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Why May 2015 Will Be the Age of Ultron

This is probably a movie most will see regardless of this review. Avengers: Age of Ultron is one of the most hyped films of the year and is bound to be a box office juggernaut. But does it live up to the hype?
            Not quite, but lower your pitchforks that’s not to say it’s not a great movie (it’s just been hyped to the extreme). In this sequel, Earth’s mightiest heroes join forces again when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) creates an artificial intelligence designed to save the human race. The result is a being known as Ultron (James Spader) who immediately causes this plan to backfire by deciding to exterminate humankind, calling for the Avengers to rally against him. Ultron possesses immense technological power and commands an army of robotic Iron suits making it very difficult for the Avengers to defeat him. The film hits a great balance in terms of its audience. Though many who see it will likely have seen at least a few Marvel films prior, this is both parts fan service and standalone film.
             The characters contribute a big part to this. For all its’ success the first Avengers film was essentially just a romp of popular movie superheroes coming together to fight a common enemy. Its focus was more on the thrill of the idea. But here the characters are much more fleshed out. Each of the core Avengers has their moment to shine both in the action sequences and in character development. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in particular gets some interesting character building and addressing of the fact that he seems the least useful on the team. And it helps that they’re very well written by Whedon. As a superhero film, there’s no reason it needs to be legitimately funny, but the funny moments especially from Thor (Chris Hemsworth) of all characters, in addition to working in the context of the action also give these people more of a personality. Though the romance between Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) came out of nowhere it didn’t detract from the plot at all due to their character arcs and good chemistry. The new characters coming in are decent. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Johnson) are intriguing characters especially the former, though the accents perhaps could have been better. There were also a few moments where clearly the filmmakers were trying to hit the same level of awesome that Evan Peters did in his brief but memorable appearance as Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past (they didn’t quite get there). We get other additions including the very welcome Linda Cardellini, Andy Serkis (deciding to be in both box office smashes this year), and especially Spader. In fact his portrayal of Ultron is one of the very best aspects of the film, perhaps the studios’ best villain. He’s charismatic while incredibly threatening and you just relish every scene he’s in. He plays the character as the trailer implied, as a warped 21st century Pinocchio who is clearly free of his strings in every way.
           Apart from this and the fantastic action scenes, the film also genuinely deals with consequences. From the moment Stark uttered the famous Neville Chamberlain “peace in our time” quote of doom, we knew this film would be about people paying for their actions. And we see a lot of that. A couple characters have to answer for what they’ve done and how they cope with that gives the film a noticeably darker tone. Seeing the plot from their perspective your obligated to be on the side of the Avengers but when you look at it as an everyday person seeing what you can of them from a third person point of view, suddenly they seem like menaces. Arguments between Stark and Captain America (Chris Evans) though mostly obvious set-up for Captain America: Civil War, reflect this as well as their opposing philosophies which predict those that will come up in that film. Hell the primary character motivation for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver for most of the film comes out of a tragic consequence of something Iron Man did with the best intentions. The film also plays around with plot, foreshadowing a certain end with a cliché setup but then taking another one unexpectedly. And there are plenty of other surprises for fans old and new alike.
           So Avengers: Age of Ultron is a great film, but you already know that. It builds on the universe while solidifying itself as a wholly entertaining film on its own. It has a few problems with pacing (the creation of Ultron was very rushed) and plot that are inherent in most superhero films, but has a compelling enough story, interesting old and new characters, smart writing, and ideas and themes that are played out very well. It’s a movie everyone will be seeing this summer, and they probably should.



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