Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Here it is. I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since seeing the first Avengers, and I’ve been hoping for access to an early screening to the sequel ever since, well, I’ve been going to early screenings.

Here it is. I was able to catch Avengers: Age of Ultron in theaters yesterday at an early press screening. (Thank you, YelpDC!) I got there 2 hours early and I was SO excited in my lazy Scarlet Witch-bound.

I am of the firm belief that I photograph so much better when the top of my face is excluded.
I am of the firm belief that I photograph much better when the top of my face is excluded.

MANY spoilers will be following the trailer, so please be aware of this! I’m not sure how much you all know about the movie already (some things have been revealed over the past few months) so I’ll try to keep it as vague as possible with regards to actual plot points.
Note: I wasn’t sure where in the MCU timeline the events of AOU were meant to take place. Right after Winter Soldier? How does Agents of SHIELD factor in, especially since I don’t watch AoS so… I had to do a little bit of research afterwards since AoS does have tie-ins with AOU.

(Abbreviations I will be using in this review: AOU = Age of Ultron, aka this movie; AoS = Agents of SHIELD; MCU = Marvel Cinematic Universe)

You know what, I’m likely going to watch this in theaters again at a later time. The problem with seeing it with zealous fans this early on is… they’re very excited. Someone kept clapping during the screening, a girl fangirl-screamed at one point. Full-on squeal/shriek/scream with delight. (Maybe it was horror, who really knows.) Sometimes you miss dialogue because the audience is laughing too hard at a joke or because there is applause throughout the theater. It makes for a fun experience, but you miss things in the movie as a result.

Of course, the movie was spectacular. It was fun and exciting to watch, and it delivered on many of the things that we have come to expect from Marvel films. This review will sound nitpicky, and that’s likely because I have just been anticipating this for so long and it’s easy to nitpick at a sequel, you know? But I loved this movie, I did. It isn’t perfect and no movie is.

It kept with the tone of the first Avengers film, which was easy since director Joss Whedon returned for this one. However, when the Russo brothers were announced to be coming onboard for the 3rd film, I remember being really confused by the response from some parts of the MCU fandom that went “Good riddance!” Wasn’t everyone so excited that Whedon directed the first one? Wasn’t a really good portion of the MCU fandom also Whedonites? I didn’t really understand when people became so anti-Whedon and/or pro-Russo brothers?

Here’s Joss on the set of the first Avengers film. Hey, it’s good that he makes work so fun.

But by the time AOU was over, I kind of understood the decision to go with a different directing style for the next Avengers film. I felt a bit burdened by Whedon’s one-liners and quips by the end of the movie. It felt like when the class clown — who everyone knows is funny — makes just a few too many jokes during a class presentation. It’s not that the jokes don’t land but it feels like he is trying a bit too hard to make you laugh when you’re not there to laugh your butt off. Did I find Whedon’s jokes funny? Sure. But did I want to be laughing at these quips every 5 minutes? Not really. I was pretty tired of them, to be really honest with you all. Still, the quality of Whedon jokes is good; it just felt like the quantity was a bit excessive. And I think it is strange with regards to the tone of the MCU as a whole. Iron Man movies are pretty snarky, because Tony Stark is Tony Snark. Every Avenger movie has its share of jokes and quips. But this one seemed to try much harder than the others, and to me, it seemed to slightly disrupt the overall tone of the MCU. Is that a strange thing to say?

STILL a fan of a Whedon, just to be clear. And I did like the jokes, I did! It was just more than I expected.

AOU starts off in the middle of action, and it was a little disorienting for me for the first 15 minutes or so. I would later find out that watching AoS would probably have helped me out a bit. We begin immediately with the Avengers kicking butt and taking names to find Loki’s staff (yep, the same one from the last Avengers movie). Like I said, I was a bit disoriented about what was going on and who this Strucker fella was since I didn’t remember him from any of the other Marvel movies. We definitely weren’t picking up after Cap 2, and I knew that Agents of SHIELD had handled a lot of the Hydra fall-out, etc.

So for folks who also don’t watch AoS and/or need a refresher on previous events: Baron von Strucker is a doctor who has been experimenting with human enhancement. SO, when we first meet the twins — who moviegoers last saw at the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier, and who are the only surviving subjects — they are referred to as “enhanced”. As in like “there’s an enhanced here”. (This is Marvel Studios’ way of avoiding the word mutants because 20th Century Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and all mention of mutants.) This is how we enter the “Age of Miracles” and step into real superpowers within the MCU, which until now only had Asgardian pseudo-godliness and some superserum-induced abilities in addition to highly trained operatives and whatever you would classify Tony Stark as.

