Sunday, 26 April 2015

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

It's here at last  -  the age of The Age Of Ultron, the next step in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the sequel to The Biggest Super Hero Movie Ever ( TM )  -  so what's it like? Well, it's pretty good actually. ( How's that for an incisive critical appraisal? )
The movie starts at a gallop with our heroes busting up the castle stronghold of evil Nazi throwback Baron Von Strucker ( who gets one of the funniest lines in the film ) and attempting to recover Loki's sceptre, which happens to contain yet another Marvel Universe McGuffin, the Mind Stone, one of those pesky Infinity Stones which will no doubt cause all sorts of problems in future movies. ( I still think of them as Infinity Gems as they were named in the comics but I'm old-fashioned like that. ) From this almost-generic scene the various plot threads spin out  -  Tony Stark likes the look of Strucker's AI experiments and thinks nicking the tech to create an army of police-bots is a neat idea
( it isn't ); embittered, super-powered twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff are freed in the chaos to plan revenge against the West in general and Stark in particular; and an unlikely romance begins to blossom between the Black Widow and the Hulk.
It will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that Stark's plan for "a suit of armour around the world" to protect us from intergalactic menaces like the first movie's Chitauri is a spectacular failure, resulting in the genesis of Ultron, this installment's Big Bad. The metal maniac quickly decides, only seemingly moments after his "birth", that the human race don't need defending, so much as wiping from the face of the Earth, starting with his "father" and the rest of the Avengers. Cue many, many action scenes...
Now, don't get me wrong, a lot of this is great fun and very exciting but at times AOU almost strays into Transformers territory, with lightning-fast cutting and multiple points of view making for a lack of focus in some scenes. With more than the usual burden of expectations placed on any movie sequel it seems that Joss Whedon has lost some of the clarity of the first movie. And, as in the first movie, there's quite a flabby middle section. ( I know... there's no need to get personal, is there? ) But on the plus side...
The new characters  -  Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch and the long-awaited Vision  -  all add interest and a level of unpredictability which shakes up the Avengers status quo in a very welcome fashion. Paul Bettany's Vision receives the least screen time but probably has the most potential. I'm hoping for a lot more from this enigmatic character in the future. The Widow / Jolly Green Giant romance is quite touching and gives Mark Ruffallo a real chance to shine. In fact, Whedon ensures that all the sprawling cast of main characters get their time in the sun, with Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye far better served this time around. And there are a ton of cameos from MCU regulars like Sam Jackson, Cobie Smulders ( love that name! ), Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle and even Hayley Atwell. Plus the inevitable Stan Lee in possibly his funniest appearance yet. And then there's the big bad robot himself:
James Spader absolutely runs away with the movie through his voice performance alone  -  not an easy task when the likes of Robert Downey Jnr and Scarlet Johansson are up there on the screen. From his first appearance as a walking scrapyard, slowly gaining sentience, to his marshalling endless legions of Ultron-bots to swarm over the Avengers, Ultron is the quintessential super villain  -  intelligent, sarcastic and witty, nearly always one metal step ahead of his foes and never quite tipping over into AI insanity, but always delivering his lines in Spader's purring, mocking tones. A worthy successor to Loki and definitely one of the best and most believable villains yet to stalk the MCU.
While inevitably not feeling as fresh as its predecessor, AOU is spectacular entertainment and sets the scene for future Marvel movies, from the passing reference to Wakanda ( home of the Black Panther ) to the final scene appearance of a certain mad Titan. And, with the traditional-for-the-comics roster change now introduced into the movie ( "The Old Order Changeth!" as Stan would say back in the day ) the future's certainly looking interesting for Earth's Mightiest Heroes...

8 comments:

John Pitt said...

I thought you would review it when I heard that you'd been to see it. Pity that they strayed into that Transformers fast-moving CGI territory. That will spoil it for me. Neithery old eyes or brain can take that in!
I was wondering how they were going to invent Ultron in this film, pre- Hank Pym. I suspected that Thanos was going to send him. I've heard a lot about Ultron's voice, I don't know whether to google a clip or save it as a surprise!

cerebus660 said...

John,I'm sorry if I gave the wrong impression in my review but Thanos isn't really connected with Ultron. Monocled baddie Baron Von Strucker is conducting evil experiments, using Loki's sceptre - containing the Mind Stone. Tony Stark nicks this tech, combines it with his own robot experiments, and tries to create an AI which will protect the world from alien threats. Unfortunately for him it all goes tits up when Ultron is the end result...
Thanos' appearance is similar to his previous cameo at the end of the first film - just a signpost to the Infinity War to come.

John Pitt said...

No, Simon, your review was crystal clear, I had that preconception of Thanos creating Ultron as how the films hadn't yet introduced Henry Pym. But having Ultron as a result of one of Stark's cock-ups makes much more sense!

Kid said...

I'm going to see it tomorrow (Wed), but you can save me the time by answering this question - did the butler do it?

cerebus660 said...

@John
Yeah, it makes sense to tie it all in to Stark's well-meaning, but flawed, attempts to protect the world - and paves the way for the Civil War.

@Kid
I can see what you did there... :-)

( Thanks to Google, after talking here about Ultron, I have to "prove I'm not a robot" before the comment will post... )

Kid said...

Saw it and enjoyed it, Cer - but thought it dragged in a few places and wasn't as fast-paced as the previous two. Still a belter 'though.

Kid said...

Did I say previous two? There's only been one Avengers movie before this one, right? Why do I feel I've seen two, not counting this one?

cerebus660 said...

Hi Kid! I definitely felt the movie dragged in the middle, but then I thought that about the first film too, with too many exposition scenes onboard the helicarrier. It seems with a lot of these megabudget franchises that the film-makers have to justify the huge amounts of money spent and put EVERYTHING up on the screen :-)
Still enjoyed it though...

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