Review: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Review: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is far from a game changer, but thanks to the thrillingly-staged action sequences, solid character moments and well-paced storyline, this sequel succeeds as a hugely entertaining summer blockbuster.


With THE AVENGERS (2012) raked in a whopping US$1.5 billion at the worldwide box office, making a sequel to the highest-grossing comic book movie of all time is already bound to be a monumental task for director Joss Whedon for repeating or surpassing the success of the original. In fact, when I saw the first full trailer for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON this year, it didn't exactly sent me into a fan-frenzy mode. Instead, everything that is shown in the trailer feels more of the same. But upon finally watching the sequel, I was glad that Whedon has put a lot of effort to make a great entertainment here. Best of all, he even manages to surpass my expectation.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Picking up where last year's CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER left off, the movie jumps right off into the action as a team of superheroes known as The Avengers -- Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) -- at the frozen forest of Sokovia to retrieve Loki's (Tom Hiddleston, not appeared in this sequel) scepter from the hands of Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann). From there, they also encounter the twins -- Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who possesses a lightning speed, and Scarlett Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who has an ability to penetrate people's mind with her psychic powers.

However, the real threat arrives when an artificial intelligence robot known as Ultron (voiced by James Spader), who is supposed to be part of Tony Stark's global peacekeeping programme has gone amok. Instead, Ultron has a sinister mind of his own to build a huge army and plan for mass destruction against mankind.

THE GOOD STUFF
 
Beginning with an impressively-staged tracking shot where the camera swoops from one Avenger team member to another as they dispatch Baron's soldiers, you have to applaud the way Joss Whedon opens a movie that puts you right into the middle of the action. It is also worth noting that Whedon has improved a lot upon the first movie in terms of pacing. Even when he slows down, especially during the "safe house" sequence in the middle section, he manages to bring depth to the dramatic moments that feels profound and heartfelt. On top of that, there's a few wonderful touches the way Whedon develops an unlikely BEAUTY AND THE BEAST-like romance between Hulk and Black Widow, as well as the revelation of Hawkeye's personal life. Not to forget also is Whedon's signature banter and sarcastic humour that the sequel never fails to deliver a satisfying amount of great laugh throughout the movie.

And of course, no Marvel movie would be complete without a fair share of large-scale action sequences. As good as Whedon shines during the quiet moments, he also succeeds well enough to deliver some of the most spectacular, yet effects-laden action set-pieces ever seen in a comic book movie. Blessed with fluid and often imaginative camerawork, Whedon and cinematographer Ben Davis knows well about pulling off a number of well-choreographed shots and angles that make you go "Wow!". The special effects are impeccably rendered and it looks great watching it in an IMAX 3D version, while the rest of the technical sides are equally top notch.

Like the first AVENGERS, each of the all-star cast here has their own standout moments. But of all the actors here, I was surprised to see Jeremy Renner is finally given a better screen time this time around. He also steals the show as Hawkeye/Clint Barton, particularly during the aforementioned "safe house" sequence, and even get the best line in the movie.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)
 
The epic battle between Hulk and Iron Man's Hulkbuster in the middle of the crowded city; the chase-and-fight sequence involving Captain America, Black Widow and Ultron throughout the busy streets of Seoul; and the climactic finale between the Avengers vs. Ultron and his army.

THE BAD STUFF
  
Whereas the first AVENGERS is blessed with Tom Hiddleston's scene-stealing performance as Loki, the sequel is strangely devoid of memorable villain. Although James Spader delivers a suitably cold and emotionally detached voice performance to his Ultron character, he doesn't look scary or threatening enough as a fearsome antagonist. As a matter of fact, I find him rather weak and pathetic.

While I understand that Whedon is trying to model the story of Ultron with a darker shade of FRANKENSTEIN and PINOCCHIO, but paying homage alone without digging deep within the character's motivation other than resorting into the same old "destroy-the-mankind" mentality isn't going to cut it. Maybe it's because of the storyline involves an out-of-control robot trying to take over the world has been told far too many times that it becomes so stale and cliched.

FINAL WORDS


Still, if you can get past some of the flaws, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON remains a can't-miss summer blockbuster that is best experienced on the largest screen possible. Likewise, don't leave your seat too soon after the end credit rolls. Stick around since there is a mid-credit teaser revealing a certain character that set up for future Marvel movie.

* This review is written courtesy from Walt Disney Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

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