From their post-credits scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier — the twins.

ANYWAY. Thanks to the Scarlet Witch, we are able to explore some of the things that haunt the Avengers. It’s a nice way to see what motivates Tony, Natasha, Steve, Bruce, and Thor a bit. One of my favorite things about the Avengers movies is that you don’t lose sight of each individual character, their individual nuances, their individual motivations. As we move forward in the Marvel timeline, it’s important for us to see the very crucial differences in their worldviews and how those differences affect their actions.

Of course, it isn’t really an Avengers movie until they fight each other a bit. Their harmony as a team is only rivaled by their dissonance in conflict. The dynamics between the Avengers is really nice. Tony and Bruce science-bro-ing it up. (SCIENCE!) Tony and Cap’s ideological differences. Steve and Thor’s excellent chemistry in battle (Chris Squared forever!). (And okay, there’s one dynamic that I really didn’t like how they executed in this movie, I’ll talk about that in my spoilers.)

Clint isn’t in this shot because, well, you’ll see.

Avengers movies excel in bringing together these heroes and showing us how they play off each other. Half of them have their own film franchises now, and each one has their own style and ego. My favorite thing about the Avengers is the relationships between the characters. It’s especially fun because we see characters from individual franchises that get introduced to the mix, like Rhodey (War Machine from the Iron Man franchise) and Sam (Falcon from Captain American: Winter Soldier).

Also thank goodness there are some PoCs in this one. Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie and Claudia Kim (I’ll talk about her character in the spoilers section) added some much-needed diversity to the cast.
Even though they’re barely hardly in the movie at all. It’s a start, Marvel. It’s a start. But you can do better and you know that.

With regards to our new characters, the twins, I liked their dynamic a lot. They don’t really look anything alike, but it was a pretty convincing sibling relationship. I am always very wary when brother-sister duos get announced, because sometimes the actors play off each other with far too much sexual tension for sibling relations. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did nicely in this regard.
HOWEVER (no one is safe), their accents were a bit wonky. Elizabeth’s sounded decent, but she wouldn’t consistently speak with it. You could hear a very distinct American accent slip out pretty often. Aaron’s seemed like a bit much; I got a bit of a Borat vibe from his accent. Luckily for us, the two of them didn’t have that many lines, but I do wish they worked with their dialect coaches a little bit more.

Not sure how much I liked Ultron as a villain. He seemed a bit shallow for a Marvel villain, so it was disappointing. It just seemed like we don’t really delve very deep into his motivations and his thought process as a villain. He jumps so suddenly to villainous intent, and we don’t really explore how he got there or get a glimpse of how he’s doing the right thing from his perspective.  It’s hard to sympathize with him as a villain, which makes him a weak villain. Marvel is better than this, so it was disappointing. I guess the true villain(s) of the movie are their inner demons blah blah whatever. Andy Serkis has just the tiniest presence in the movie and that was disappointing, too, although I am guessing we’ll see more of him in the future?

I can’t really complain too much about the action sequences. Marvel delivers wonderfully on action movies, but with Avengers movies, you often have so many important characters on screen and there were so many cuts within any given fight scene that it was easy to just get lost. I kind of tuned out a lot of the action sequences because it was easier than trying to watch a flurry of arms and legs and guns and robots in IMAX 3D.

I was confused about Natasha’s TRON-esque catsuit. Why were there lights running through it? It was pretty cool but I didn’t understand the tactical reason for this. And she didn’t seem to have a set weapon or anything. I mean, her skillset is her weapon, I suppose, but she had guns, she had cool electric… dagger… things? No signature weapon and, seemingly, no assigned weapon? I loved that Clint (Hawkeye) got a lot more screentime compared to his brainwashed self in the first movie, although his personality is still not really fleshed out at this point. He was on screen and even got lines, but he was still not really an active character in the movie. (Do you see how small he is on the poster?)

It’s getting a bit dicey for me to talk about this movie without any spoilers, so let’s just jump into the spoiler section below the trailer!
Warning: It’s a lot of critiquing in this section. My big issue was that a lot of things happened in this movie that I thought there wasn’t enough of a build-up for: new characters, new situations, new relationships, etc.

Are you planning on watching Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Do you like watching MCU films? What did you think of the last Avengers movie?

LOTS OF SPOILERS COMING UP. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU! I MEAN IT.


Here’s the latest trailer, and spoilers below the jump.

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