Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Avengers: Age of Ultron is stuffed full of characters, solid action and interesting ideas, but on a first viewing it might be a bit too much to wrap your head around.

There are so many good, fun ideas going on in Age of Ultron (and I saw the movie late enough at night) that I am really needing to see the film again. That doesn’t mean the movie we got wasn’t enjoyable, far from it, but Joss Whedon stuffed so much character backstory and arcs into this thing it will take multiple viewings to soak it all in. In fact, I hope the rumored extended cut on Blu-ray comes to fruition, as the film often feels like it has too much stuffed in, but would benefit from being even longer as it also feels rushed.

But we are not here to talk about the extended cut, we are here to talk about this summer’s big kick off movie. If you are a fan of Marvel and the Avengers, you are going to feel right at home here. Whedon’s dialogue is fun and fleet, again (another reason to re-watch), but he also captures the darker tone of the film that lingers over everything for about 2/3 of the runtime. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any fun one-liners sprinkled throughout, but you should know going in that this isn’t the good ole fun time that Avengers mostly was. Now, this isn’t a bad thing, not in the slightest, but I was a bit caught off guard at some of the dark holes into our heroes’ psyches that we explore.

I mentioned the film felt rushed earlier, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cohesive. A detour for Thor has all the pieces there to make sense, but it also rushes through it so quick that we almost don’t know what is going on. It’s also is a bit jarring in that this is one of a few threads in the film that is clearly setting up the Infinity War and Phase III. Whedon is able to tie the stakes on all of those threads into Age of Ultron’s plot, but they make the film feel like the middle act more than anything. A certain relationship and one of our underserved Avengers get thrust to the spotlight here as well and, while both of these stories worked for me, I was caught off guard at how much attention they got.

The action in the film is also not as consistently fluid as it has been in recent Marvel movies. Maybe there were too many characters to serve? That doesn’t mean there aren’t some wow moments. The Hulkbuster fight was fantastic, easily the most well conceived set piece in the film, and the opening sequence is really great as well (the single take that checks in with everyone tops a similar shot in Avengers), but outside a couple beats in the Cap vs. Ultron fight & the finale the action didn’t work as well in those sequences. Its still fun to watch, and by no means horrible, but by the finale there are eleven characters to check in with throughout the sequence and I think it might have been too much. Lots of nice little moments are sprinkled throughout, but as a whole the action is the messiest part of the film.

There isn’t a whole lot else to really “complain” about, but there was plenty love along the way. The Hulkbuster fight I already mentioned was fantastic, but the way that Veronica works to suit up Tony and resupply him was just so damn cool. I could watch the Thor and Captain America teamwork sequences forever. The look on Thor’s face when his hammer gets handled more than he expects. Ultron’s first appearance is creepy and unsettling. The way they realized the AI space and Ultron gaining his knowledge was also visualized in a unique and interesting way. Vision is super cool, but I want more of him beyond being a glorified Phase III set up. And the way Whedon folds in all of the other faces from the MCU really makes the world feel more cohesive and lived in than any other MCU film. Lots to like!

The cast is also great from top to bottom, as they should be with so many playing these characters for the 4-5th time. All of the little banter and conversations feel so natural and real with this group of actors and I could watch Downey, Hemsworth, Evans, Johansson and Ruffalo bounce off one another all day. The script plays with Hawkeye’s reputation from fans after the first film, while also beefing up his role considerably. Renner is up to the task, but his bit more rugged/smartass version of Captain America’s leader type felt a bit too familiar. I also felt like we didn’t get to know the twins enough, but Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are both fine in the vengeful roles. Other newcomers also fare well, Paul Bettany is effectively other worldly as the Vision with James Spader perfectly channeling Tony Stark’s sense of humor through a super advanced and diabolical AI personality. The light in Ultron’s eye was also particularly effective, we should thank the animators for that. Don Cheadle is also great in his brief couple of appearances, getting one of favorite laughs in the film at the early Avengers party scene. I could have hung out at that party for the whole runtime.

Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers on what you would hope for. Lots of great Whedon dialogue, solid action and tons of great character beats to enjoy. The pacing might throw some people off from time to time, and the action might not be as clean throughout as previous Marvel adventures, but if you are a fan of the MCU then you don’t want to miss this (and probably haven’t since you most likely saw this opening night).

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