its not calling her right for having this belief. It is definitely not calling all women who have lost the ability to become pregnant, monsters, geez!! Its a fragile character in an emotional state dealing with her own psychological body issues. Does that mean Joss Whedon feels the same way because he wrote it? Hell no it doesn't. By that rational Bret Easton Ellis must really think like Patrick Bateman? Whedon has just tried to write it from a flawed characters perspective, while she is at her most vulnerable, having an emotional reaction. The media frenzy caused by this, my God! I read some of the quotes directed at Whedon from the enraged idiot public. It forced him to actually deactivate his Twitter account, calling the poor guy every horrible, nasty and spiteful name under the sun. Pointing ridiculous accusations his way. With most of the quotes being far more disgusting than anything the film ever come close to projecting. Honestly some people need to take a good, long, hard look at themselves. Really its truly disgusting how such a trivial aspect of the story could be so overblown like that. Calling Joss Whedon a terrible, misogynistic pig?? Is this the same guy that put strong, female leads at the forefront of his television ventures? The same guy that actually made a strong female lead cool with the male demographic? Creator of Buffy, Dollhouse, firefly etc all these television shows that put a major emphasis women in lead action roles, kicking as much, if not more ass than their male co-stars. Buffy started a trend (Xena may have beat her to the punch on television but don't forget the Buffy feature film that started it all in 1992) others followed his lead and placed ass kicking women at the forefront (Alias/Dark Angel/Sarah Connor Chronicles, just to name a few) All that defining work. All that now apparently undone and forgotten because a bunch of self righteous, easily offended morons looking for a target, had unfairly deemed Whedon appropriate for demoralising. All because a fictional characters thoughts on (her own) body issues, and how she perceives herself after a great tragedy in her life, wasn't written the way they wanted it to be written? The idiot public can really be totally batshit crazy sometimes. It wasn't fair on Whedon, and the people responsible should now feel truly ashamed of themselves. Anywayyyy enough of that, i said i wasn't going to delve too much on that useless bit of idiocy, and i have already spent too much time talking about it. I wanted to mention one more thing about Ruffalo before moving on. Although i didn't like the romance plot line, i found no faults in Ruffalo's performance. He really does embody Banner perfectly. The scenes partnered in the lab with Stark, two of Marvel's best scientific minds, humorously arguing theories with witty banter, were really just spot on. A real treat for the fans who had grown accustomed to these clever exchanges in the comics.
Up next, the Vision joins the ranks. Now we're starting to get interesting. The casting of Mr "always dependable" Paul Bettany (Da Vinci Code, Priest) was truly inspired. He basically plays an all powerful, superhero robot and happy to say Bettany portray's him wonderfully. Somehow whimsical, almost childlike in his understanding of the world. Approaching the dire situation with a sense of awe and wonder, despite his cold robot logic. Fans will already remember 'Bettany' as he is no stranger to the Marvel universe. Already appearing in over four previous Marvel releases as the voice of Tony Stark's cyber butler Jarvis. I have to say, the way the filmmakers wrote that basic idea into the characters big screen origin was actually an impressive stroke of genius. In my opinion its actually a better origin than the comics. Don't get me wrong, I hate when a film strays too far from the source material. I mostly find it illogical, and more than a little insulting when film makers take it upon themselves to alter/change... and "supposedly' better the source material that inspired the film to be made in the first place? Honestly doesn't make too much sense to me? *cough*Ninja Turtle's*cough* but this just felt totally organic, it helped serve the overall story, and even helped further connect this film to the MCU's other blockbuster releases both past and future. The character was just perfectly executed in his first big screen debut. He may enter the film in the latter half, but the character is actually all the more memorable for it. Unlike Quicksilver the small amount of screen time allocated to Vision was enough, and was wisely used to develop the character and show how truly important he is to the Marvel universe as a whole. While also keeping a sense of mystery about him, quietly hinting he will play a very "big" part in the future of the franchise.
