Avengers: Age of Ultron review
Sequels to movies are like sequels to books. Sometimes they’re not as good. Sometimes they’re just as good. And sometimes they’re better.
Joss Whedon had a crazy task on his hands with bettering The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble for those of us in the UK). It was a tough ask to deliver a sequel that could top the epicness of The Avengers. But… Whedon and the team managed it—and then some.
Age of Ultron doesn’t just rival its predecessor, it knocks it out of the park and keeps on knocking it out of the atmosphere. It’s that good.
Age of Ultron is a different movie to The Avengers, the team are already assembled, they know each other, and the opening sequence as they break into a fortress to retrieve (don’t worry, no spoilers here)… Whedon makes sure we know that the Avengers are now a fully working team. And that is the core of the movie. How do the Avengers work together. The plot has many more strands than the first movie. There is more going on (which is set up for the next instalment). But the main focus of the story is the Avengers working together, and how they hold up when someone is trying to break them apart from the inside.
As well as that Whedon delivers another ‘earth at stake’ scale disaster with Ultron at its centre. Is Ultron a villain worthy to rival Loki? Hard to say, but Ultron is definitely a worthy adversary. And with James Spader’s awesome voice-work and motion capture behind the CGI, Ultron isn’t just a robot.
Like in The Avengers, Whedon balances the Avengers well, giving each of them separate stories, but allotting them (mostly) equal screen time. Hawkeye and Black Widow get a more solid story this time around, and through new additions to the cast (Quicksilver and his sister the Scarlet Witch) we get to find out (again, no spoilers in how) more about the Avengers past… maybe even their futures…
Whedon’s trademark humour is on fine from once again, and all of the characters, even minor ones (and the villains) get more than one witty one-liner. The plot is much more complex than in The Avengers, the world, story, characters all feel more solid. More strands are introduced and the movie feels much more substantial than the Avengers (which had a solid plot too, which tells you how good Age of Ultron’s plot is). Things are resolved, and things are left unanswered, ready for the next (two-parter) instalment, Infinity War.
The CGI is as high-quality as with all Marvel movies, but while there explosions and fight sequences aplenty, the CGI is mixed with enough real sets and physical effects to not be distracting. Whedon’s direction is all but faultless. There’s no choppy editing to make action sequences impossible to understand and the pace is relentless when it needs to be and a little steadier when the story is about the characters. And for a story about the potential annihilation of Earth, Whedon (on script duty as well as directing) makes sure the characters are the focus of the movie.
Overall, Age of Ultron is possible the best Marvel movie so far. Everything we’ve come to expect is present and correct: action, pace, humour, explosions—but Whedon and the team inject enough originality and make this different enough from The Avengers that it never feels like we’re watching the first movie with a few bits added. The only, tiny, fault is the soundtrack. The main Avengers theme that ran through the first movie and made action sequences more gripping isn’t used enough this time around. I didn’t leave the cinema humming the theme tune like I did last time—but I did leave with a huge grin on my face and feeling pretty damn satisfied.
Avengers Age of Ultron is out now in the UK, and hits cinemas May 1st in the US.
There are some books that I wish I’d written myself. This is one of them. I’m a huge Marvel fan, and there are too few books that pull superheroes off successfully. Victoria Schwab manages it and then some. The plot is pretty simple– a feud between two friends who then become enemies– but Schwab twists the superhero origin story into something original enough to make up for any problems this book has– and they’re pretty few and far between to begin with.
Schwab’s writing style is somewhere between sharp and vivid description. Where some authors overuse description, Schwab manages to balance description so that the pace is never bogged down by it. The dialogue is sharp and witty and the world is believable, even if it’s a little vague at times. The characters are believable too, and the villain, superhero cliches never seem to take over. Victor is a great main character, hard to like and hard not to like at the same time. Eli is a pain in the ass with his religious spiel, but he makes for a fine adversary for Victor. Sydney, Mitch and Serena fill out the supporting cast, and they are just as well developed and interesting as the protagonists.
