There are minor spoilers below.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is almost as good as “The Avengers,” but not quite.
The sequel gets a lot of things right. It expands on characters who weren’t spotlighted last film, introduces a few new characters to the bunch, and delivers a lot of big action sequences.
Director Joss Whedon juggles that big cast masterfully, even if pulling it off almost broke him.
However, the film feels a little formulaic. As in the first movie, “Age of Ultron” features a team of superheroes that bickers and fights amongst each other, an enemy who takes advantage of that weak spot, turning the heroes against each other, before a moment of clarity brings the team together in the final act.
Regardless, it will probably be the best action film of the summer, and may even beat the first movie’s $US1.5 billion gross.
The opening sequence is awesome.
After three years away from the big screen, this is what you’ve been waiting for, to see the Avengers team back in action, working side by side.
The film picks up right where the end-credits for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” left off. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) reunite in a big opening action sequence to take down terrorist organisation H.Y.D.R.A.,
which is in possession of the all powerful sceptre that caused the mayhem of the first film.
The team makes it look like another day at the office as they easily take down an organisation that has managed to cause nothing but grief for the cast of ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” We see that Captain America and Thor make quite the tag team as well as Black Widow and the Hulk.
It’s here where they also come across two new additions Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), superpowered twins orphaned at 10 with a huge gripe against the Avengers (more on them in a bit).
After the opening, Whedon shows what the superheroes do when they’re not saving the world. This includes a big party scene that’s been showcased in trailers and TV spots. There’s also a romantic plot thrown into the mix that feels like something out of “Beauty and the Beast.” Is it necessary? No, but it works, and character depth is some of what the director does best.
James Spader’s Ultron is delightfully evil.
The big bad villain who wants to annihilate the human race comes out guns blazing. As in the trailers, Spader’s a scene-stealer whenever he’s on screen.
A hot-headed robot created by an overzealous billionaire genius Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), Ultron is supposed to be the next step in a robotic police force, the Iron Legion, which Stark has been working on to sub in for the Avengers. Unfortunately, the A.I. project goes awry when Ultron winds up being a psychotic killer bent on destroying both the Avengers and the Earth.
Because Ultron is modelled with his creator’s personality quirks, scenes between the two feel like you’re watching Stark go up against himself. Stark’s usually the one to get the last word in edge-wise on screen, so it’s exciting to watch Ultron deliver some verbal punches before Stark can even muster a pitch.
When the two go head to head, Ultron gives Iron Man a run for his money. Made out of vibranium steel, the same material as Captain America’s unbreakable shield, he’s virtually unstoppable.
Hawkeye is one of the best parts of the film.
Seriously. This was probably one of the biggest and most welcome surprises of the film.
After spending most of the time as one of Loki’s mindless drones last film, Clint Barton (Renner) is very much front and center, and he gets not one but probably two of the best lines in the entire film. You’ll know them when you hear them.
By now, we’re well-versed about Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. Here, Whedon does a great job at bringing not only Barton, but the rest of the Avengers including Black Widow and the Hulk/Doctor Banner to the forefront.
If you go back to the “Avengers,” you can see Whedon planted the seeds for some of their current backstory long ago.
The only better part? Vision
The only actor to play two roles in a Marvel film, it’s incredibly exciting to see Paul Bettany, who has voiced Tony Stark’s A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S. since 2008’s “Iron Man,” as a physical presence in the sequel.
It takes a while for Vision to show up, but when he finally appears, he’s all you’ll want to see. I don’t want to give much away here, but his character delivers a few great lines and surprising moments pretty much every time he’s on screen — one early moment in particular will have Marvel fans flipping out.
The new additions aren’t going to be your new favourite characters.
There’s a reason you don’t hear much of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in any of the teasers.
While Olsen gives a lively performance as Wanda Maximoff, Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver is nowhere near as cool as Evan Peters’s portrayal of the same character in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
The super-powered siblings also have a few awkward moments. To start there’s the strange Eastern European accents they made up.
Then there’s the silly one liner, “You didn’t see that coming?” which is traded back and forth between Quicksilver and Hawkeye throughout the film.
Finally, there’s the eye-roll-inducing workaround Disney uses to avoid calling them “mutants” — which is originally how the siblings received their powers in the comics. Though 20th Century Fox owns the film rights to Marvel’s X-Men and all mention of mutants, these two characters are allowed to appear in both franchises. Expect a few chuckles in theatres when Captain America tells you the twins are simply “enhanced” beings that H.Y.D.R.A. experimented on.
The movie feels pretty predictable without big surprises.
If you’ve watched all the trailers you won’t be surprised by the first 40 or so minutes of the film. It’s all a lead up to the first time you see Ultron on screen. After that, you’re anxiously awaiting Vision’s entrance since his big reveal online.
Many fans had this grand expectation that other characters would be introduced into the mix since 1. Marvel unveiled plans for a new group of superheroes who will soon get their own films 2. A mysterious character was teased in a trailer.
Other than Vision, there are no other surprises. So it’s a bit of a bummer that Marvel decided to go ahead and spoil the biggest part of its sequel before release.
When the movie takes a big risk, Marvel blows it
Without saying too much, Marvel had a chance to make a really big, shocking statement in “Age of Ultron” during one of its climactic scenes. However, it seems like it would have went against Disney’s family-friendly vibe.
If you want to know what happens, highlight the text below. I don’t mention any names.
*Huge spoiler* There’s a big, unexpected death. For the longest time, you get the sense it’s going to be a certain big character. Much of the entire sequel builds to this; however, at the last moment, Marvel pulls the rug out from under us, sparing us a huge death for a more minor character fans aren’t as attached to yet. *Huge spoiler*
It’s impossible for some of the scenes to top “The Avengers”
Nothing in this movie can beat the climactic scene in “The Avengers” where Stark sacrifices his life to rescue the citizens of Manhattan from a nuke. You’re strapped to your seat the entire taking hit after hit. First when Stark can’t get through to his girlfriend Pepper to bid a potential farewell, then again when he nearly doesn’t make it back through the closing of the hole to another dimension (just go with it), and finally when he’s falling down to Earth and no one’s immediately diving in to save him (we’re looking at you Thor).
In addition, it’s difficult to match moments in the first movie like when Hulk crushes Loki into the floor of Tony Stark’s tower or when Hulk punches Thor out of the frame. And nothing compares to Loki as he relishes in extracting an eye from a man to the overture of Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 13 in A Minor.
As good as “Age of Ultron” is, it just leaves something to be desired.
Still, you’ll get the action you crave, you’ll get some witty one-liners, and you’ll have a really good time.
From a summer movie, that’s all you really want.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” opens in the US May 1.
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