Now for the big one. The one you all want to know about.The one and only big bad, evil robot mastermind Ultron. A favorite in the comics. Fans rejoiced when James Spader scored the part of the iconic comic villain, and he does nail it. Being motion capture, the film needed an actor with a demanding presence, someone who commands attention, and cgi or not, the character is defined by Spader. Vocally he is too perfect... unfortunately what starts out as a creepy, menacing figure, quickly become's something of a funny cartoon character. Almost comic relief. I expected a far more calculating, sadistic take on Ultron, and what we got was a wise cracking, jokey Spader, that while admittedly funny, took away far too much of his threatening appeal. Being wholly cgi, and as great as it was, he came across too cartoony to ever be considered a classic villain. I couldn't help but be reminded of General Grievous from Star Wars: Episode 3, both in look and tone. Again don't get me wrong, like i said, I enjoyed Spader's performance but i just didn't find him intimidating at all. Everyone knows that all great team films need a truly dangerous adversary. Someone so damn nasty that they are worthy of such a superhero team-up in the first place. The first Avengers film only featured Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as the big, bad protagonist, and i know, its like a golden rule among Marvel fans that you can (apparently) never have too much Loki. Granted Hiddleston does always plays the ultra slick, overly smug, charismatic bad guy perfectly, but i do find the character's becoming a touch played out. I even remember hearing talks of a solo Loki film not long after the first Avengers film released. Due to such high demand for the character, or perhaps just the Marvel fanboys crushing over Tom Hiddleston a tad too much? Not sure if that was just a rumour or not? Thankfully that film never came to fruition, but that didn't stop him from appearing as Loki anywhere marvel could squeeze him on set. The guy just didn't cut it as a big enough threat, he wasn't worthy of such a huge team-up. Was hoping Ultron (being a personal favorite of mine from the comics) would break the rule and be a truly evil, ultra powerful killing machine. Worthy of being the sole adversary to the most powerful super team on the planet, but alas, not so much. I realise the film makers understood this glaring issue of the first film, and probably why we got the hugely epic, city wide, action extravaganza, the Loki led Chitauri (skrulls, can we just call them skrulls?) alien invasion scene. Ok, so you remember that scene well do you? Yeah that's understandable, it was a pretty kick ass action scene. Well turns out it was so kick ass that Mr Joss Whedon agreed with you. In fact, he liked it so much he decided to go ahead and basically do it all over again in the sequel. This time replacing Loki with Ultron, and the Chitauri (skrulls :P) army with a killer robot army, booyah! A hugely epic finale that suddenly doesn't seem so hugely epic the second time around. Instead reeking of lazy script writing. Seriously, nobody noticed that while brainstorming script ideas?? That the end fight is basically identical to the first films? Stupid!
The film had some great spectacle, and runs at a breakneck speed never really slowing down for very long. Which makes for a fun watch, racing from one giant, eye popping action scene to the next, but this also works much to the films detriment. It just feels, hmmm i don't know, a touch empty? Like something is missing? Obviously the film was never going to match the excitement of seeing all of Marvel's biggest heroes co-existing and uniting together on screen for the first time, and just to be clear, it doesn't, but i still expected far more from it. Granted my expectation's were pretty darn high, but hey, that's only because the last few films released have all been absolutely stellar affairs. I can't fault Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy in that same manner. I would have expected that this, with all the talent involved, and the ginormous budget to match, to at least be on par with those film's and it just isn't. Huge action needs an equal amount of story, otherwise it feels superfluous. It's in this department that it falters. It's actually a real let down. It's so disappointing seeing all the (obvious) missed opportunities at work here. Whedon is usually quite great, and while even with all my gripes with this work, he still excels at having the limelight shared (somewhat) evenly between each character. Well almost. Some get more limelight than others, but that's understandable with a film of this size. It's hard catering to so many characters without getting too bogged down with over exposure and story convolution. He has a true talent for directing such a large ensemble cast. It's actually a pretty rare talent, lesser directors have proven how it can all go pear shaped *cough,cough* Spider-Man 3 *cough,cough* not many can pull it off without the feeling of rushed characters or plot lines, but he is definitely not on his "A" game here. Forced subplots, under utilised characters (Thor in particular draws the screen time short straw this time around) overly comedic villain, topped off with an ending that mirrored the first film's Chitauri (skrulls) attack ending, let this film down majorly in my honest opinion. I just expected more, the world ending danger was prevalent but it just never really felt epic.
