Avengers flies to new heights; could go farther

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON TAKES place years after the previous movie. The Avengers must chase down and save the world from the rogue AI, Ultron, whose belief for evolution is to destroy humanity. Though there are faults in the movie, this movie is a fitting sequel to the previous film.

Joseph’s View

Avengers: Age of Ultron is the next film in the new wave of of Marvel Entertainment films released in the last few years, and is, once again, another adaptation of their comic book stories into action on the silver screen. It is sometimes funny and sometimes serious, but it manages to balance the two well to create an atmosphere that is both welcoming for newcomers while still satisfying the die-hard “stay-up-all-night-on-the-comment-threads” fans.

As someone who has seen most, but not all, of the related Marvel films but hasn’t read the comics, Age of Ultron presents itself as somewhat of a multi-faceted movie. Its slapstick humor—sometimes inserted into the middle of intense battle scenes—helps keep the atmosphere light and fun, in stark contrast to many of the recent films produced by DC Comics universe. References to previous films and comics abound, though some characters are not specifically named. Occasionally, the dearth of context clues or explicit exposition left me wondering what was going on, especially as someone who is unfamiliar with the newer characters.

The film starts off in the woods of Slovakia, where the Avengers—still as we saw them in the last movie, which took place three years previous—are raiding a Hydra outpost to retrieve the scepter which Loki wielded in the previous Avengers film. It is during this fight that we are introduced to two new characters—Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, portrayed by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, respectively, who start to give the Avengers trouble.

After they successfully retrieve the scepter, billionaire genius Tony Stark, again excellently portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., discovers and utilizes an artificial intelligence in the scepter to create his “Ultron” global defense initiative program.

Predictably, this goes wrong.

The team then must chase down and save the world from the rogue AI, Ultron, whose belief of the only way to evolve is to destroy humanity, and by extension, the Avengers. Their journey takes them from Seoul to South Africa and explores intrapersonal and internal conflicts that threaten to tear the team apart. James Spader delivers a distinguished performance as the voice of Ultron with his self-aggrandizing, villain-type dialogue.

The film’s 141-minute runtime gives director Joss Whedon enough time to explore not just the main plot, but also the backstory of the lesser-known characters—helped along by some hallucinatory brain-meddling—as well as throwing in a sprinkling of romance.

This isn’t to say Avengers: Age of Ultron is without its faults, however. To the end, Ultron’s motivations remain unclear, other than “destroy-the-world-because-people-are-bad,” which, at this point, has become an overused trope. By extension, the underlying premise of the movie becomes rather stale, when viewed from afar. The special effects, while mostly on-par with most films these days, is spotty at times, with fairly glaring usages of CGI pulling the viewer out of the film. The movie itself, without the context of the other Marvel films, would likely be difficult for non-fans to understand, and offers little closure, instead ending with “The Avengers will return.” In addition, the entire part where Thor, portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, journeys into a pool of water which somehow causes him to realize how to solve a number of issues had me confused.

Despite these faults, it is clear that public opinion remains strongly in favor of these movies. Age of Ultron grossed $191.3 million in its opening weekend, just shy of the No. 1 $207.4 million record set by its older brother, the original Avengers film, in 2012. On this movie, they aren’t wrong; this film is definitely a good one—it manages to cater to both die-hard and new fans, as well as shucking the increasingly “grimdark” direction that Hollywood has been taking with its recent films.

In the end, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a fitting sequel to the previous film, and a good culmination and integration of all of the preceding films of the franchise. I know I will be looking forward to Whedon’s next Marvel.

Geoffrey’s View

I think for many, including myself, this film was a no brainer. It’s the new Avengers film, it’s going to be cool, it’s going to be funny, it’s going to be entertaining. I think people are very much used to the good in the Marvel movies, so I think I’ll focus a little more on the bad of the film.

First, this movie felt CGI heavy to a level I was not accustomed to compared to the other films in the series. Going from Loki as a villain to the completely computer-made robot that is Ultron was a bit jarring, and when you see the set pieces as well, you’ll understand why I feel the way I do. Going off of Ultron, his transition from good to bad was almost instantaneous, and I felt like a fair amount of the film was rushed to the detriment to the main characters. I felt as though Ultron and none of the main Avengers sans Hawkeye got significant screen time.

In contrast to this lack of screen time for main characters and the main villain, I thought the film was awfully nice to the new inclusions: Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision. While I feel like they were good inclusions and made for some awesome scenes, I feel like most of these characters have been throwaway heroes that come in for their small spotlight in later films. Case in point; Warmachine and Falcon in this film. I don’t mind a larger repertoire of heroes, but an Avengers B team kind of sucks when it is constantly being compared to the all-star original team. The only good character focus I enjoyed was establishing Hawkeye as a member of the Avengers. While Hawkeye has either been a cameo villain in Thor or an actual villain-turned-hero in the first Avengers, it was nice to see Hawkeye not only as the glue the team of gods needs to stick together, but also as the mentor for the new heroes.

I won’t have to tell you how cool the movie is, or how awesome it was when Hulk/Thor/Scarlet Witch/Not Black Widow blew up a thing while doing a flip onto another thing, yadda yadda yadda. It’s certainly entertaining, but extremely underwhelming. The entirety of the film feels like a one-off without anything really important happening. Even the post credits scene was disappointing, and everything just seems like a set up for the next wave of films before the next Avengers. This film feels like Marvel is slowly creeping in new heroes to distract the fans from how far they are trying to stretch out the Thanos arc, and while it’s not bad now, I’m scared this will become a feature in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe films.