The next report card is for the newest installment of Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and sequel to one of the most successful films in box office history, entitled Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Avengers: Age of Ultron—directed by Joss Whedon; written by Joss Whedon (written by), Stan Lee (comic book) and Jack Kirby (comic book); starring Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark / Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers / Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner / Hulk), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton / Hawkeye), James Spader (Ultron), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes / War Machine), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Pietro Maximoff / Quicksilver), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch), Paul Bettany (Jarvis / Vision), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill) and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury).
Not much needs to be explained for the majority of the characters we've been experiencing for several films. Every single one is just as entertaining as they previously were and true to themselves, whether it be their viewpoint on the world, fighting styles, or dialogue. They've hit the nail on the head with these characters time and time again, and that doesn't waver here whatsoever.
As far as our new introductions go, they follow the same pattern. Ultron is beyond damaged when it comes to his outlook on the human race and is as threatening as they come. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are minor, but their stories are simplistic enough in this incarnation (thankfully, because they are far too confusing in the comics) that the film is able to get away with it. Even without a ton of backstory, they are able to be stretched rather far and serve as worthwhile characters. Even Helen Cho—who is admittedly a bit shoehorned in here—still functions in some fashion so she isn't completely useless. One of the best things about this film in general is the use of characters because it is jam-packed and every single one of them escapes being superfluous. We see War Machine and Hawkeye's family andeveryonedoes nothing but enhance the film, provide a wider scope, strengthen the bond of the characters, and drive home themes that the movie deals with. This is a world inhabited by interesting people and you get to truly see that come to life.
Of course, the acting and the characters go hand in hand. As often mentioned during this section of these segments, acting is graded based on whether they are believable more so than if they will be given awards for their performances. There is no doubt in my mind that not a single soul will be nominated for an Oscar, but that's okay. Everyone hits it out of the park. I still am not the biggest fan of Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, but that's the weakest part of the whole acting side of things.
VISUALS (FX, MAKEUP, COSTUMES, SETS): A
Every character has upgraded as far as their appearances go, so that's an obvious top score. Everything looks believable as well in terms of CGI and practical effects. My only problem with the film's look is that it is quite repetitive. Virtually every set is identical because the locations are all so similar. Essentially, there are only two types of sets you see: the cold, blue, metallic industrial setting (such as the party room in Avengers Tower and the laboratories) or the dusty, dirty, grungy yellows and browns of Wakanda and Sokovia. The opening scene has snow, and then it's pretty much the dust storm city for the rest of the film. That, of course, doesn't hurt this rating all too much, but it's what prevents it from being an A+.
MUSIC & SOUND: A+
I was nervous that Alan Silvestri's main theme from the previous film would be scrapped, as Marvel has done that before and nowadays it's almost more likely for a sequel to ignore the score before it than to build upon it. For instance, just look at the sharp contrast between the first and secondAmazing Spider-Manmovies. [Side note: the main theme from the second is significantly better, despite how it's accompanied by the crazy dubstep that is justifiably hated.]
The main theme fromThe Avengerswas such a smash hit, though, that it justhadto come back, and with Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman working on it instead of Silvestri, I was worried. Thankfully, there was more than a fair share of that theme, but there were also moments where other recurring themes shined, too. It was very cool to hear the theme fromIron Man 3and the one fromThor: The Dark Worldact as little stamps for the characters during action sequences featuring them. That's one of the benefits of the James Bond films when that main theme accents a scene and that's exactly what they were right in doing here.
As far as sound goes, I doubt anybody will have any complaints, right?
TONE (ACTION, ROMANCE, COMEDY): A+
This movie was such a great balance among every category below.
ACTION: Joss Whedon has said numerous times while working on this film that he wasn't intending to just "go bigger" with the action as a sort of mandate, but he was still able to accomplish that. From the onset, this squadron shows that they are a well-oiled machine and have all become seasoned enough at what they do that bigger challenges can be faced. As stated in the first film, this does in fact show that humans are ready for "a higher form of war" and will kick ass in the process.
COMEDY: Sometimes, Marvel can go a little overboard with the comedy and it can get in the way of a scene, but coming out of the theater I don't remember a single humorous line that rubbed me the wrong way. I at least chuckled and smirked at every one of them, if I didn't actually laugh out loud. It's hard not to have fun watching this movie, even though it is darker in a lot of ways than its predecessor.
ROMANCE: At first, the romantic subplot between Bruce and Natasha wasn't exactly banging on all cylinders for me, but that changed drastically with the revelation that Natasha is sterile, and in retrospect I think this was an interesting exercise in the study of those two. I don't want to see it return in the future, though, as Betty is the one for Bruce to me. Since Jane Foster and Pepper Potts were absent, it was cute to have that exchange between Thor and Tony where they were basically in a dick-measuring contest based on who has the better significant other. Lastly, if you had told me that Hawkeye would have a family in this beforehand, I would have gone into the film assuming that was a mistake, but I genuinely liked Linda Cardellini and I think that the addition of the family element to Clint Barton's character is an upgrade because it makes him stand out from the other team members.
FINAL GRADE: A+
I absolutely loved this film, and I don't understand why there are quite a few critics out there who say it falls short of what it could have been. This was damn near perfect as far as what I was hoping it would be. Yes, I can think of some tweaks that I would have liked them to do in retrospect to make it even better, such as not killing off two particular characters, but that would be nitpicking. I've been having an incredibly stressful week and this was the absolute perfect escapism and fanboy satiation that I needed. SO. F'IN. GOOD.
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