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The Avengers: Age of Ultron

What She said:

She
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The AvengersA: Age of Ultron

Can you believe that The Avengers was released three years ago? Me neither.  Anyway, Avengers: Age of Ultron is Joss Whedon’s follow-up to the first film. The movie reconvenes our ensemble cast of characters including Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, The Hulk, Thor, and Hawkeye as they battle a seemingly insurmountable foe partially of their own creation known as Ultron. Viewers are treated to 141 minutes of wall-to-wall action and sweeping graphics of things being blown up. It’s clear that lots of lives are at stake and the question is, can the Avengers once again save the day?

The answer is yes, they can save the day, even if it does seem like quite a terrific feat. What the Avengers cannot do is overcome the tragic and ever-present sophomore movie slump. This sequel does, indeed, feel like a sequel. Everything about this movie is on steroids—the storyline, the action, the characters, and the stakes. However, with so much made bigger and louder, I feel like a lot gets lost in the shuffle.

Let me give you a little more background about our basic plot. I’ll be honest, I’m not going to try to explain everything in detail because it’s so complicated that I’m sure I missed things and frankly, it gives me a headache. So, as our movie begins, we meet the Avengers who are hard at work in some Eastern European country. They’re trying to infiltrate baddie, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, a Hydra member who has been using Loki’s scepter to experiment on humans. Apparently, he’s able to harness its power to give people super-human abilities. Pretty cool if you ask me, but also pretty darn dangerous and illegal. The Avengers successfully retrieve the scepter, but it’s too much for Tony Stark to leave alone.

Stark and Bruce Banner find some sort of artificial intelligence—like a computer, but somewhat sentient—in the scepter’s gem, and Stark cannot help but try to make the most of it. He tries to use the A.I. to complete his Ultron global defense system, but that doesn’t work out as hoped. Ultron develops a mind and agenda of his own, banishes J.A.R.V.I.S. and strikes out against his makers. He blames the Avengers for the evils in this world and vows to bring them down. Ultron escapes with the scepter and begins to upgrade himself into a uber powerful machine. He also recruits two of Strucker’s super-human creations, the Maximoff twins, to help him in his bidding.

And what is his bidding? Well, Ultron says that he wants peace in the world, but that also seems to mean worldwide destruction. He believes in the evolution of man into its best self—and I think he also thinks that he’s the best version of man. Ultron hones in on Dr. Helen Cho and her synthetic tissue technology as his ideal future. He wants a body created for himself that is perfection in its utmost form. He’s also gotten his hands on vibranium, the rare and indestructible metal that Captain America’s shield is made out of.

The AvengersA: Age of Ultron

So basically, the Avengers are forced to team up and outwit Ultron, while also taking on his minions of machines and the Maximoff twins. There are several battles that take place in various locations. It’s a little mind numbing, but it mostly makes sense, except for an excursion by Thor partway through the movie that I’m still trying to figure out the root point of. But oh well. I’m done worrying about the finer details.

So, what did I think? I generally thought the movie was fine. I didn’t enter with the highest of expectations. I mean, initially, I did, because I thought the first movie was so spectacular in almost every way. But then I started to read some of the early reviews and braced myself for the worst. I certainly cannot blast this film. It’s easy enough to watch. However, it falls victim to some of the common pitfalls of an action sequel, and I left the theater with several concerns.

First, the storyline got way too convoluted. I know, I know, I should not be too hard on a superhero film. But the plot here got overproduced and so we ended up with some components that were entirely unnecessary. Spoiler alert…don’t read on unless you want some real spoilers. There’s a budding romance that feels contrived. In addition, Thor’s whole consultation with a magical other world was never entirely explained and really wasn’t needed at all. It didn’t make much sense. Ultron’s motivation seemed to be in constant flux and I’m not even going to get into Hawkeye’s secret family. It was all just too much to present itself in a way that was logical and that felt natural.

The AvengersA: Age of Ultron

In fact, I think the writing of this film really is what killed it. There are so many illogicals that it’s hard as a viewer to overcome them. For example, the Avengers are up against a foe who seems truly insurmountable. And yet, they don’t call in the auxiliary like Falcon or War Machine. In fact, these fellas pop up at various points in the film, and so we all know they’re around, but they don’t help out when the Avengers need them most. Beyond these intricacies that don’t quite make sense, we also have plenty of dialogue that feels forced and is flat out unfunny when compared to that of previous Marvel films. I was shocked by how many of the jokes were just bad. And there were a lot that were overtly sexual that wouldn’t even be funny to adults, let alone a younger audience. That aspect was a total miss.

Finally, I wasn’t too impressed with the performances in this film. They were OK, but also nothing spectacular. It seemed like everyone was just going through the motions. I think the only real high-point for me was Aaron Taylor-Johnson as one of the Maximoff twins. Elizabeth Olsen played the other twin, and while she was OK, I definitely could see through her accent many times. Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner were all just meh. I attribute part of that to the material they were given, but it just seemed like they felt like they were trapped in something that they weren’t thrilled about.

For all its downsides, it’s still an OK movie. In a star system, I’d say 2 out of 4. It’s very watchable and feels like fluff. In the HeSaidSheSaid rating system, I’ll say…

Thumbs half up.


What He said:

He

If there is one thing – and that’s not to say there is only one thing – the Marvel movies are good at it’s planning for the long game. Events from three of the previous Marvel movies play a prominent role in creating the storyline of Age of Ultron.

