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Review: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ is Proof We Don’t Need More Avengers Movies

Review: 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is Proof We Don't Need More Avengers Movies

It takes less than five minutes before "Avengers: Age of Ultron" reveals its glamor shot of its six main heroes barreling forward in glorious slo-mo. In the previous movie, Joss Whedon spent much of the dazzling running time building up to this moment, so when the team finally assembled, it felt like the triumphant outcome of an epic gamble — both commercially and artistically, the movie did its job. By contrast, "Age of Ultron" plays out like a spectacular shrug: We’ve already arrived at the destination before the journey begins.

With comics vet Whedon once again holding the reigns as writer-director, "Age of Ultron" still manages to deliver an impressive scale and the ability to translate its colorful, majestic figures into cinematic form. From Iron Man’s speedy aerodynamics to the Hulk’s path of destruction, the characters move through the murky plot with tremendous versatility.

But Whedon comes up short with the challenge of crafting genuine excitement over the latest perils facing the same people we’ve watched save humanity several times before. The previous movie had the rare quality of a mass market spectacle driven by witty banter as much as the stunning effects work. The new one offers a handful of intriguing developments but lacks the same dynamic chemistry that made the initial installment such an anomaly. Whereas "The Avengers" felt like a reimagining of the paradigm for superhero movies, "Age of Ultron" has air of a rerun. Though impressively made and visually remarkable, it suffers from the hollowness that plagues so many blockbusters carrying the sense that we’ve been through this before.

At the end of "The Avengers," Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) manages to stop an alien invasion in New York. This time, he inadvertently sets the stage for a variation on the same threat, by initiating a "peacekeeping" software program named Ultron that transforms into a power-hungry form of artificial intelligence intent on killing the entire Avengers crew. That straightforward scenario doesn’t take long to take shape, but for the rest of the movie, the Avengers gradually deal with cleaning up the mess — and essentially go through the same motions we’ve seen them endure before.

Fortunately, Whedon has done justice to the nefarious cybernetic villain whose comic book reign goes back several decades. Appropriately voiced by James Spader, who gives the impression of icy calculation with every line, the robotic Ultron looks like the Terminator on steroids and comes equipped with a much savvier mind.

But Ultron doesn’t work in a vacuum. His scheme is empowered by twin villains Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, aka Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) who harbor a grudge against Stark Industries for developing the bombs that destroyed their family in an earlier war. The supernaturally empowered duo trick Stark into getting ahold of Loki’s scepter, which ends up endowing Ultron with his evil proclivities. At the same time, Stark receives much of the blame for creating the menacing figure in the first place.

The self-interests at the root of this conundrum lend a darker thematic focus than most Marvel movies. However, once Ultron comes to life and begins threatening humanity, "Age of Ultron" starts to drag. "How does humanity save itself it it doesn’t evolve?" Ultron says aloud to nobody in particular as he envisions a new age of robotic rule. After sitting through a series of unremarkable developments, it’s hard not to relate to his sentiment.

To be fair, "Age of Ultron" offers a handful of sharply scripted moments that deepen its heroes’ motives. There’s some promise to the idea of the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) crushing hard on Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and attempting to help him cope with his tendency to transform into a monstrous green muscleman, but the subplot drifts in and out of the proceedings like a half-formed seed planted in the service of future installments in the franchise. Other characters, such as Samuel L. Jackson’s one-eyed S.H.I.E.L.D overlord Nick Fury or Don Cheadle’s Iron Man sidekick War Machine, surface in bit parts just to remind us of the bigger picture. But at this point it’s gotten so crowded that the franchise could burst at any moment.

By its climax, that’s exactly what it does. Yet another CGI extravaganza in which the third act involves a menacing, fiery object speeding down to terra firma, "Age of Ultron" lacks any semblance of an attempt to surprise audiences — even though each pricey, digitally-enhanced shot manages to enthrall in the moment. It looks great, moves fast and intimates anyone willing to question the fancy gadgetry in play.

And so does Chris Hemsworth, charming as ever in the mock-brutish role of Thor, who has become synonymous with these movies’ ability to feel both stilted and amusing at the same time. But the true symbolic weight lies with Chris Evans’ much blander Captain America, whose presence epitomizes the larger agenda on display — to sweep us up in the unabashed rush of the mission at hand and stop questioning its purpose. "You know, I totally support your avenging," says one civilian onlooker. He speaks for the masses.

However, "Age of Ultron" provides an excuse for a reality check. Whedon’s script frequently repeats Ultron’s eerie verdict that mankind is doomed, which means that the Avengers are fated to salvage it indefinitely. That’s a scarier concept than anything the robotic evildoer dreams up. Above all else, the latest "Avengers" proves that even a great franchise has an expiration date.

Grade: C+

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" opens nationwide on May 1. This article has been updated.

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Comments

Elvante

"endless carbon copies of iron man?" The first avengers had enemies that were an ALIEN RACE led by an Asgardian. Absolutely ZERO to do with Iron Man. Get it straight, man – then come back to the table when you have something to offer.

TK

Why!? They were in Wakanda, showed the Vibranium, wrecked the area and Black Panther doesn’t make an appearance? No honorable mention? I’m done. Decent flick though. But I can guarantee if the Hulk rampaged Gotham City, Batman would show up. (I know DC and Marvel world’s dont cross on movies. Just making a point)

Joe

Your headline sums up almost every Marvel movie for the last 10 years. They found something that sells, so they’ll keep beating the dead horse until it stops bleeding cash.

