"There are no strings on me."
Well, it is time for the Summer of Marvel and today we start with Marvel's most recent release, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. Now, I am still a bit too stuck in the post-theater viewing HOLY-COW-THAT-WAS-AWESOME-MOOD to give it a truly discerning and honest evaluation, but I will give it my best go. But, in short: It is well-worth the $10 to see it.
So, let's get this thing started!
SPOILERS!: Though I will avoid giving some big spoilers for the movie, there are some pretty big spoilers for Captain America: Winter Soldier, but if you read Andrew's review then you should be mostly fine, however there are some things he left out.
The movie opens with all the Avengers attacking one of the last HYDRA outposts in Sokovia to retrieve Loki's scepter (don't ask). They succeed but run into two twins, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the comics, who have the powers of super-speed and telekinesis/telepathy/give people weird visions/dreams, respectively. They don't do much here aside from Pietro knocking Hawkeye off his feet and Wanda giving Tony a vision of the rest of the Avengers dead, which causes him to make some rather stupid decisions throughout the rest of the movie.
The Avengers grab the scepter and bring it back and the Avengers decide to hold a party to celebrate a successful victory. In the meanwhile, Stark and Banner decide to use some of the tech they picked up at the HYDRA base to develop an AI called Ultron, which will be used to create a shield to protect the earth from another alien invasion. Oh, and they do this without telling the rest of the team.
So, the party goes well with the audience learning about the various. Thor and Stark,
The revelries die down and people disperse as the gang plays a (hilarious) contest of "Who can pull Thor's hammer" until things are rudely interrupted by an Ultron who has awoken, become sentient, whacked Tony's computer butler JARVIS, and now wants to do something evil that involves destroying the Avengers. He fights them, they destroy his current robot body but he has plenty of other ones and leaves the Avengers Tower and joins up with the Maximoff twins who hate Stark.
So the Avengers must hunt him down and stop him from remaking the world "better".
Again, I still can't give a completely discerning view of this but let me give it a shot. I don't think it is quite as good as the original but that is more because the original was ground-breaking in the way it brought together a group of characters from different movie series and threw them together. But it still works, albeit with a few glitches.
The humor here does not work quite as well as it did in the first one. That's not to say there aren't moments when it doesn't work, it works 90% of the time but it falls flat a few times. The biggest example being when Tony and Thor are discussing their respective girlfriends, comparing their successes in their respective fields in a game of "My girlfriend is cooler than your girlfriend." Yeah, its boring.
But for the most part, the humor still works.
Some characters, especially Clint and Natasha are given a tad more development and backstory. Clint has a family and a farm and we learn a bit more about what Natasha went through when she was being made into the Black Widow, both from her dreams and her dialogue with Banner.
On the subject of Banner and Natasha, that is one part of the movie I am still not sure wether I think it is a stroke of genius or a truly terrible decision. Its not that the actors have terrible chemistry or that they make a poor match, the movie does a good job
But enough with the negatives. The movie is a lot of fun. The fight scenes are cool. Ultron is a great villain, played brilliantly by James Spader, and actually providing some of the best jokes in the movie. His only flaw was that I could never really figure out his goal was or why he wanted to do it. Something about "changing humanity" involving destroying it. But he is not alone in the MCU in having a poorly-explains end-game and he is far from the worst in that regard.
There is another new character, Vision who, well, I can't say a whole lot about him because he didn't get a whole lot of screen time. But, what I did see showed a great deal of potential. A character who is deeply compassionate, probably more so than the rest of the Avengers, yet willing to do what is necessary to preserve life.
Now, the true highlight of the movie is the twins, Pietro and Wanda, performed by Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. They have a ying-yang quality, with Pietro being the funny, wise-cracking jokester and Wanda the darker, more serious one. Their chemistry is very good and they are quite likable. Also, their switch to the Avengers (let's face it, you knew that was coming) is played well enough that it feels rather naturally.
Interestingly, these two characters allow me to pass a much harsher verdict on the director, producers, and writers of Godzilla and the movie, itself. Why? Because in that movie you had two main characters, a husband and wife, played by the same two actors, who were unbelievably wooden and boring. Now, having seen those two actors play fun and at least moderately engaging characters, at least if given the right script and direction I can safely say it was not the fault of the actors but the director, producers, and writers of Godzilla.
So, there it is. A fun movie that, while not as quite as good as the first, still brings what a good popcorn movie needs: Fun.
Next Week: Iron Man (2008).