Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Review: 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is the comic book movie we've been waiting for

Avengers: Age of Ultron: No introductions are required for one of the most anticipated films in the last few years. The sequel to 2012's The Avengers, one of the highest grossing films ever, looks to propel Marvel not only to becoming the highest grossing franchise ever, but permanently establish the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, as one of the best movie franchises in the history of Hollywood.

The film is so anticipated that some theaters around the country hosted a 27-hour-marathon, showing every movie in the MCU leading up to Age of Ultron. I decided to attend this marathon with a group of friends, considering we are all Marvel fans, and we were all gnawing at the bit to see not just Age of Ultron but some of our favorites from the MCU.

The event sold out and every seat was full, showing the drawing power a franchise like this one has. But the marathon would be for nothing if Age of Ultron turned out to be a disappointment and begin the summer movie season on a low note. Luckily, that's not the case at all. Avengers: Age of Ultron should end up exceeding any and all expectations fans might have walking into the theater.

In an effort to protect the Earth from forces it can't control, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) creates a self-aware computer system, Ultron (James Spader), to form a body of armor around the world. But instead, Stark, Captain America (Chris Evans), and the rest of the Avengers have to band together when Ultron decides to target the human race after he deems humans the cause of their own extinction.

The fact that writer/director Joss Whedon returned to write and direct Age of Ultron is a positive, and he works his magic again like he did with The Avengers. Every action scene in this movie is a special effects marvel. Each scene is framed and shot to give audience members every angle of the action they could want. It all flows flawlessly, with Whedon's trademark swooping-tacking shots to help set apart Age of Ultron's action from other comic book adaptations and even other MCU adaptations.

Whedon's writing is spot- on in helping bring these characters back together. But the writing is also the biggest surprise of the movie. From the trailers, we were being sold a darker, and inevitably sadder, chapter in the MCU and one that would change the future of the franchise. It turns out this is one of the funniest action films I've seen in some time. Every character has a humorous quip and every one of those quips works. Even the villain Ultron, marketed as the evil end of mankind, is a charismatic and comedic villain that I have always wanted to see on the screen. Spader's presence as Ultron, he did the motion capture as well as the voice of the character, is almost perfect. He's the villain that has been sorely lacking from MCU films and will have audiences laughing in joy or in fear.

That brings us to the most important aspect of an ensemble piece like this: the actors and their portrayal of the characters. At this point, aside from a few newcomers, every actor has had his or her chance to fill in the role he or she has been given. The "old timers" like Downey Jr., Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson all do their absolute best playing Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Black Widow, respectively. But it's the still fresh and unknown characters that stand out in Age of Ultron, especially Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.

In The Avengers, Hawkeye was just the guy who could shoot a bow and arrow really well, a considerable waste given Renner's talents as an actor. But in Age of Ultron, his character is given layers. We finally learn more about him and his lifestyle. It all creates a more compelling character that I cannot wait to see in next year's Captain America: Civil War.

As for the two newbies, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson, who play Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, they both do a surprisingly great job, especially Taylor-Johnson. Once again in reference to the humor of the film, Quicksilver has a surprising amount of wit to him, something Taylor-Johnson does very well. Olson also brings a shy, intimidated feel to an already damaged character, helping her stand out among the Hollywood A-listers.

Avengers: Age of Ultron will no doubt have its naysayers. Those who find the humor and darker tone far too contrasting or the over-saturation of characters, old and new. But I'm not one of those people. Avengers: Age of Ultron is everything I want in a comic book movie. Everything I want in a summer movie. And everything I want in a movie in general.

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