Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

(SPOILER WARNING! If you haven't seen Age of Ultron yet, I don't recommend reading this.)

Greetings, citizens! My deepest apologies about my silence lately. It has been a busy few weeks for me due to my new job and having to get acclimated to it. Things are more or less going well though, I even had the opportunity to see Avengers: Age of Ultron twice over the weekend. So, here are my thoughts on the film.

Overall, I thought that the plot was good. It wasn’t terribly complex, but you don’t need one. Setup for Ultron’s creation, he gets introduced, begins evil scheme, Avengers thwart him. The pacing felt pretty solid without anything feeling rushed and just about every scene felt like it lasted long enough. There were two scenes that I feel should’ve gone on a bit longer, but I’ll get to that in a moment with characters. One element I really liked was Quicksilver’s death. For pretty much the whole movie, they’d been laying down some heavy foreshadowing that Hawkeye would die. One of my friends kept saying “he’s just two days away from retirement.” Thus, when Hawkeye looked like he was going to die, you can believe it. But then Quicksilver does the whole “noble sacrifice” thing. After watching the movie a second time, they actually do some foreshadowing with that though. Two of the few times when Quicksilver is caught by surprise involve bullets. Hawkeye shoots out a glass floor he’s standing on (which is pretty weird, since when does Hawkeye use a gun in anything but the Ultimate universe?) and a bullet grazes him at the beginning of the big fight against Ultron. It’s more subtle, but it’s there. Will Quicksilver return? Eh, hard to say. I’m not sure I want him to, but I’ll get into the why when I talk about the characters.

The action I’m more hesitant to say was solid. While it mostly worked, there were a couple of spots I felt could’ve been done better. The fight with the Iron Legion bots after the party is one of them. It was so dark and the camera was so zoomed in and jittery, it made it hard to tell what was going on. There were a couple of moments in other fights that had similar problems, but nothing that stood out as much. On the other hand though, there were some really strong moments. Cap fighting Ultron was pretty good, though I do wonder why he applied a choke hold to a robot (for the second time in the movie no less). The Hulk and Iron Man fight was also pretty good with lots of good work with pieces of the set. It was nice seeing more teamwork from the Avengers (mainly involving Cap, oddly), but I wish they’d pushed it a bit further.

I enjoyed the characters for the most part. We don’t really see anything new with Cap, Thor or Tony, though we do get more development of them and can start seeing the formation of Civil War. Hawkeye finally gets fleshed out some with the introduction of his family and some decent bits of dialogue/one-liners. I’ve never really liked Hawkeye, but it was something nice to see and his status as a family man makes him more unique among the Avengers (and movie superheroes in general). The Banner/Black Widow relationship is an interesting change introduced, and I like it. It felt very natural for their characters and also makes them stand out more. Speaking of Banner, I liked that they gave him more importance than The Hulk in this one. In the first one, they ostensibly brought in Banner, but everyone knew that they really wanted Hulk, and Hulk ended up being important to turning the tide. In this one though, Hulk’s importance is downplayed, and Banner’s is greater, with his scientific expertise more integral to the story.

So, let’s talk about the new characters. Wanda, Pietro and Vision unfortunately didn’t get much characterization. With Wanda and Vision it’s less of an issue, since they’re still around and are going to be in the next movie. Pietro’s dead though, and the lack of depth to his character robbed his sacrifice of greater significance. For what we do see, I like the characters. Vision’s ability to wield Mjolnir makes it pretty clear what sort of entity he is, even though he’s only in the movie for about half an hour. Pietro has some pretty entertaining moments, which makes me sad he died, though it’s always possible he’ll come back. Wanda… I honestly don’t know what to say about her. She seemed very much like a non-entity, with only her abilities mattering. Pretty much the only personality trait we get is how close she is with Pietro… which comes off as sort of Ultimates 3, if you catch my meaning. I’m not necessarily sure that’s what they were going for, but at the same time, it’s hard to not take that interpretation. That’s the main reason I said I was unsure if I wanted to Pietro to return.

The character I have the most to say about is Ultron. When I first heard James Spader announced as the voice actor for Ultron, I was hesitant. My main exposure to him was as Alan Shore in Boston Legal, so I was used to him displaying a lot of dry wit and humor, interspersed with some really great dramatic moments. I wasn’t sure he could be menacing enough to be a supervillain. My mind was changed when I saw the first trailer and heard him delivering his lines. He was so chilling in those few moments, it made me much more excited for the movie (which I’d been on the fence on because I don’t like Ultron that much). His performance was solid, as is to be expected of an actor of his caliber, but I really felt that the writing could have been a bit better. I wasn’t expecting so much humor from the android wanting to wipe out all human life, and I feel it was somewhat out of place. I am assuming that part of Ultron’s personality was based on brain patterns from Tony (though they never actually say anything like that), hence the sense of humor and a few other traits. If that’s the case, then fine, I can understand that, but it still feels like a bit of a misstep. As I mentioned before, there were two scenes which I felt could’ve benefited from being a bit longer, both of which mainly involving Ultron. The first is when he first meets Wanda and Pietro, and the second is when he’s talking to a captive Black Widow. There’s nothing wrong with the scenes themselves, I just feel that the climax that each was building to (the reveal of his first body, and then the reveal of his upgraded body) could’ve been better if there was just a bit more build up to each. But that’s just my opinion. I’m sure there are plenty of other people that would’ve felt like the scenes dragged if they went on any longer. But they presented excellent opportunities for memorable bits from Ultron, and I think they would’ve had a greater impact with an extra minute or three.

So, overall, I thought that Age of Ultron was pretty good. It had its flaws, but what doesn’t? It felt like not only a good capstone to Phase Two, but a beginning for Phase Three as well.

I will be attempting to get a proper review up for this week, as well as trying to figure things out for the Superior Spider-Man finale. Until then, citizens!

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