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Avengers: Age of Ultron
Reviewed by Various RevolutionSF Artists, © 2015

Format: Movie
By:   Joss Whedon
Genre:   Avengers!
Review Date:   May 07, 2015

Here's a smattering of RevolutionSF people and The Blacklist, guest starring the Avengers in Avengers: Age of Ultron. For their full reviews, check out their sites at their links. Here are some Ant-Man sized chunks.

Non-Spoiler Territory

Phantom Troublemaker, NeedlesThingsSite.com : Age of Ultron is a satisfying culmination of all that has occurred so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If youíre a fan of the movies, thereís a lot of resolution here. Regular viewers of Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter will also be rewarded, as there are plenty of story threads from those shows that are continued and expanded upon. Additionally, AoU sets up the future of the MCU. I was amazed at the number of glimpses of the future we got and how well those teasers were worked into the storyline.

This time around each character gets their share of the spotlight, with particular attention paid to Hawkeye and Black Widow.

The pacing is insane. There isnít even a second to be bored or wait for the next event. Because of this, I canít wait to see it again. There was probably a lot that I missed.

The regular cast is fantastic and the new players are compelling. James Spader gets to have a lot more fun as Ultron than I thought he would. Quicksilver (the best live action Pietro, by the way) and Scarlet Witch are wonderful. Paul Bettany is brilliant. The Vision might be the coolest-looking superhero Iíve ever seen on screen.

There is tons of Hulk being Hulk here. This movie feels huge. I thought it would be hard to top the first Avengers, but this one does it handily. Never before has so much incredible superhero action happened in the same place. This is where we get to see them really work as a team, and itís one of the most rewarding cinematic experiences Iíve experienced. You must see this in the theater. And try your best to see it in one with good sound because there are some real ass-shaking moments that you want to experience fully.

Tegan Hendrickson, JustTegan.com and the RevolutionSF Revcast:

Avengers: Age of Ultron fits neatly in the larger scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, it practically requires a base knowledge of the previous films and Marvelís Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As I am among the proud legion of fans who have devoured everything Marvel Studios has offered, this was easy for me. For others, I can see how this might be daunting.

I loved the continued use of humor that is a hallmark of the Marvel films. The Avengers still have fantastic chemistry together. It was nice seeing their banter and watching them riff off of each other. Nicer still, it was great to see Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) get more screen time and actual dialogue. They felt more like a family and I appreciate that and how itís going to end up causing some difficulties in the upcoming Marvel films.

The action sequences were frequently breathtaking, but also occasionally difficult to follow. Thatís just a part of the modern approach to filming action sequences. Itís easy to get lost in the dizzying visual effects and not really understand what, exactly, is going on outside of the basic good vs. evil combat.

Joss Whedon had a monumental task laid out in front of him. He had to weave the stories of a bunch of different characters, a few with their own movies under their belts, and add into that narrative a couple of new characters. He also had to live up to the tremendous expectations of a rabidly loyal fanbase whose excitement was raised to a fever pitch by the mighty Marvel PR machine. On top of all that, he had to make an enjoyable movie that satisfied his creative needs.

There was no way Whedon was ever going to exceed the already heightened expectations. What we got was a good Avengers movie, but it felt like a placeholder film that was there to set up the next part of the franchise. It was a great deal of fun and Iím going to enjoy seeing it again and again, but itís only one piece of a bigger puzzle. Without the rest of the pieces, it loses its brilliance.

Spoiler Territory

Phantom Troublemaker, NeedlesThingsSite.com : The Hulkbuster fight was awesome beyond my wildest dreams. It had an awesome concept and a visually exciting effect. And the fight. The fight is incredible. It has an urgency and a presence to it that puts the Man of Steel Metropolis fight to shame.

Which brings me to the first observation I made after walking out of the theater Ė I wonder how different Age of Ultron would have been without Man of Steel.

Much of the narrative of the movie feels like a response to the catastrophic destruction and loss of life depicted in the opening story of DCís new cinematic universe. A constant concern for the Avengers is that they protect lives. Sure, thereís some destruction. But in every instance the Avengers are specifically shown to be conscious of mitigating collateral damage. The drama in the climax of the movie hinges on the thousands of innocent lives that are being threatened by Ultronís plan and how the Avengers will save them while still protecting the rest of the Earthís population. Losses are unacceptable.

