Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Perhaps one of the many reasons why Marvel Studio’s roster of superhero movies work so well is that they cross over into other genres; IRON MAN was a tech thriller, THOR and THE INCREDIBLE HULK delved into fantasy and sci-fi, and CAPTAIN AMERICA explored the world of war and espionage. Marvel’s 11th film in their ongoing series, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, takes a page out of all of those books…while adding in one more; horror

After toppling the last remaining fortress of their long-standing enemy, the Avengers (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner) encounter a new foe in the form of superpowered teenage twins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen), and discover a power to create a new method of defense against their enemies; a power which turns on them in the form of a powerful artificial intelligence named Ultron (voiced by James Spader). 

After a thrilling opening battle (one of many breathtaking set-pieces), AGE OF ULTRON moves into a version of FRANKENSTEIN; with a powerful theme of creating life out of hubris and the consequences it can bring. As Ultron gains consciousness and becomes a threat to the world, writer/director Joss Whedon begins to weave an intricate tale around his band of heroes and villains; focusing on friendship, family, personal relationships, and ethics. Characters move into some unexpected places, and AGE OF ULTRON delves deeper into the psyche of these heroes than any previous Marvel outing.

With six main characters, a handful of surprise cameos, a fair amount of newcomers, and a scene-chewing villain with his massive robot army, AGE OF ULTRON could easily have become cluttered with characters getting lost. But Whedon balances the many pieces and parts nicely. Every character gets an arc and something significant to do, and anyone can walk away from the film with a new favorite hero. While Ultron’s plot for dominance may be simple, there is a lot going on underneath; a love story, family tragedy, a morality tale, and the right amount of inner turmoil. You cannot help but to appreciate how the many elements are weaved together. Aside from the FRANKENSTEIN influence, Whedon’s old roots in the horror genre sneak in here and there (there are some truly creepy parts), and he also draws from other places to give AGE OF ULTRON a classic feel; familiar cinema in a new setting. 

Whedon’s writing is sharp and witty without being showy. Scenes move on briskly even when things slow down, and there is a 100% dedication to embracing each of the characters. Humor comes at the perfect times, and the script is not afraid to draw attention to the more ridiculous situations the plot moves into. Ultron’s method for pulling off his nefarious plot may be silly at first glance, but the reasoning behind it is rock-solid; and his army of killer robots have a purpose for existing other than target practice for our heroes. Action scenes are a coherent blast and the 3D is outstanding. The score by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman is magnificent.  

The main cast have been doing their parts for so long that each actor settles into his or her parts better than they ever have; and the chemistry between them all is a joy to take in.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are outstanding as the tragic, Russian-born twins, and Andy Serkis turns in a nice role as an illegal arms dealer. James Spader is magnificent as the voice of Ultron. The real surprise of the film is Jeremy Renner, whose Hawkeye character gets a true backstory which ultimately serves as the moral centerof the entire film. Renner handles the complex role perfectly and is one of the many joys. Paul Bettany appears as an offspring of Ultron, called The Vision, and turns in a remarkable performance as one of the most fascinating characters put to screen by Marvel.  The rest of the surprise cameos from the Marvel Universe are handled perfectly by the cast. 

With a running time of 2.5 hours, over a dozen main characters, and a final battle which lasts nearly 30 minutes, AGE OF ULTRON certainly gives you your money’s worth, and for as much as they throw at you, the film is so much fun and rich in character you can’t help but to ask for more. The finale leaves our heroes right where they should be while opening the door for even bigger things to come, making AGE OF ULTRON a vital piece of the overall Marvel series. It is a visual spectacle on an epic scale, a true character study, and an overwhelmingly satisfying super-sized adventure. 


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