During the press run for the film recently, it was announced a major character would be killed off and by the end of the film the Avengers team as we currently know it will consist of an entirely different roster of heroes. First let's discuss this "major" character death, to avoid spoilers i won't mention their name, but if you haven't seen the film then perhaps its best to just skip this whole next paragraph to avoid any possible conclusions. As a comic book fan it left me feeling a bit cheated and honestly baffled by the film makers decision to off this classic character from the comics. A character with a long history on the team, before he even gets a chance to shine on film? Even setting aside my fanboy grievances with the sudden death, it was still handled incredibly poorly. It was rushed and with him being one of the "lesser" character's on film, with barely a chance for any development, there is no real emotional attachment, thus rendering the death kind of pointless? Seems the director just wanted a big, talked about moment in the film, so he lazily shoehorned a meaningless death into the script. A death for a character that was never given too much attention in the first place? It was glaringly obvious he was chosen so that no harm was to come to any of the massive money makers on the team. It felt rushed and forced, and this beloved comic book character deserved better
I suppose as a standard action blockbuster it ticks all the appropriate boxes. Guess i just expected more from Marvel than just standard box ticking. After being so floored by their previous films. Maybe iv been spoiled and my expectation's were set too high? It did have some great moments and at times came close to brilliance. By no mean's would i call it a bad film. Just a touch lazy. Or perhaps played a little too safe. Almost as if Marvel knew it would be a license to print money regardless of it's quality so decided not to try as hard as they did first time around? Whedons recent gushing about the film in the press run leading up to release, claiming this is Marvel's Empire Strike's Back (because that film is considered by many to be "tonally" the darkest of the Star Wars film's) is a bit off the mark. Even if you were inclined to believe such hyperbole, after viewing the film's first trailer, I want to be perfectly clear, in my honest opinion, this film didn't share the same tone at all, and played every opportunity given for a "mature" or "dark" moment far too safe to ever be considered as such (for the record, i found Captain America 2: Winter Soldier far more deserving of that moniker)
Lastly it's time to make mention of Whedon's other big claim. That the event's of this film would drastically alter the team as we currently know it. He wasn't lying. I'm just not sure it was the best move. He failed to mention just how disappointing the team can look when you take away some of the big guns and replace with lesser knowns. Even as a fan of the comics I still found the roster introduced at the film's conclusion a little on the B-grade side of the Marvel universe. Hell i wouldn't even buy a comic with that boring roster. We are lucky in this age of internet, there are rarely any surprises when it come's to a films production, and the Marvel movie map is set out for all to see, for year's to come. Otherwise i might be worried for the franchise's possible failure. Instead the gravity of the situation is lessened by knowing Captain America 3: Civil War is coming up soon, featuring all our favorite heroes back together again on the big screen. Also while the current team introduced at the end of film might seem a little lame, we can at least rest easy knowing some bigger character's are set to soon join the ranks and better fill out the team. With Ant-man, Black Panther, Doc Strange, Captain Marvel all currently on the way. Oh and let's not forget Marvels recent Sony acquisition allowing a new Spider-man trilogy to be made under the Marvel banner, suddenly the future doesn't seem so dire. Interesting side note, Joss Whedon recently revealed, both Spidey and Captain Marvel were originally meant to appear alongside the new roster introduced at the end of Age of Ultron, but unfortunately the licensing rights couldn't be smoothed out in time, which is a shame, but does gives some explanation as to why the new team seems a touch crummy. The Avenger's were never a bunch of second stringer heroes, they have always been Marvel's big guns. The new roster is more than a little insulting. If i didn't already know all the aforementioned heroes were soon on their way, i could be forgiven for thinking Spider-man might not just be fixing his own franchise when he come's back home to Marvel..
Anyway that's enough rambling from me. Thanks so much for taking the time to read such a long article. Very interested to know what you all thought of the whole thing and possible future of the Marvel franchise? So be sure to sound off in the comments section and follow me on twitter @johnnygeekcool
Stay tuned for more news, discussion and reviews next time