Sunday, May 17, 2015

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Genre: superhero
Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: *** (3.5 out of 5)

Ready or not, the second installment of the enormously lucrative Avengers franchise is upon us. As of last Sunday, the film has grossed over US$1 billion worldwide. It has also set an IMAX opening weekend record previously held by Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.

Avengers: Age of Ultron by Joss Whedon

If Age of Ultron is the movie event of the year, then Joss Whedon must be the man of the hour. Making an ensemble cast movie is notoriously difficult, but Whedon has a knack for juggling with A-list stars and giving each of them a fair share of screen time while doing justice to their characters' own quirks, motives and back stories. He demonstrated that super power with the first Avengers film three years ago.

A victim of his own success, Whedon now needs to outdo himself in the sequel. To do that, he decides to add even more characters. Four to be exact: Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Ultron and the Vision. That means his juggling act has gone from difficult to near impossible. Before you feel sorry for the director, however, think about the audience. The average moviegoer has to keep up with a dizzying line-up of latex-wearing superheroes and each of their subplots. There is just too much going on. Just when you think you have finally figured out who’s who, another character is thrown into the mix. And just when you think you have overdosed on fight scenes, a new one pops up, longer and more repetitive than the last. Running close to 2.5 hours, the movie feels tedious even for an ardent fan boy like myself. It feels like the Hulk has crushed five Marvel movies into one. 

Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch

But there is also plenty of saving grace. We see the limelight shifting away from the screen-hogging Tony Stark/Iron Man to Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Mark Ruffalo is as fantastically understated as always, playing a tortured hero whose biggest nemesis lives under this own skin. Another delight is Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass, Godzilla), who plays the likable Quicksilver with a faint Russian accent. Ironically, the most memorable moments of the movie do not belong to any of the eye-popping, budget-breaking set pieces, but to a light-hearted, good-humored scene in which the Avengers poke fun at each other at a cocktail party trying to lift Thor’s hammer from a coffee table.

As a standalone superhero film, Age of Ultron makes for good weekend entertainment. You get your money’s worth just by watching the ridiculous amount of smashing and thrashing in 3D. Compared to the first installment, however, it comes up short in the surprise department. That said, the sequelitis outbreak in Hollywood has shown no sign of slowing down. A two-part sequel is already in the works.

The delightful cocktail party scene

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