Monday, May 04, 2015

Avengers : Age of Ultron Review

Avengers: Age of Ultron! It was super entertaining and really funny. I love the actors, I love Joss Whedon’s witty dialogue but this time around I also got a sense of impending doom throughout that I don’t get from too many super-hero movies. This is done without getting too brooding and mopey which I’m sure general audiences will appreciate. The story was a little simple (the robot wants to destroy the world). I was hoping for something a little meatier from this 11th Marvel movie, but I guess they can’t afford too much narrative with all the characters they need to service.

Hawkeye fighting to be less lame.
And Joss Whedon does an incredible job with this gargantuan cast. It’s kind of awesome actually. He knows when to spend extra time with our favourites, like RDJ as Iron Man and Chris Evans as Cap, but he’s also able to give Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye some of the best moments in the movie. To my amazement, he really did run away with the ball in this outing, having the best character arc, the best scenes all while making fun of how comical it is for a guy to go into battle with a bow and arrow when his peers can level a city block in minutes. They did a good job developing Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) as well as newbies Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johson)  and Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, sister of Mary Kate and Ashley from Full House!). And that’s to say nothing of the handful of cameos that manage to add some emotional weight to some scenes without coming off as awkward fan service. I found myself less likely to get bored of a scene with the characters sitting around and talking than I was watching a scene where everything was blowing up. Who would have thought?
Avengers being cool.
The plot about Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence program going rogue runs along at a brisk pace. The movie’s villain, Ultron, is a robot that wants to destroy mankind, believing the extinction of the human race is the only way to bring peace to earth. It’s simple, it’s even a bit of a cliché but it works well enough. There is a lot to be said for execution and I found the scene where Ultron decides humans are too evil to survive was rather striking. Ultron, voiced and motion captured by James Spader, gets to exercise his comedic muscle just like everyone else in the  movie, sometimes to mixed effect.  I did find the humour was overdone in some scenes for all the characters. You can be in the middle of an intense action scene and Whedon will insert a corny joke into it, sometimes diffusing the tension.

It goes without saying the action was great, but it’s hard to get excited about action these days, isn’t it? What CGI scene could a computer produce that we haven’t seen a million times already? And what peril could possibly be dreamed up for our heroes that would actually cause us to fret with concern? The climax came out of nowhere for me. I was never entirely sure what Ultron was up to and when we finally got to his end game with a floating city it kind of blind-sided me. It felt like one set-piece after another until : “Oh, we’re almost at the 2 hour mark. Time to wrap things up!” And then the movie ends with a handful of rushed sci-fi/fantasy contrivances.
Are you not entertained?
These criticisms are offset by the movie’s devotion to pure entertainment however. I was either laughing or gawking at the spectacle for 2 hours and 20 minutes. What more can you ask? It’s also kind of fascinating to see how much this movie is a product of its time. I found it very funny how the movie dealt with the now controversial issue of collateral damage. In these super-hero movies, buildings topple over like dominos and we’re often left to wonder how many people were killed in the rubble. We’re usually not explicitly shown human casualties but in movies like Man of Steel which strives to be a “realistic” take on the character we can only assume lots of people die in battles like this. It ended up being one of the biggest criticisms of Man of Steel and some people pointed out that the climax of the first Avengers movie was not much better.

Enter Age of Ultron! Every time there’s a battle in a city our heroes will preface the pending destruction with a half-ass disclaimer. “Hey, we have to keep the casualties low!” But they still want to destroy buildings. So before levelling a building our heroes will say something like, “That buildings is empty!” or, “There’s only one family in that building, so it won’t be too much trouble to get them out!” (I have in mind one jarring scene where Iron Man flies people out of a collapsing building in a bathtub). Too many convenient and easy rescues seem like cheating to me, but it's better than nothing (is it?), I guess from now on big battles in a city scenes will always need to include a line that lets us know the people are okay.

Other moments that brought me out of the movie, despite how funny these moments were, is when they take shots at the lamer heroes’ powers. “Vibranium. The most versatile substance on Earth, and humans use it to make a Frisbee.” Referring to Captain America’s shield. “We’re in a floating city, fighting an army of robots and I’m armed with a bow and arrows. It makes no sense.” Hawkeye taking a jab at how lame he is. Has it taken 11 movies to finally become insecure about how ridiculous the super-hero genre is? It’s interesting and probably wise that Age of Ultron chooses to embrace its cheesiness instead of trying to dampen it. People did not respond well to Man of Steel which really did take itself too seriously in an attempt to give credibility to its high stakes plot. I enjoyed Man of Steel, but I have to say, acknowledging the implausibility of these movies with some light humour does seem to be the way to go. I just wish the Marvel movies didn’t always go as far as they do with the comedy.

There is no denying it’s a good time at the movies. I am constantly wary that this era of super-hero movies probably comes with an expiry date. But Age of Ultron assures us that it’s not anytime soon. The biggest praise I can lavish on this movie is it didn’t feel as repetitive as many of the other Marvel movies. It’s one of the rare occasions in the Marvel Universe where I feel like I’m on track for some new and interesting stories with Civil War and the Infinity War right around the corner. Age of Ultron was satisfying on its own and still managed to hook me with its sequel bait. Maybe I should wait for a second viewing before giving it a rating but for now it stands at a solid

7.5 casual detours to a foreign (and sometimes fictional) country out of 10

Post review rant : Anyone notice that all the cameos in this movie are the Black sidekicks from the other movies? Wouldn't it have been a great opportunity for Black Panther to have shown up in Wakanda to say, "I am no one's sidekick! But my movie has been pushed back to 2018 :-( #AvengersAgeofAfricanAmericansidekicks." Also, isn't it weird that Ultron's lips move like they're made of flesh? I don't know how I feel about that. Also, how come Ultron doesn't back up his consciouness on a USB stick or something? Did RDJ seem kind of tired in some scenes to you? Also weird, when Black Widow says, "They sterilized me when I was very young. Do you (Hulk) still think you're the only monster on the team?" Being sterile makes her a monster? She kills people.

How would I rate other super hero movies? Here’s a quick list off the top of my head.

Dark Knight - 9/10
Man of Steel - 8.5/10
Winter Solider - 8.5/10
Watchmen - 8/10
Days of Future Past - 8/10
The Rocketeer - 8/10
Iron Man – 7.5/10
Darkman - 7/10
Avengers - 7/10
Spiderman 2 - 7/10
Blade - 7/10
Guardians of the Galaxy  - 6.5/10
The Incredible Hulk - 6/10
Thor 2 - 5/10
Superman Returns - 4/10
Amazing Spiderman 2 - 2/10