FILM REVIEW – ‘AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON’ (2015)

Hi everyone! This is Jade and I had the luxury of experiencing Avengers: Age of Ultron tonight in High Definition and it was awesome.

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I’ve been a huge fan of the Marvel movies since Thor happened. You could call me one of those neo-superhero fan girls who got into it because of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. I’m not gonna lie, they’re hot. Thor, as a movie, surprised me. I went to it expecting something along the lines of Spiderman and I was in awe when I left the theater. I haven’t read many comic books and I know very little about the Marvel Universe. So, in a way, I’m your average movie-goer who’s just looking for a great movie to kick off the summer season. Avengers: Age of Ultron does that and much more.

Given that I’ve watched all the documentaries and each of the Avengers’ individual movies multiple times over, Avengers: Age of Ultron was easy to jump into for me. It tosses you right back into the action with swift camera pans from character to character as they kick some Hydra butt. The Avengers are fully assembled, decked out in their upgraded outfits, and ready to take on the forces of evil, some more readily than others. After infiltrating Hydra’s final stronghold, they obtain Loki’s Staff and get their first encounter with two new characters: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Scarlet Witch, for those of you like me who haven’t read the comics, can really mess with people’s minds and this poses a huge problem for The Avengers. Each one, as we’ve learned through their individual movies, has their own issues. Those fears are turned against them and create uncertainty and hesitation among the group.

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As expected with a sequel, several characters are rounded out and given a little more depth. For the size of the cast and the considerable amount of back story that had to be covered for not only the existing characters, but new characters like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, Age of Ultron handled it flawlessly and seamlessly. I felt like Thor and Captain America were put on the back burner in order to develop Bruce Banner and Hawkeye while also delving into post-near-death-experience Tony Stark and his questionable moral boundaries which plunge The Avengers into peril. Even so, Thor has his moments, as does Cap. Thor continues to be, clearly, the strongest of the group, as he should be since he’s a Demi-God.

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Age of Ultron doesn’t suffer from sequel-syndrome. No one parts their hair differently and becomes emo. No one becomes so disenfranchised with the notion of being a superhero to the point that he or she disappoints their teammates or endangers the world. It’s still a feel good superhero movie, but with a bit more depth into what is right, what is wrong, and what is duty.

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As the advertising depicted, this is a film with international scope. The world is in danger, not just the good ‘ol USA. It was neat seeing so many different atmospheres and that’s actually become something that I really enjoy about the Marvel movies in general. Marvel’s always sweeping me away to strange new worlds, different countries, different universes. They whisk me away to colorful places that have their own sense of presence and culture. From the US to Africa to Europe, back to the US, and over to South Korea, the movie moves at a very quick pace, but never leaves you in the dust. It’s rich with cameos from other movies, hidden homage to other Marvel TV and Netflix shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and DareDevil, and trippy imagery highlighting some of the characters’ fears and pasts.

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The action does not disappoint. Then again, watching the Hulk rip through buildings is always fun. Subduing the Hulk actually becomes one of the central themes of the movie, giving fans exactly what they want: The Hulk vs. The Hulkbuster. Though I’m still new to the Marvel universe, I can now understand why fans were so hyped about this scene: it’s awesome! This movie covers all the bases: oversized monster vs. mecha fighting (yeah, that’s pretty much what we have here), aerial battles, city fight scenes, chase scenes, motorcycles, shield sliding, hammer throwing, rampant trains, mass destruction, arrows vs. robots… I could keep going.

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The real show stealer for me was Ultron himself. I’m normally not captivated by villains, to be completely honest. The only villain to ever appeal to me was Loki – and that includes all movies, not just Marvel flicks. That’s probably because I like the Loki of lore a lot and Hiddleston really exemplified what I always thought Loki would be like. But Ultron wasn’t just well played by veteran James Spader (who doesn’t like Spader?!), the script was impeccable.

