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Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Directed by: Joss Whedon

Premise: The second team-up movie in Marvel’s Avengers series. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner create Ultron, an artificially intelligent being intended to replace the Avengers team and defend the planet. When Ultron decides to do away with humanity, the superheroes must stop him.

What Works: Viewers who have kept up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe will find a lot to enjoy in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The main attraction of a movie like this is the action sequences and they are sufficiently spectacular. In some respects, Age of Ultron is an improvement over its predecessor. The new film moves along a lot more quickly than the 2012 picture and it does not sag as much in the middle section. The sequel retains a lot of the qualities that made previous Avengers films so appealing. There is a healthy amount of humor and an agreeable banter between the main cast of superheroes. A lot of comic book movies are detrimentally self-serious but Age of Ultron has a sense of humor about itself and among its characters and the filmmakers incorporate humor without resorting to groaners or cheapening the drama. Among the mainstay characters, the one interesting new development is a budding romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner/The Hulk, played by Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo. Their romantic rapport plays well and adds a human touch to the movie. Age of Ultron also does something interesting with the idea of superheroes. At this point the Avengers have become Team America and the movie plays on that idea a bit, and that leads to the events that kick off this story.

What Doesn’t: Age of Ultron introduces the kernels of interesting ideas but it does not follow them through. The Avengers have appointed themselves protectors of human civilization but there is some indication that the rest of the world is resentful of their presumptiveness. Ultron has a compelling motive and he has a strangely innocent quality that could make him a complicated character. But the filmmakers don’t do anything interesting with these ideas and a lot of them are either poorly developed or dropped entirely. Age of Ultron is similarly shortsighted with its characters. One of the problems of the first Avengers film was its lack of character development. These superheroes have generally been given a character arc in their standalone movies, ending each installment in a different place from where they started. That wasn’t so in the first Avengers movie, with the major characters changing very little over the course of that story, but the 2012 film was more about thethe group coalescing as a team. Age of Ultron does even less with its returning characters than the previous installment and it does nothing to develop them as a team while clumsily introducing new characters. Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olson are cast as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, respectively. They play the roles with unconvincing Eastern European accents and their backstory is poorly handled. Paul Bettany is cast as Vision, one of the new heroes of this film. The introduction of the newest Avenger is awkward and his character design looks really stupid and is out of place with the art direction of the rest of the film. When the story of Age of Ultron is laid out beat by beat, a lot of it is remarkably similar to the first Avengers film but nowhere more so than the climax. The final battle of Age of Ultron is essentially a rehash of the battle of New York in the 2012 movie and that is indicative of the overall impression left by this installment. Unlike last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, everything about Age of Ultron is too safe and too familiar.

Bottom Line: Avengers: Age of Ultron is a satisfying popcorn tent pole release and viewers could do far worse in their pursuit of summer movie thrills. But there is also no denying that the film is merely just good enough. There is very little about it that is surprising or memorable.

Episode: #541 (May 10, 2015)