Speaking of Ultron, James Spader gets to do so much more than I was expecting. He doesnít just deliver a bunch of menacing lines. Ultron is a fully fleshed out (so to speak) character. He has humor and anger and slyness. Heís not the Terminator or even the T-1000. Heís a villain with a personality and Ė most importantly Ė heís not entirely wrong. The human race is messed up. We are a menace. Extermination may not be the answer, but Ultron does have a point about who the enemy is. And his hatred of Tony Stark is fantastic.

This is where Civil War starts. While we see the team functioning and working together in totally awesome ways, we also see the split in ideals.

While Banner is afraid of the monster he can become, Natasha fears what she may be. A good bit of her background was revealed through the narrative of the excellent Agent Carter miniseries. We saw the facility that trained her and some of the horrors she experienced. In Age of Ultron that was elaborated on and personalized for Natasha.

We get a lot more Hawkeye this time around. Itís a pure, wonderful family situation where Clintís wife understands and supports his life as an Avenger. Sheís smart and helpful and a character unto herself. Seeing Clint interact with her enhances his character and invests us more fully in him. I was positive the Bartons were being introduced as a cheap drama generator and that someone from the clan would die, but that was not the case. Instead, we leave the movie with a deeper respect and understanding of a guy that weíve barely gotten to know previously.

Thor is somewhat beyond the narrative of the movie. While he partakes in the action, is part of the team, and has plenty of jokes, his story is all about furthering the much larger Infinity Gems story.

Steve Rogers is also something of a man apart. He is the clear leader of the team and even has a wonderful moment with the twins where they are obeying his orders even though theyíve only recently seen the light. It perfectly illustrates the sheer charisma of Cap and why heís the one everyone looks to.

I loved the Maximoffs. Elizabeth Olsen was wonderful as the willful but damaged Wanda Maximoff. Her transition from misguided kid to Avenger should have been a tough thing to pull off, but even when sheís opposing the heroes she evokes a certain amount of sympathy. Youíre ready to root for her. And it was a strong story point that as soon as she discovered Ultronís deception (the Maximoffs were misled as to his eventual goal) she and Pietro bailed. There was no wishy-washiness or drawn out prevaricating; it was a turning point. Additionally, she sold the heck out of the magic. Olsenís body language and motions looked great when combined with the excellent magic effects. There was nothing corny or forced about a character casting spells Ė something we really havenít seen before in the MCU.

I liked Aaron Taylor-Johnsonís Quicksilver much more than Evan Peters. Itís more about the writing than the actor, but Quicksilver is a favorite of mine, mostly because of Peter David. This felt like a more authentic version and he certainly played a more important role in his story. Pietro is an arrogant snot full of deep feelings and convictions. Taylor-Johnson was that. Peters was a vacuous teenager that could run fast. While the use of his powers in Days of Future Pastwas fun, the character totally missed the mark.

I do not like that Quicksilver died. Partially because I am a big fan of the character, but also because it didnít really serve the plot. It felt like a cheap event that happened because Joss Whedon likes to kill people. Pietro dies saving Hawkeye, who was saving a kid. If Pietro hadnít died, we still get the point that heís noble. If Pietro hadnít died, he and Wanda still have nowhere to go after the battle and would join the Avengers. If Pietro hadnít died, sure, Wanda wouldnít have left her post, but there could have been another way for one of the Ultrons to activate the device.

Vision was by far the coolest thing in an overwhelmingly cool movie. The way he was created was awesome, his birth was fantastic, and Paul Bettanyís portrayal was pure power. I loved the way he imprinted on Thor and generated a cape for himself. I have no particular attachment to Vision and I probably havenít read more than a dozen comics with him in them, but seeing him flying around, shooting lasers out of his forehead and tearing Ultrons in half was awesome. And I loved that there was no real struggle Ė he was simply more powerful than Ultron. He was the ultimate weapon and he worked as advertised. There was no bullshit deception, he was just a badass.