As I said before, I’ve seen all of the Marvel movies quite a few times. I like to leave them on when I’m working on my art. My least favorite are the Iron Man movies. So, if I need some good background noise with fun one liners, but nothing too distracting, I like to put those on. And, maybe it’s because of my remote familiarity with Iron Man 1 and 2 that I was able to pick up on something special in Age of Ultron: Most of Ultron’s lines are from prior Iron Man movies, The Avengers included. They’re almost all said by Tony Stark – especially the earliest dialogue of Ultron, when he’s just starting to “power up”. While Ultron is “booting up”, he has a conversation with Jarvis. During that very rapid conversation, he begins delving into Tony Stark’s history first and then expands his search to history in general before arriving at his goal. Ultron mimics Tony Stark in personality and in speech almost word-for-word throughout the whole movie. (And no one could have done this role better than James Spader.)

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This also plays into the notion that Tony Stark is, essentially, the God of his laboratory. He constantly pushes the envelope and has now allowed artificial life to become sentient. This is a grey moral line that is constantly in debate and Tony clearly doesn’t want to bother with this debate because… Science! In a sense, he creates the Iron Man in his likeness. He creates his legion of robots in Iron Man’s likeness, just as God created mankind in his likeness. I thought this was an interesting take on a superhero storyline. It gave the movie more depth while showing the true mad scientist side of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. I won’t spoil what happens next.

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Speaking to the softer side of the movie, it’s nice to see Natasha getting more screen time. Although, I think it’s interesting that she’s getting paired up with Bruce Banner. Again, I haven’t read the comics so I don’t know if that’s canon or not. In The Avengers, it felt like she was being paired with Hawkeye. But that’s clearly not the case now that we see Hawkeye is more like your average military father with a wife and kids at home. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I thought she had the hots for Cap. But that’s apparently not the case either, even though Cap clearly admits to Banner that she’s a flirt. I’m interested in where this love theme is headed and hoping that Natasha will continue getting more depth as the rest of the movies hit theaters.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the art since this movie is based on a comic book. Ryan Meinerding and Charlie Wen have become household names for me. I actively seek out their concept art and designs online and closely follow their social media pages just to see all the thought and time they put into the character and item designs. They visually spoil me.

I didn’t care for the shaky cam in the early moments of the movie. I’ve always had an issue with that in most modern action movies and I’m usually in the minority. I find that, when I watch it on my home TV (LED/BluRay set up), I have fewer issues “seeing” the movie when there’s shaky cam. So, this is probably a “just me” thing, but it was a little blurry and too jittery for my taste. I prefer the tight, simple cuts over shaky camera work.

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The comedy is still awesome. The witty one liners and jabs have become synonymous with Marvel movies and this one doesn’t drop the ball. Each character’s personality still shines through with their sense of humor, even in a pinch. It’s refreshing and almost nostalgic now. Most movies waste all their good lines on the previews and promos that hit the internet weeks and months before the movie ever premiers. Marvel movies always give you much hope with the wit and action in their previews but they never give away the farm. This movie is no exception.

All of that being said, I don’t think it’s the strongest Marvel movie. It was great, don’t get me wrong! But I think I still prefer the first Avengers movie to this one, though not by much. And, if we’re being really honest, this didn’t top Guardians of The Galaxy, not for me anyways. Maybe it’s because Guardians isn’t as big of a name as The Avengers or because it had such a different flavor. Maybe it was the Guardians’ catchy soundtrack that I can’t get out of my head. I don’t know what it is about Guardians, but it’s just so darn good. Every time I see the next Marvel movie, I’m more pumped up than the last one. I keep building up these expectations and I’m surprised that they haven’t disappointed yet. For now, I’m still on the Marvel kick! Although, I’m hoping for some more Loki sooner rather than later!

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Comic book fans will be very happy about The Avengers finally getting The Vision on the team, as well as the obvious continuation of the overarching Infinity Gems storyline, which is no-doubt building towards The Infinity Gauntlet storyline. Of course, those two things will only really matter (right now, at least) to the comic book faithful, and perhaps not so much to the movie-fan-only crowd, like this writer.

Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron is like a weekend out with good friends you haven’t seen in a while. You get to kick back, have some beers with them, get to know what’s bugging them, watch two of them fall head over heels for each other, and get to experience something awesome with them before the end of a great weekend. Also, what a great way to kick off Free Comic Book Day weekend! — 8.5/10

-Jade Woodruff
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine

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