Friday, May 1, 2015

Brief 'Avengers' Deux Thoughts

So I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron, no shock there...

However, it's a film I feel I need to see again because so much happens in it. This sequel is the definition of bigger, indeed. The story is larger, the scope is enormous, but is the highly anticipated team-up film a quality film?

Yes, yes it is.

And spoilers ahead, so beware!

Avengers: Age of Ultron keeps a lot of what made the first film work. Now that we've had so many solo films with the individual characters, the film just bursts off the screen. Right into the action! The opening sequence is fast, the characters get a very comic book-y introduction, and we get the usual mix of action, humor, and character-driven moments. It's a blast!

The plot may seem simple, but it's actually loaded. We are introduced to several new characters too, all of which are great. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, on top of having amazing powers, are likable. Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson deliver good performances here, even if their attempts at accents might be questionable. It's miles ahead of their rather bland performances in Godzilla, a film I still loved. They start out as villains in a sense, until they realize what the big bad is truly up to. The big bad himself, Ultron, what else can one say that hasn't been said? He's menacing, but he can also funny and almost child-like in a way, which is fitting considering that his AI hasn't been created in the past. He's certainly a classic threat to humanity villain, but what makes him one of the MCU's best villains is not only James Spader's across-the-board excellent performance, but also his personality as a whole.

The film is certainly darker than its predecessor, but it doesn't sacrifice the fun and character work that makes the other Marvel films work so well. Joss Whedon is back in full force, and like The Avengers before it, he does the best he can with so much on his plate. Stop and think for a second about The Avengers, that was a very goliath task to begin with: Reintroduce five characters that showed up in previous movies, have them all come together, set up the conflict, set up future MCU films, and give them all suitable amounts of screen time in a 2 1/2 hour film. Whedon's original cut of The Avengers ran well over three hours, but of course it had to be pared down to at least 150 minutes. The Avengers doesn't feel overlong as a result, and while it does have its warts, it's an amazing and highly entertaining film despite those little issues...

I think that in itself should be praised. How Mr. Whedon was able to bring out such an experience out of everything that was thrown at him is remarkable, and at the same time he and the MCU brain trust embraced the ideas and sillier aspects. What made The Avengers work so well: It's story may not be all there, or its script... But it has a beating heart, characters that you immediately love, a very careful balance of humor and drama, and high stakes. The MCU films operate off of a similar template and produce great or equal results when their scripts are tighter (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy). Even when they're not so tight (Thor: The Dark World, for example), I still walk away highly entertained.

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Whedon works with much more... Perhaps a little too much. The plot is very stuffed, and I think it would be a lot stronger if we saw his director's cut... One does exist, but will Marvel ever release it? They haven't released Whedon's longer cut of The Avengers, so who knows.

Anyways, the story isn't exactly all there. The Avengers, I felt, was very simple at its core. A bad guy who was built up in one of the previous films comes to Earth, brings an army from an unknown intergalactic force with him, now all the heroes we've met plus two side characters we saw briefly have to team up to take him and the army of aliens down. He worked wonders with all of that on his plate. Here? There is a lot going on, and while its core is simple, it does tend to have structural issues and the pacing can be off.

Is it weaker? A little, but it's by no means very flawed. It just probably needed a longer running time to iron out some issues...

Then again, I probably missed some things considering that this is a packed, packed film. Also, my theater experience wasn't very good, so that's why I said earlier, "I need to see it again"...

(Seriously, sometimes I hate going to the theaters even though I want to love every theater experience...)

What's very cool about this sequel is that they globe hop quite a bit. The story goes from Eastern Europe to Africa to South Korea, and even to a house in the countryside. As gargantuan as the story's scope is, there are plenty of small, intimate moments that strengthen the narrative. For a little while, the gang all hide out at Hawkeye's house... Where they find out that he has a wife and children! Hawkeye seriously steals the show this time around, and I wonder if it's all a response to how some were disappointed over his lack of screen time in The Avengers.

Hawkeye is a character who has been needing to get his due for a while. The cameo in Thor was fine, and a good half of his screen time in The Avengers is him in Loki mole mode. However, he doesn't appear in the previous Phase 2 films. He was even set to appear in The Winter Soldier, but it's probably good that his scene didn't make it to the final cut. So poor, poor Clint Barton got the shaft... But this film more than makes up for that. Hawkeye is cool, humorous, and we know even more about him!

Banner and Black Widow have a romantic thing going on too, and it's handled pretty well. It makes for some tender moments, and also some hilarious jokes. One of which really prods that PG-13 rating! (And they feared Disney would "kiddify" Marvel?) Hulk's uncontrollable rage plays a key part in the story, it's even worse when Scarlet Witch manipulates him. We even see some fighting within the group, it gets pretty bad! At the same time, it subtly sows the seeds for Captain America: Civil War and everything that'll go down after that film.

The character development that made The Avengers so good is still here, and it gets us through the rather jam-packed plot and its subplots. The action really delivers for the most part, too, though some questionable cinematography choices are made here and there. (Also, I did not like this movie's color scheme.) It keeps the fun that makes the other MCU films what they are, though the comedy does tend to overshadow things a bit - something I don't normally gripe about when it comes to the MCU films. Like its predecessor and any good Marvel film, it mixes humor, heart, and blockbuster-level fun. All the performances are top-notch.

I understand this review is all over the place, but I think it reflects the film itself in a way. Again, I need to see it again and absorb it all, but these are my thoughts for now. In all, a great addition to the MCU and an overall massive, thrilling chapter in the Marvel saga...

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