Saturday, May 9, 2015

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' review 2.0: The spoiler version

"Ultron can't see the difference between saving the world and destroying it." — Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch 

To get my fanboy brain ready to review "Avengers: Age of Ultron," I first posted a photo gallery of photos I had used to review the various trailers. Then, knowing I pride myself on being able to completely review films yet stil avoiding spoilers — and comic books and trade paperbacks, for that matter — I wrote a non-spoiler review.

Now I'm ready to get down, dirty and spoiler-ific with my follow-up review.

You've been warned as I will address several themes this time around. If you haven't seen "Age of Ultron" yet, don't blame me if you keep reading. I'm about to ruin it for you.

HYDRA/BARON STRUCKER
Credit goes to director-writer Joss Whedon for starting "Age of Ultron" where "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" left off. Having seen Baron Strucker in a cameo in the "Winter Soldier" after-credits scene, I was extremely pleased to see him in the "Avengers" sequel. It especially makes since given that Cap left SHIELD and Hydra in shambles. Whedon was smart to keep the storyline going, which further shows just how interconnected the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. (Now whether that was Whedon's creative decision or Marvel Studios' is another thing entirely. …)

"Age of Ultron" starts in the middle of the action, with The Avengers mopping up another Hydra base, which the team has been doing for quite some time. I find this is great, intentional storytelling by tying up the events in "The Winter Soldier."

Being a lifelong Caphead, I was pleased to see Strucker's cameo and certainly more screen time in "Age of Ultron." But then Ultron killed him.

Win some, lose some.

That brings me to … THE TWINS
Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff and Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff are a great addition to the cast.

Another brilliant storytelling decision by Whedon is connecting the Maximoffs' past with a Stark missile bombing their childhood home. This in turn gives the twins a legitimate reason to partner with Ultron (which I had predicted back in early March that they'd be "doing the maniacal robot's dirty work"). More importantly, this gives them more reason to destroy The Avengers.

Fittingly, it's the twins' time with Captain America that turns them into Avengers.

During their first time encountering The Avengers, Quicksilver had decked Cap while his sister made Steve Rogers envision a macabre and ugly "what if?" scenario of a post-World War II party with Agent Peggy Carter.  So it's a sweet turn of events when Quicksilver later saves Cap from his personal fight with Ultron and the Star-Spangled Avenger directs Scarlet Witch to stop the runaway train they're on while her brother gets bystanders out harm's way.

And it makes sense Cap wouldn't want to trust Quicksilver — until Scarlet Witch spills the beans about Ultron's plans.

The twins give it their all in the battle vs. Ultron and his drones. But it's Hawkeye who inspires both Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to truly give it their all. The same archer who is the only Avenger to avoid Scarlet Witch's mind games convinces her of the ramifications of continuing to fight and destroy the countless number of drones.

And what follows is a geektastic slow-mo moment as the Scarlet Witch returns to the battlefield in full kick-ass mode. Beautiful! 

As I'm writing this, I realize Hawkeye is the Avenger who makes "the sacrifice play" (to use Cap's words from the first "Avengers). He gets off the full SHIELD life raft to save the boy trapped in the stairs. And that inspires Quicksilver to save Hawkeye from massive gunfire.

'YOU DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING, DID YOU?'
To answer the question in the banter between Hawkeye and Quicksilver, I didn't see the speedster's death coming.

But why did it happen? Why did Whedon introduce one of comics' earliest Avengers only to kill him off?

Evan Peters played Quicksilver in "X-Men: Days of Future Past"
while Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays the same speedster in
"Avengers: Age of Ultron."
There are two reasons. First and foremost, Quicksilver's sacrifice cements his sister's desire to see Ultron defeated. For good. The symbolism of her ripping out Ultron's "heart" is especially symbolic since Scarlet Witch had her heart ripped out when her brother was killed.

Secondly, there's a more practical reason. This is CCC contributor David Hudson's idea, so he gets complete credit: Since 20th Century Fox's "X-Men: Apocalypse" (out May 27, 2016) likely include its Quicksilver again, it makes it easier and less awkward for Marvel Studios' "Avengers" franchise to be killed off; that way, there aren't two live-action Quicksilvers in two superhero movie franchises. (According to the IMDb page for "Apocalypse," Evan Peters will reprise the role he had in "X-Men: Days of Future Past.") Who knows: it's quite possible that killing off Quicksilver in "Age of Ultron" was part of the deal Marvel struck with Fox in order to use the character in the first place.


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