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Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron
04.28.2015
8 10

PLOT: The Avengers find a most fearsome foe in Ultron, a sentient robot determined to rid the Earth of the superhero team - and humanity in general. To help fight him, they must forge a tentative friendship with twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, as well as another hyper-intelligent android called Vision.

REVIEW: I don't have to tell you that the challenge of making a sequel to a huge critical and commercial success - let alone one of the most successful movies of all time - is a daunting one, but writer-director Joss Whedon lets it roll off his back with AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, a deft, funny and tremendously entertaining sequel to 2012's superhero smash THE AVENGERS. The temptation, perhaps necessarily, is always to make the second one bigger and louder, and while Whedon has certainly gone all out with his action set-pieces, you don't get the sense that he felt too concerned with topping himself in every regard; in fact, if we judge it based on the ample humor on display, Whedon was rather cool about the whole endeavor, giving us a movie that is just as concerned with chuckles than explosions. (Though don't worry, there are more explosions here than than in any movie I've seen in the last few years.)

It's not, I should say, quite as good as THE AVENGERS, but that was indeed going to be a heavy task. A bit of the spectacle of seeing all of these superheroes fighting alongside each other is gone, and Whedon can't quite match the dire enormity of the original's New York City finale or deliver as memorable a villain, but there is still a whole hell of a lot to enjoy about the second go-round. It's also no less fun to watch these demi-gods bust each other's balls ,which is of course their favorite pastime and, one would have to believe, Whedon's favorite stuff to write.

The film wastes zero time getting started, kicking off mid-battle as the Avengers storm the castle of Hydra operative Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), who is performing nefarious experiments with Loki's scepter. Von Strucker's meddling has resulted in the creation of "The Twins," Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who now possess the power of super speed and mind control, respectively. The two handily challenge the Avengers, but ultimately good triumphs and the gang takes back the scepter and shut down von Strucker's operation. All would seem to be well for the first time in years, but an invention Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) are working on designed to keep the Earth safe from any potential alien invasions, the Ultron global defense system, becomes sentient and results in a walking-talking-plotting robot (with the voice of James Spader). If it's not one thing, it's another.

Filled with a dangerous mix of petulance and all-knowing egotism, Ultron is not very impressed with his creators, or humanity at large, so he seeks to destroy the lot of us. He enlists Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch - who hold very personal grudges against Stark - and sets about destroying the Avengers from the inside out using Scarlet Witch's powerful mind-control techniques. Ultron also creates a powerful army of robot drones, and ultimately plans on creating an indestructible vessel for himself - a robot called Vision (Paul Bettany). The last part of his master plan involves lifting an entire city into the air as crashing back into the Earth, which would result in a devastating global cataclysm.  

To be perfectly fair, the plot in the movie tends to be a bit over the map at times, with a lot of moving parts and extraneous characters thrown in; Whedon has overstuffed his movie a bit needlessly. However, the plot is just a way to get us from action scene to action scene, all of which are dynamic, while also further exploring the relationships of his unique characters. A burgeoning romance between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Banner adds some needed sweetness, while who other than Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) - who famously got almost nothing to do in the first film - should emerge as one of the more enjoyable members of the team to watch. (We learn a big secret he's been carrying around, which adds depth to what was otherwise a one-dimensional character.) It's clear Whedon felt the need to give Renner more to do here, and the results are very positive. And, naturally, Downey, Jr. can always be relied upon to turn his sardonic wit into a show all of its own, and his riff sessions with Captain America (Chris Evans) never get old; that's still the most fun duo to watch go at it. If there's a character who seems a bit shortchanged, it's Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who without his adversary and brother Loki in the mix sometimes feels like a bit of a fifth wheel.

Speaking of Loki...Though he is frequently a compelling presence, Ultron is not as enthralling of a villain as Loki - indeed, who could be? His "destroy humanity to cleanse the Earth" endgame is the kind of thing we've seen before, and we really don't love him, hate him, or love to hate him; as far as villains go, he's mildly interesting and nothing more. Spader is a perfect choice to bring him to life, however, and infuses the character with a charming arrogance that is very Spader-like. (His first scene, in which he clumsily introduces himself to the Avengers at a party, is also his best scene.)

The other new characters are fun without being exactly gripping. As Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, Taylor-Johnson and Olsen provide some enigmatic mystery (and they certainly possess more chemistry here than they did in GODZILLA), but their eventual inclusion into the Avengers feels a little rushed. Bettany, meanwhile, gets a few juicy moments as the fascinating Vision, but sadly he's not in the movie quite enough to make a large impression. Still, the prospect of seeing him in future Marvel installments is pretty exciting, as there's some greatness hinted at there.

Minor quibbles aside, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is thoroughly satisfying summer popcorn fun. There's little question that the hardcore Marvel fans will eat it up - seeing Iron Man in his Hulkbuster suit fight the Hulk is worth the price of admission alone - but you don't have to be a fanboy to enjoy Whedon's biting sense of humor, nor his talent for borderline-crazy action sequences. It was a difficult task to top THE AVENGERS, and if Whedon falls a bit short here, it's not for lack of trying; he's still crafted a very enjoyable ride that already makes you want to skip ahead a few years to AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

Source: JoBlo.com

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