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Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

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(L-r) Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner star in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"

My expectations for Marvel’s film are mixed. I expect to be entertained with explosions and action, but I also expect a simple plot and even simpler characters. In Marvel’s latest, Avengers: Age of Ultron, my exact expectations were met and I had a lot of fun.

The film beings by plopping the audience right into the middle of the action. All of the Avengers are racing through a snowy wood fighting off an unknown army of anonymous assailants. Though we do eventually get caught up on the story, this instant immersion in the action is a microcosm of the new wave of comic book movies. It does not really matter who they are battling or why the conflict started. The reason you go to see a Marvel film is to watch the characters kick some ass, take some names, and once again save the world. Who they fight, or which injustices they right, is ultimately inconsequential.

In Avengers: Age of Ultron they are battling, you guessed it, Ultron. Voiced by the charismatic and perpetually seductive James Spader, Ultron is a villain of a different nature. He is an artificially intelligent operating system inadvertently created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). Soon after its creation he embodies the Iron Man’s minion force of robots, leaves the lab, and attempts to destroy the world, which in its warped thinking is a way of saving it. Hollywood has had a recent preoccupation with AI (Ex Machina, Transcendence, Chappie) and it was interesting to see the often innovative Marvel fitting into the crowd of films, rather than rising above them. Though the plot lacked originality, this was not necessarily a let-down.

This is not to say that any part of Age of Ultron feels tired. This is the first film I’ve seen in quite a while which runs longer than two hours that does not feel as long as its running time. The film zips by and keeps the audience engaged with its action packed spectacle and dramatic score. Thankfully, director Joss Whedon knew enough to keep the camera a fair distance away from all of the action so that it is quite easy to follow. You always have a good sense of where each character is in heat of battle.

One thing that does drag the action to a halt is the inclusion of some psychological warfare against the courageous Avengers. Rather than taking them down physically, one of Ultron’s own superhuman disciples is able to affect each of these superheroes mentally for a short spell in the film. These attacks are simultaneously fascinating and underutilized. Had we seen more of the attacks and their consequences it could have proven to be much more pivotal to the plot. But in this potentially truncated theatrical cut these moments merely serve to slow down the action, and are then discarded quickly.

But the action is not the sole reason 2012’s Avengers was such a blockbuster: audiences also loved the humor in the film. Age of Ultron knew to keep a good thing going and I am happy to report that this film is honestly really funny too. In the very first scene a joke at one Avenger’s expenses is introduced and it becomes the running joke throughout the film. Even two hours in to the film this joke was still going strong, making the audience I was a part of continue to laugh out loud. The fun of Marvel jokes is the surprise of them, so I will not spoil them, but I did want to reassure that there is still plenty of humor in this film.

Overall Avengers: Age of Ultron is bound to polarize audiences. Those with high hopes may not be as blown away as they were by the first film, and may be disappointed. Those with measured expectations may leave the theater happily surprised that this latest Marvel film was able to maintain consistency of awesomeness. Avengers: Age of Ultron is a great film in its own right, but it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor.

Rating: PG-13

Director: Joss Whedon

Robert Downey Jr.
Chris Hemsworth
Mark Ruffalo
Chris Evans
Scarlett Johansson
Jeremy Renner
Don Cheadle
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Elizabeth Olsen
Paul Bettany
Cobie Smulders
Stellan Skarsgård
James Spader
Samuel L. Jackson

Film Length: 141 minutes

Release Date: May 1, 2015

Distributor: Walt Disney

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