Tuesday, May 5, 2015

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' no-spoiler review

Already this weekend I've done my share to help out the box-office returns for "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which earned about $187 million over the weekend. I saw it during a 7 PM preview Thursday and then again late Sunday afternoon.

Overall, "Age of Ultron" is a fun, popcorn movie, but lacks that certain "zing" the original "Avengers" has.

There is no break-out character, as Mark Ruffalo's Hulk was in the first film, but director/writer Joss Whedon gives Hawkeye a back story, which in turn gives actor Jeremy Renner more time to shine.

By now, Captain America is established clearly as The Avengers' leader (with Chris Evans truly nailing Cap's authority and decisiveness!) and Hawkeye and Black Widow are best friends. As Tony Stark says, "I just pay for everything and design everything, make everyone look cooler."

The Avengers are a well-oiled machine, with Cap and Thor especially having honed their combine efforts on the battlefield. The way they use Cap's shield with Mjolnir is a geeky thrill ride — and it happens more than once!

Since the first film, Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff has found a way to calm and direct the Hulk, so her affectionately called "Big Guy" isn't the force of nature he was before. Romanoff has a thing for the Big Green Guy's alter ego, Bruce Banner, which makes for an interesting but plausible dynamic given the way Scarlett Johannson and Ruffalo interact. If this developing relationship continues is anybody's guess.

In the grand scheme of Marvel Studios films, "Age of Ultron" is a good time, but isn't nearly the quality film that its predecessor and certainly "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" are. This "Avengers" sequel is worth catching multiple times in the theater. Grade: B+ 

Here are some more of a my thoughts on "Age of Ultron," but don't worry, there's nothing close to a spoiler here.

• James Spader is creepy as Ultron … which is a good thing since he's a genocidal android/cyborg with delusions of grandeur.

• Fans of THE AVENGERS comic books will appreciate that Ultron has several different incarnations. I counted at least four.

• Given that the "X-Men" film franchise at Fox has the rights to the use of the word "mutant," the explanation given for how Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver gained their powers is plausible with what's already been established in the first "Avengers" movie. To say anything more would be a minor spoiler.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (left) as Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff
and his twin sister, Wanda, aka the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen),
are fine additions to The Avengers' line-up.
(Photo courtesy of forbes.com)

• Elizabeth Olsen is as attractive as any actress in Hollywood and more importantly, just as talented. IMHO her Russian accent is passable and doesn't bother me nearly as much as other critics.

• While there are a few good one-liners, there are aren't nearly the LOL moments from the first film. The crowd reaction is a good gage of that.

• What I call the "Hammer Time" scene early in the film (as seen in one of the first trailers) is a classic example of just how well Whedon crafts a sequence which shows off — and gets to the heart of — each of the characters. The subsequent showdown with the earliest version of Ultron and his drones (formerly the Iron Legion under Tony Stark's control) is just as well done.

• Speaking of trailers, there are a few clips and lines seen there that aren't included in the final cut of "Age of Ultron." I'd expect those scenes to be included in a director's cut or as bonus/deleted scenes in the Blu-ray release.

• Again going to back trailers: Yup, that showdown between Iron Man in his Hulbuster armor and the Hulk himself is just as as sweet and action-packed as it appears in the previews.

• Fans of THE AVENGERS comics should appreciate how the creation of the Vision nicely mixes his published origin with the Marvel Studios continuity. Just a non-spoiler teaser: Big things in future films obviously are planned for the Vision (who Paul Bettany emobies with lovely grace), but what that is is a mystery.

• Hawkeye may refer to being a S.H.I.E.L.D agent and Avenger as "my job," but by the end of "Age of Ultron," it's clear Cap and Black Widow's lives are even intertwined with and identified by being Avengers.

Keep checking back here at Cary's Comics Craze for more "Age of Ultron"-inspired op-eds as inspiration hits me!

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