This book does have a few problems. I was expecting a final, explosive finale, but the subtle one Schwab delivers is probably more suited to the tone of the rest of the novel. The lack of action almost made this a four star book until I realised it wouldn’t fit right with the tone of the book. This isn’t about constant action and awesome set pieces, it’s a more character driven novel. And it works well because of that. It’d be cool to see more superheros, with bigger powers, in a sequel, but for this first book, Schwab pulls it off. But the lack of action never does anything to slow the pace. The pages whipped by and I didn’t want this book to end. But trying to make a book this good last is impossible. It’s too addictive and well written for that.
Overall, this is an awesome book. Some of the best writing I’ve ever read, a great cast of characters and a unique spin on superhero origin stories.
Epic and highly recommended. I hope Schwab writes a sequel.
I see a superhero book in my writing future.
Up until yesterday, my favourite movie of the year (to be released in cinemas, and that i have seen) was Thor: The Dark World. But that all changed last night when i saw Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Unlike a lot of people i, in some ways, preferred the movie the the book (though don’t get me wrong, i am a huge fan of the books). The movie toned down the annoying focus on clothes and makeup that bogged down the first half of the book for me. It was an action packed, gripping and intense movie that did full justice to the book and had very few flaws. And so, it was with high expectations, dangerously high in fact, that i sat down and waited for Catching Fire to start. After the usual, annoying half hour of ads the lights dimmed and the movie started. It opens with a sweeping view of a bleak, snowy forest. And then we meet back up with Katniss, doing what she does best: hunting.
From that moment that pace is pretty much relentless. Yes, there is a slow build to start as we follow Katniss and Peeta on their victory tour through the districts. It is in this first hour or so that Francis Lawrence delivers much of the hard hitting scenes. I won’t reveal anything but we get to see just how corrupt and dangerous Panem really is and how ruthless President Snow is. Then, once the games start it is full on action right up until the credits. Many were worried that previous director Gary Ross’s departure would be felt, but, as far as i’m concerned, it didn’t even cross my mind while watching the movie. In fact, new director Francis Lawrence pales the first movie and delivers something awesome. His skill at both action and emotion elevate this film from the first and he doesn’t feel the need to shake and jerk the camera around every couple of seconds as Ross did and the movie is all the more gripping for it. The new arena is brilliantly imagined: dangerous and lethal and the action that takes place there is visceral and breath snatching. The special effects have been taken up a notch and the scenes involving the threats in the arena (monkeys, poison fog, etc) are intense and engrossing as a result.
As far as the performances go, Jennifer Lawrence proves she deserves her Oscar and cements the fact that she was born to play Katniss and that no one else could do a better job than her. It is impossible not to root for Katniss. Other stand out performances come, once again, from Woody Harrelsen as Hamitch, Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Elizabeth Banks as Effie. Newcomers Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee and Jena Malone as Johanna Mason deliver brilliant performances and the rest of the cast are equally praise worthy too.
At two and a half hours it is undeniably a long film, but i was at no point bored. Those two and a half hours raced past and by the time the credits role you have barely had a chance to catch your breath and register the cliffhanger ending. Catching Fire truly is a master class in film making and it’s hard to find anything that wrong with it. The dialogue is snappy and sharply written, the action is unyielding, there is a real sense of tension and danger and the actors couldn’t have put any more into the performances.
Now all we have to do is wait for Mockingjay part 1 and then part 2. And until then, i may just re-read the books, watch the first movie again or go watch Catching Fire for a second time.
If you haven’t see it, what are you waiting for, go now!
Ever since the first episode of Lost i have been addicted to JJ Abrams TV shows and his movies. In my opinion, the man is a genius, beaten only by Spielberg who is my favourite filmmaker of all time. Abrams update of the Star Trek franchise was phenomenal and Star Trek (2009) is in my top five movies of all time. Ever since the sequel was announced i have been counting down the months until it arrived. And now, it is less than a month away. This third and final trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness gave me chills the whole way through, and i cannot wait until this movie is released. What for yourself and i defy anyone not to be excited by this.