At the conclusion of The Avengers, there is a massive attack on New York City by an alien army. The army is led by Loki and was provided to him courtesy of Thanos.

The AvengersA: Age of Ultron

This affected Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in a couple of ways. First, as we learn in Iron Man 3 (review here), Tony is suffering from PTSD. They all fought off Loki’s army, but Tony almost died as a result of delivering final blow. It really got to him and he has had trouble coping with it ever since.

By the time Age of Ultron comes around, Tony is past the nervous wreck stage, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still scared. He’s just more focused now. Ever since then, he’s been working on a plan to protect the Earth from the next invading alien army; because there will be a next invading army.

One of the things he has done is build drones, which look similar to the Iron Man armor, but are meant to protect innocent bystanders when he and the rest of the Avengers are fighting bad guys.  This is only the tip of the iceberg though, as Tony is always planning on something bigger.

His ultimate goal is to create an artificial intelligence that can take his protection initiative to the next level. He wants to replace the Avengers; or at least provide them with something that can give them a break. He’s has never been able to create this artificial life form though. He has Jarvis, but Jarvis is software. He maintains the Iron Man armor and Stark Industries. He has no physical body and that is what Tony wants. Plus, Jarvis is more of an assistant or – even a colleague – than a security system. All of that is about to change though.

I had mentioned events from previous movies playing a role and that is where the movie starts off. The Avengers latest mission involves an old foe. Captain America: The Winter Soldier revealed that HYDRA is alive and well.  Cap (Chris Evans) dealt with them back in the 1940s, but the terrorist group is still around and the team has been combing the earth for their secret bases.

The AvengersA: Age of Ultron

The most recent raid involves a hidden base in Sokovia (a fictional Eastern European country). Intelligence has led them to believe that Loki’s scepter has been acquired by a HYDRA agent named Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann). It turns out that he does have it and has been using it to create his own super powered  allies (Quicksilver and the Scarlett Witch). The Avengers are attacked by the duo, who are siblings. The twins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) get away, but they are able to retrieve the scepter.

This is where things get hairy for our heroes. Tony is giddy over the fact that he gets to play with the scepter before Thor takes it back to Asgard. He and Banner (Hulk’s alter ego) discover that the stone that powers the gem is – in a way – a living entity. I forget if they actually figure this out or not, but the stone that powers the scepter is actually one of the Infinity Stones that Thanos has been trying to get his hands on. All they know is that it is a source of immense power. This gives them the idea who use it to power Stark’s artificial intelligence program, which he has been calling Ultron.
We all know when man plays god it never goes well in fiction. Ultron (James Spader) is created, but has no desire to follow his masters wishes. He teams up with Quicksilver (Aarton Taylor-Johnson) and the Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) to take the Avengers down.

I’m going to just come right out and say it: I thought this movie sucked. I was extremely disappointed in it. Everything about it felt off.

The action was the definition of anticlimactic. It was a classic case of a sequel trying to go bigger and simply coming off as boring. Bigger does not equal better Hollywood, I’m not sure how many times a sequel has to fail in order for you to understand this. The Hulk vs. Iron Man fight was a perfect example of that. Even the smaller action scenes were very ho-hum. I don’t think there was an action sequence in this movie I actually enjoyed.

The AvengersA: Age of Ultron

The humor, aside from a small handful of jokes that made me chuckle, was way off. It was not funny and frankly, very out of place at times. There were several sexually-charged jokes that simply have no place in a PG-13 movie meant to provide innocent fun. The Avengers is supposed to be Star Wars, not Robocop or Total Recall. That kind of humor was bizarre considering Joss Whedon’s comments about Jurassic World. People noticed too, because Whedon got so much shit over the humor on the heels of his comments, that he quit Twitter as a result.

The villain was also pretty weak. Ultron was just so forgettable. They tried to give him a personality, rather than have him be more robotic, but it didn’t work at all.

I thought the acting was surprisingly bad too. Something just seemed wrong. It’s like several of them forgot how to play the characters they made famous. It was the same actors, but it was like someone else giving the performances.
There were a few things I liked about this movie, but not enough to salvage it. I liked the inclusion of characters (War Machine, Falcon, the twins) from past movies – and the indication they will be included in future movies. I like that we are already seeing that the lineup for the team can and will change. Plus, it makes sense, because whenever there is a big fight, you always find yourself saying, “Where’s so and so?”

A part of this aspect of the storyline is the introduction of Vision (Paul Bettany). I thought he was one of the best looking characters I have ever seen. I don’t know if he was created using make up, CGI (through motion cap), or a combination of both, but he looks fantastic. He’s one of the most realistic looking non-human creatures I’ve ever seen on screen. I also like Bettany’s performance of this new life form. I like where this could go.

I also love the way the Hulk is portrayed. They have decided to make him very ape-liked in his mannerism and that just works for me. They did it in the first movie, but expanded on it too in this one. Black Widow’s (Scarlett Johansson) way of calming him down is straight out of a nature film. I liked where that was going. Unfortunately, when they tried to hint at a budding romance between Banner and Widow, I just wasn’t buying it at all.

Despite liking a few things about this movie, I didn’t like this movie even a little bit. It didn’t entertain me in any way, shape, or form, and that annoyed me. Pretty early into the movie I started to think, “This isn’t fun, but it’s still early.” Unfortunately, those sentiments never went away. I can forgive a lot if a movie is fun, but this movie was not fun for me at all.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on May 9, 2015.

The AvengersA: Age of Ultron

 

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