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Avengers: Age of Ultron




Avengers: Age of Ultron (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

05/07/15
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Avengers: Age of Ultron (PG-13)

Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Captain America and Black Widow all return for another round of saving the world and bickering amongst themselves in Avengers: Age of Ultron, a long car ride with not nearly enough sightseeing stops.
As the movie opens, the gang — Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) — is searching for Loki’s scepter and has tracked it down to some Eastern European fortress under the control of Hydra’s Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) — Loki’s scepter and Strucker being two things that sound vaguely familiar but don’t sweat it if you can’t remember the details. Strucker is willing to give the Avengers the scepter because he doesn’t want them to discover his other malevolent projects: giant robotic constructions that seem vaguely similar to things we’ve seen in previous Marvel movies and his development of “the twins,” the brother and sister team of Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) Maximoff, better known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. His power (as you may remember from the character of the same name in X-Men: Days of Future Past) is being fast; her power is telekinesis and messing with people’s minds. She’s able to escape Iron Man by getting him to focus on his fears (that he will somehow destroy the whole world) and later plays with the psyches of Thor, Hulk, Cap and Black Widow. 
Despite these unexpected additions to Hydra’s forces, the team still manages to secure Loki’s scepter. Before Thor returns to Asgard, he gives Tony Stark (Iron Man’s alter-ego) a few days to look it over. Tony thinks that the computer-like power source inside the scepter’s sparkly jewel might be the key to a project he and Bruce Banner (a.k.a. Hulk) have been working on: Ultron. The idea of Ultron is that it serve as a world protector, an artificial intelligence that can achieve “peace in our time” as Tony ominously promises. This global defender against future alien invasion, as he calls Ultron, will also mean that the Avengers can take a break from the constant world-saving. 
As you may remember from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a preemptive, automated protection device is inevitably a terrible idea. Though Tony and Bruce think they haven’t cracked the code, a self-assembled, consciousness-having robot does emerge. Ultron (voice of James Spader) quickly decides that “peace” means eliminating the Avengers. And, with a consciousness that can travel the world in seconds via the Internet, Ultron has the ability to make endless copies of himself, quickly building a robot army.
Like a house with unfortunate siding and questionable design choices but a good footprint, Avengers: Age of Ultron has good bones underneath a lot of iffy decisions. It isn’t bad, it’s just a fixer-upper. 
It’s bloated, coming in at nearly two and a half hours of screen time, at least 45 minutes of which is completely unnecessary. The Scarlet Witch’s powers to cripple the heroes by making them dwell on their fears and doubts also mean that we have to spend a lot of time watching flashbacks of and then hearing characters talk about their fears and doubts. I think it’s supposed to give the movie emotional depth, but it feels like stalling. As do a lot of the fight scenes — watching very CGIed characters do very CGI things feels empty, empty in a way writer/director Joss Whedon was able to overcome in the final fight scene of the first Avengers but isn’t able to quite get out from under here. There are maybe a handful of moments in Age of Ultron’s big final fight that are either cool or emotionally resonant and maybe two instances that manage to be both.
The movie also lacks lightness and fun, which is strange and unfortunate since mixing heavy emotion, butt-kicking and levity is kind of Whedon’s thing. And while I understand not all superhero movies have to be laugh riots, don’t we get enough drudgery from the DC Christopher Nolan/Zack Snyder crowd? With the exceptions of a few nice moments here and there with Thor or Hawkeye, all of the levity duties fall to Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr. You can tell that Tony Stark is the most fun to write for, the guy you naturally want to give all the best lines to. The result, however, is that the movie noticeably lacks sparkle when he’s not on screen. The movie tries to give equal weight to Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America but the buddy action-comedy featuring Iron Man and Hulk, with their sidekick Thor, is way more fun. 
Fun is also missing on the villain side of the equation. Ultron is supposed to be an artificial intelligence, the likes of which have never been seen before. But he comes across like a James Spader villain that I feel like I have seen a lot before. He’s, maybe, a little bit cool and calculating (humans are destroying the world ergo you save the world by destroying humans) but mostly he’s kind of nuts, with some of that Tony Stark snark but no charm. Ultimately, he is neither particularly terrifying nor any real fun. Who knew Tom Hiddleston’s Loki was such an important element to an Avengers outing?
Avengers: Age of Ultron has some good ideas and some nice moments, but these moments are floating in a very large bowl of thin soup. B-
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments. Written and directed by Joss Whedon (from comic books by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby), Avengers: Age of Ultron is two hours and 21 minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 





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