Visionís cape looks pretty CGI and weird. It bothered me until I thought about the fact that it is, quite literally, computer-generated. It isnít going to look like Thorís cape.

I went into this thinking there was no way that it could deliver. Not in character development, not in scope, and not in effectively furthering the MCU narrative. It just seemed to be too far outside of what has been established and also to have too damned much going on just within itself. The number of characters and concepts that were going to have to be introduced in around two hours just seemed ridiculous. Like, Spider-Man 3 times ten.

After the last movie I should have learned to stop doubting Joss Whedon. This one over-delivered. Aside from the hole in Tonyís story and what I felt was an unnecessary death for Pietro, it was an awesome thing to behold. Everything was tight and fast-moving, but at no point did I feel left behind or like I was missing something. We got two hours of super heroes doing super heroic things. The whole second half of the movie was based around the Avengers finding a way to preserve all life without sacrifice, seemingly a big middle finger to DCís Man of Steel.

The line in the sand is drawn. Marvel has taken the stance that they are the bright, hopeful side of this comic book movie war.

Age of Ultron made me as happy as the first Avengers or Captain America.

Tegan Hendrickson, JustTegan.com and the RevolutionSF Revcast: As one might expect, I have a few things Iíd like to get off my chest about this movie.

Letís start by talking about Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Sheís the lone woman on the team so, of course, it was only a matter of time before she had to develop romantic feelings for one of her teammates. Itís Hollywood. These things are, unfortunately, expected. What did come as a shock was the object of her affection: Bruce Banner.

Folks, I read romance novels and fanfic. I love a little romance in my media. Iím not against the idea of Natasha hooking up with Bruce. Honestly, I think if handled well, it would be sweet and adorable. In the context of the film, it feels awkwardly shoehorned in amidst the action. I have read fanfic where their romance makes all of the sense in the world. The writers get the characters and how they can complement each other. I donít feel that we, as the audience, got any of that from what we were presented.

I know thereís a whole lot of ground to cover in this movie. If you canít do their romance the justice it deserves, donít go down that road. Plant the seeds to harvest later and just keep going.

While weíre on the subject of Natasha, Iím a little miffed at her characterization in the film. Where was the woman who unapologetically kicked ass with that ridiculous long-haired look in Iron Man 2? Where was the woman who, just three years ago, had red in her ledger that she wanted to wipe out?What about the spy who threw all of her secrets on the web with barely a momentís hesitation and then told the authorities to shove it when they threatened to arrest her? In her place, speaking with her voice, was a woman who suggested that she and Bruce run away from it all and just be together.

Sure, you can justify it as her being rattled by what Scarlet Witch showed her, but we shouldnít have to justify those out-of-character moments because those moments shouldnít be there.

I could also go on a rant about how I feel like Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) also deserved a little better than what he was given. As he had the most recent solo outing, I suppose I can give him a pass. Iím just mostly tired of Tony Stark. The genius/billionaire/ playboy/ philanthropist has had three of his own movies already. Not everything needs to ultimately come back to him.

Leading up to this movie, Joss Whedon talked about how he was influenced by The Empire Strikes Back and that this was going to be a darker movie with higher stakes. It was inferred that someone wasnít going to make it out of the movie. While Iíll give props to Whedon for giving Hawkeye all of the lines that someone who is going to die in a movie says but having him survive instead, I feel like the death that happened in the movie was without any real emotional impact.

This is where Marvelís plans hamstring the drama. We already know that Tony Stark and Steve Rogers will live to fight another day in Captain America: Civil War. We know that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is coming back in Thor: Ragnarok. Their options for ratcheting up the tension are limited.

Iím not going to fill up this space only with criticisms. There were a lot of things that I did like about this movie. One of them was Vision (Paul Bettany). Then again, I love Paul Bettany in everything. I particularly liked the world-wise innocence with which he approached the character. Heís going to add such an interesting dynamic to the new Avengers.

Speaking of the new Avengers, letís take a moment to appreciate this new team. Thereís War Machine (Don Cheadle), The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Vision, and Scarlet Witch. The film ends with their first day in training as a team under Captain America and Natasha Romanoff. Iím applauding the diversity of this group because itís two black men, a purple guy, and a woman. Thatís definitely a step in the right direction.

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