The Marvel superheroes face their strongest villain yet this darker sequel
Being one of the most highly anticipated films and sequels of all time, the pressure was definitely on for Marvel to deliver once again, and they did, but without exceeding expectations. As many should know by now through the trailers and earlier reviews, this instalment has a much darker and serious tone to it, which may be the reason why I felt that it's not as fun or memorable as the first Avengers film (2012). Nonetheless, Age of Ultron is still a worthy sequel and a fitting piece to the continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as satisfies with awesome action sequences, intense drama, witty dialogues and spectacular visuals.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon again with all the actors reprising their roles, the film kicks off right into action in Sokovia where the Avengers are forcing their way into a Hydra facility to retrieve Loki's scepter, which may be very confusing for those who has not seen all the MCU films leading up this one. The real problem begins when Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), with the help of the persuaded Bruce Banner / Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), decides to use the scepter to create Ultron without consulting Steve Rodgers / Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the others. Although it was intended to be an artificial intelligence to replace the Avengers as the protectors of the world, Ultron (James Spader) becomes a dangerous psychopathic robot that believes that it must destroy the Avengers and all humanity to save the planet. I get that this might sound a bit like Skynet in the Terminator films, but Ultron is the strongest and scariest antagonist in the MCU thus far (before Thanos comes, of course) as it is convincingly portrayed to be capable of killing at least one Avenger, which is something that the MCU never had up till now.
On top of his ability to spread through the internet and multiply himself as Stark's Iron Legion army, Ultron is assisted by a pair of "enhanced" twins, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (played by Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson respectively), who are actually Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver from the X-Men comics but they can't even be called "mutants" here as 20th Century Fox holds the rights to that. Wanda possesses telekinesis and hypnosis powers that help tear the Avengers a part from the inside, causing the team to divide and doubt themselves. The story might have taken the familiar family drama-internal conflict path, but it's done without being too cheesy about it. Although the script does feel weaker than the more well constructed first film, the humour and charm are still very strong.
Pietro is a grittier and more vulnerable version of Quicksilver, which makes him less cool than the one in X-Men: Days in Future Past (2014), but I would say that it's compensated by the introduction of the godly Vision (Paul Bettany) to the universe. Andy Serkis appears for a scene as Ulysses Klaue which will serve as a back story of the upcoming villain Klaw. Other new characters include Helen Cho, a renowned geneticist played by Claudia Kim Soo-Hyun, who's pretty but her acting is a bit wooden. Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are more involved than before, which is good to see as Hawkeye was largely a mind-controlled villain in the first film.
The action sequences in the film, although it has one or two too many corny slomo effects, are very well choreographed with amazing CGI and visual effects. Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, they all have a good balance of screen time to showcase their unique abilities against their enemies, except for the black sidekicks like War Machine and Falcon. It's far better than what I wished I'd get to see when I was a kid, and most importantly is that it's nothing like Transformer: Age of Extinction (2014) where it's overbloated with long, boring action sequences. Fans of the MCU are emotionally invested with the characters, and furthermore, Whedon uses the darker tone of the film and some smart foreshadowing to create this thought that one of them could actually die, and that makes the intense action scenes much more engaging and thrilling to watch.
Not sure how faithful or unfaithful the film is to the comics, but it's somewhat surprising that the plot has a soul, offering some political subtext on how misguided good intentions by powerful good people could eventually lead to more death and destruction. What I also find very commendable is that we finally get to see a battle that's not against an alien invasion in Manhattan or some city in the US like what we've been seeing time and time again over the years in some MCU films, Man of Steel (2013), all 4 of the Transformers films and maybe more. And this fight between Iron Man in the Hulkbuster suit against the Hulk is simply awesome. It's a crowd-pleaser and I was indeed pleased.
On the downside, just like the previous film, some things just don't make sense, like how the heck an ordinary human being could survive a raging attack by Ultron, or why they're so afraid that Bruce Banner would turn into Hulk when it's obvious that he could control himself (the same could asked about the first film). On top of these flaws, there are also some things that aren't explained, like when did the Black Widow start having a thing for Banner? That certainly came out of no where. The film seems quite rushed and choppy in the first act, as though it was actually 3 hours long but forcefully edited into this shorter version. Perhaps that's what caused the poor development of the story.
However, despite not being daring enough or even seem like it's in its best full original form, Avengers: Age of Ultron is still a highly entertaining entry packed with thrilling action, conflict tension and drama while subtly teasing and building towards the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War films.
What I would've named the film: "Avengers 1.8"
Malaysia censorship: The rudest word I heard in the film was "shit". So no, I doubt anything was censored locally. According to fellow movie critic Ian Tan, the line "son of a bitch" was censored in IMAX and 2D screenings.
To watch in 3D? Like the 2012 film, it was converted to 3D in post-production but I watched it in IMAX 3D anyway. I didn't really find the depth impactful, instead I was very annoyed by the subtitles that's popping out more than anything else in the film.
Second opinion: My girlfriend believes that she liked this one more than the first Avengers film.
Verdict: It may not be as mind blowing or bold as many were expecting it to be, but it is still one heck of an epic ensemble superhero flick with a worthy villain.
Rating: 4 / 5
Based on: "The Avengers" comics by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Genre: Superhero, fantasy, action, adventure
Running Time: 141 minutes
Writer-Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Malaysia Release Date: 23 April 2015
Local Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Malaysia
Production: Marvel Studios
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