Monday, June 15, 2015

Age of Ultron More Than A Little Ambitious

The Latest Avengers Tale Is Visually Arresting But Shows Some Chinks In Marvel’s Usually Infallible Armor


ARTH VADER (AV): For Marvel Comics geeks everywhere, the Age of Ultron is one of the more profound story arcs published in recent memory. As the Avengers most complex and pervasive villain, Ultron represents a morbid take on the coming singularity. As an A.I. built for the greater good gone horribly wrong, Ultron becomes self–aware and endeavors to work to eradicating mankind and his first mandate is to eliminate mankind’s best line of defense—the Avengers. However, the origin in the cannon is far different than that oath film and that, I would argue, is the crux of this film’s flaws. Ponty? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I disagree Vader. The continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is excellent as it stays true to itself and not the books. Anyone watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. saw Director Coulson locate Loki’s scepter in the season finale and contact the Avengers to get it….which was the opening scene in the film. Continuity….flawless!


AV: The cast of Avengers: Age of Ultron (AoU) is so stacked with returning and new actors, the film is almost mind-numbing. With more than 15 primary actors and major supporting cast members, the movie is a massive mash-up. Joss Whedon’s complex vision of the Avengers squaring off against their ultimate foe is impressive. Voiced by the undeniable talents of James “Blacklist” Spader, Ultron has an edge unlike any A.I. ever seen onscreen. I do offer a special note about seeing Paul "Vision" Bettany onscreen as the Vision really made me shudder with delight! While the cinematography is spectacular, it's overwhelming when cobbled together with an an almost relentless amount of CGI. I also noted, Ponty, that the screenplay was a hot mess, which in-turn, affected the storytelling, the pacing and the overall quality of the story. Thoughts? 

TP: All the usual suspects are back and did exactly as expected, so I won’t make a spectacle about it. The real story is the new additions to the cast, namely Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Paul Bettany (Vision), and James Spader (Ultron). I was very happy with all the performances, and while Spader was fantastic, I was especially taken with the Vision. I look forward to seeing more of him in the future. I didn’t think the pace of the film was an issue and found myself engaged at all times with what was going on. 


AV: While it is well known that all Marvel movies are visual spectaculars, this was the first MCU film that felt overdone. Don’t get it twisted, NO ONE was more excited to see eight (8!) Avengers onscreen battling  never-ending wave of Ultron bots than I was. Its true. Since the age of seven, the Vision has been my favorite super hero. He's cool, conflicted but honest about both his nature as a synthetic being and his (eventual) love for the Scarlet Witch. Watching him deal blazing pain to Ultron with the Mind Gem onscreen was almost more than this poor little geek child from Boston could handle. However, a co-worker mentioned recently that she felt-though she liked the film–if she blinked she’d miss something. I couldn’t agree more. And that frantic soup of action in the opening sequence was purely for the fans — fun, but ultimately too much to focus on in too little time. 

TP: It seems Marvel can do no wrong when it comes to special effects, and as usual, there was no other way to see this film except in IMAX 3D. I was pleased Marvel Studios did not copy Fox in doing the effects of Quicksilver. Although those effects were awesome, I enjoyed seeing it done differently and while no new ground was broken, it’s always a pleasure to see everything done flawlessly. As for too much happening…. that is a great reason to see the film more than once to take it all in.


AV: So let’s establish that on opening night (April 30th, 2015 for me–!), I was squealing like a school-girl at watching AoU. And let’s face it, The Avengers (2012) is a damn-near perfect action movie. In its genre, it has no equal. Truly. This also means it has some pretty darn big shoes to fill. But the film had some serious issues. First, too much. Too many dream sequences (3 for Thor alone!), the introduction of Hawkeye’s ‘secret family’, the re-introduction of Nick Fury, Cameo’s by War Machine and Falcon, flying cities, Wakanda, flashes of the Infinity Gems, Ulysses Klaw and… well, you see my point. AoU is the first film where I felt the movie was conscious of itself as a bridge from earlier stories to future Marvel properties. That is a very good way to loose audience members fast and that's troubling to me, P-Man.

TP: The mixed reviews of this film has not stopped it from being a billion dollar film…and rightly so. I have heard several complaints about a lack of story, but I think the story speaks volumes. Ultron gets on the internet for five minutes and decides that humanity must be destroyed (message!). I think it’s impossible to make this film with the same punch the first film had simply because the first film introduced us to something we have never seen before, and seeing that again just can’t have the same impact as the first time. I was not one of those people looking for that first high, I was just looking to be entertained while enjoying the continuing story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe…and this film delivered.


AV: Two follow-up Avengers flicks are in production even as we speak; Avengers Infinity War 1 & 2 (a bad choice for naming if you ask me, folks–which you didn’t). I hope that Captain America: Civil War (also commonly referred to as Avengers 2.5) is due in April of 2016, will be another epic super mash-up from the directorial masters who brought us Captain America: The Winter Soldier–The Russo brothers. I am hoping Marvel doesn’t hobble them as much as they clearly did Mr. Whedon. 

TP: Of course there will be sequels.… Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 & 2, and they can’t get here soon enough. Aside from that, the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to be an ever-expanding connected story that never ceases to amaze and entertain. 


ARTH VADER rates Avengers: Age of Ultron: When all is said and done, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a fun. fast-paced visual spectacular that is a joy for the entrenched fan. It will be a fun streaming download and is highly re-watachable. My concern is the (flagrant) Marvel continuity issues, too many different story arcs and the rampant formula problems, which will hopefully die with this film. Still, I eagerly anticipate someone yelling “Avengers Assemble!” I smile and watch this visual epic assemble eight (8) Busted Blocks as we all prepare for the arrival of the Mad Titan.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Avengers: Age of Ultron: This film was absolutely excellent and while it wasn’t as good as the very first film, it was good enough to destroy nine (9) busted blocks as it continues Marvel Studio’s dominance at the box office.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron – 8.5 / 10 Busted Blocks

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