Edward Saluem

I keep seeing douche bags say if fanboys got laid or if they weren’t nerds they wouldn’t like the avengers movies so much. Well in dating the porn star vanadisstarr and I love the avengers movies, comics, and collectibles plus i f×ck a porn star.

popperdoom

Thanks for spoiling the plotline to everyone!

ET

That "avenging" quote at the end there is taken totally out of context. For a start it’s a She not a He, and for another it’s hardly a civilian onlooker give which character actually says it…

Mike

I don’t think you know how sequels work. The whole point is that they are a team and working together. Why would they build up to this moment in the 2nd film?…it already happened. And why are you asking, "haven’t we been here before?" if you want this to be structured like the first Avengers? Just that they are revealed to be together as a team at the beginning is already different.

Laura

Not one mention of Hawkeye or Jeremy Renner. Same goes for Vision. Did you even see the movie?

cil

Well. Speak for yourself. I am waiting Avengers 3

Joe

This article is written by a brainless idiot who watched two minutes of the movie and made up his mind that he should wet his pants.

Forever

Try to relax and enjoy things rather than trying to find reasons not to. You’ll be much happier, and people will hate you less.

NATE

I always get tickled when I see/read these type of reviews, because they help to support EXACTLY what "JR" said about making a ton of money – the movie WILL, regardless of what the critics say. This critic just GUARANTEED some even BIGGER numbers at the box office. Movie goers are creatures of habit who will stand their ground whenever critics "attack" something they love. Congrats, you just helped send them to their 2ND Billion Dollar run!! lol

Neomotion

The "I support all your avenging" line comes from the wife of Hawkeye…

CRIS

Greg – those aren’t really spoilers ;) you already know what’s going to happen — maybe not the details as to how many bad guys get bloodied or how many jokes gets cracked, or which city gets the shit kicked out of it, but the formula is writ large and never changing. I’ll pass, even if it was free, and save myself the 2 1/2 hours — and I’m a longtime JW fan. (Best hero-type movie these days is the 13 hour-long one playing on Netflix, DAREDEVIL).

diana

Another CGI laden brutal movie with no soul, only a lame story for the glory of money.

Josh

I think YA franchises are a bigger drain on society than the Avengers.

S

Just think how different how all these fanboys and their movies would be if they actually got laid for the first time in their lives

skywater

LMAO! Butthurt fanbois voicing their disapproval for a review that dares to be anything less than raving for an avengers movie.

Peter

Dont write reviews, its not for you…

Skywater

C+????

Are you people trying to start a riot?!?!

CheckYourself

What we really don’t need are articles about blockbuster studio films on "independent" film websites

michael

this review is proof that we don’t need movie critics> This looks bad (review), but haven’t we been here before?

Dante D'Anthony

Our Indie project has a couple of years pre-development…but if we were to share the link…on an Indie Wire article, we would be "spammy"…? (pandoran age dot com)

Dante D'Anthony

More Indies!

JML

I think now were being spoiled by good comic book movies…Our past selves would kill to see great movies like this over Batman and Robin and Batman Forever…This movie looks amazing and yea its hard to top the first one but don’t act like the first one is completely original either…Phantom Menace was the first to show if you kill off the space station you kill all the enemies everywhere and the threat instantly goes away…Also the Nuke thing has been done with The Dark Knight Rises and Independence Day…Im still pumped to see this movie because I’m all for a good time at the movies…

Ryan

Just my opinion here but being a fan of the source material that these movies are based off of in itself makes me like these movies. Yes I may complain at times that a character was cast badly or a certain storyline that should have been followed wasn’t followed but all in all I enjoy these films more than most any other films. That being said and once again this is just my opinion but if you are not a fan of the things these movies are based on (comics in this case) then in all honesty your opinion of the film and whether you liked it or not are pretty much irrelevant.

Pj

Tip of the cap for not giving crap a pass just because it’s going to make money.

T

this movie will make millions. Your reviews are irrelevant.

Jaine

I love that INDIEwire is reviewing one of the biggest studio films of the year. Way to sell out on your mission statement.

BongSauce

So A C+ rating is considered bad on rotten tomatoes?

Patrick Rodrigues

"Above all else, the latest "Avengers" proves that even a great franchise has an expiration date."

A Marvel studio head nods his head in agreement as he sits in his office. "You know, this Eric Kohn guy had a point; the franchise is now expired. Everybody! Throw out all our plans for the future Marvel movies! Eric Kohn has declared that our franchise has expired!"

Kevin

IndieWire writer dislikes mainstream film for nebulous reasons. Stop the presses, everyone.

Thomas

Yeah weve been here every month for the past 40 years! WTF is weong with you? You have to butch about something,
I say Kill the Lawyers right after the critics youre all no good.

Jeff

It is a sequel. By definition, we have been here ONCE before. Sounds like pseudo intellectual nonsense to me.

Henry

Tru: Not that he wins, but the Joker doesn’t lose in The Dark Knight. But point taken. I think with these new megafranchises and slates, it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen the moment they are announced.

tru

Greg, its not like you don’t know how almost every superhero film is going to end. The bad guy always loses.

DoubleD

I for one am getting exhausted by the endless carbon copies of Ironman in these movies. I do feel liek we have seen this before. How about a new villain, something more organic, not just another Transformer/Iron Man robot

Michael Willer

"Chris Pine"… Really?

JR

It’ll still make a ton of money. And beget even more films like it in exclusion to anything else with an ounce of soul.

Greg

SPOLIER ALERT. Seriously….thanks for runing the movie for me. SAY THERE ARE FRIGGIN SPOILERS IN THE REVIEW

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