Avengers: Age of Ultron review

And so, Marvel’s quest for domination of box office dollars and moviegoer’s time continues. This may sound like I’m starting cynical but I’d like to point out I’m a fan and did enjoy Avengers: Age of Ultron immensely. But… I am starting to feel blockbuster burnout.

First though, the good stuff.

It’s great to have another Avengers movie and the gang back together, they’ve got an easy chemistry and work well as a unit. The story kicks off almost immediately with a slow-mo money shot of them attacking a Hydra base – one to get the fanboys screaming. There’s wisecracking all round and Hulk smashing stuff, yay.

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The team are after Loki’s sceptre which carries a great deal of power. Once retrieved, Stark and Banner think they can use it to create artificial intelligence to put in a robot that will protect the earth so the Avengers can effectively retire. With Captain America the strongest opposed to this plan (more on that later) it backfires producing a rather hateful and sociopathic Ultron (voiced with verve and menace by James Spader).

And so the team have a new foe to face, typically one they created themselves – but let’s not get into that. For those that haven’t been living under a rock the past decade you should all know these characters by now – and no time is wasted picking up where they left off in the first film (and indeed all the other individual films they’ve been in).

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Moving things along a bit director Joss Whedon does provide some nice character moments, in particular Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner developing as a couple and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye showing another side as a family man.

There’s also new characters.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver and Elisabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch make an intriguing pair – and it’s nice that their loyalties are torn during the film rather than them being clean cut heroes throughout. In terms of powers (his, speed; hers, telekinesis and mind control) they’re brought to life effectively, although hers does mean that we veer pretty closely to X-Men territory. (There’s lots of crossover in the comic book world but on the silver screen I’m not sure I’d like the Avengers and X-Men to meet/fight/team up really, but that’s another discussion.)

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Where this film falls over a little is down to the fact we’ve seen it all before. And before. And before. The film’s final third is yet another battle in the skies, which now seems to happen in every Marvel film. Also, even though we do want to see the team smash bad guys to bits it doesn’t feel like there’s ever much at stake. Maybe I’m starting to care less about the characters, or maybe I know that they’ll never kill off any of the major ones, but it just makes it all seem a little too… safe and pedestrian. Which is ridiculous given all the explosions and fights and whatnot.

Also, it never seems to take that much effort to outwit the bad guy. Well, mental effort. Physical effort the team have aplenty. Making a clumsy comparison to The Dark Knight for a second, the Joker laughs at Batman as he pounds him saying he has nothing to threaten him with. It feels like that here. Other than brute force to solve problems it never feels like the Avengers have any other way of doing things. Is avenging just different ways of punching someone? Maybe their enemies will get more complex in the future, who knows. The teaser (spoiler, ish) at the end of the film suggests Marvel are drawing all the strands of their portfolio together, perhaps for forthcoming Civil War where we see the differences of opinion of Captain America and Tony Stark (on how to protect the masses) come to a head in a monumental scrap.

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Back to Age of Ultron though. Despite what I’ve just said, all in all it’s a lot of fun. There’s lots of meat for the geeks and comic book fans to chow down on, we get a bit more character development and a lot more smashy smashy bad guys but – and it’s a big but – are we reaching saturation point? Are audiences getting tired of these characters? I am a little. Still love them, but I’m getting a little jaded.

Maybe less smashy more talky is the order of the day. There’s a section in Age of Ultron where Scarlet Witch pretty much floors the team with her mind control skills. That was intriguing. More of that please. Same goes for Paul Bettany’s The Vision – another nice addition, and a more thoughtful one to boot. Perhaps my ponderings are immaterial as, from the film’s final scenes, it looks like they’re trying to move the world onto other characters, which is good. I love the old gang as much as the next fanboy, but maybe it’s time to call time on them?

Anyway… I could go on and on but you get the idea. Go watch it and judge for yourself. Do you feel the same way?

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Karaoke? Yeah baby!

Joseph-Gordon-Levitt-500-Days-SummerSpontaneously bursting into song, that’s what it’s all about. By ‘it’ I mean random and unexpected musical scenes in films. They are like little rays of cinematic sunshine.

And, like all good moments of music that you experience in your life, a lot of these will have stayed with you as fond memories; for me, I’ve always had a soft spot for the songs in A Life Less Ordinary and Empire Records.

Some of these you may have seen coming – karaoke for example – but some, I imagine, took you by surprise in a wonderful way, as they did me. Here’s my selection:

‘Don’t Stop Believing’ Chris Evans – The Losers
Need to ensure no one gets in the lift with you? Just sing Journey with gusto. An unexpected and genuinely hilarious scene, one which works due to Evans’ ballsy delivery.


‘Beyond The Sea’
Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz – A Life Less Ordinary
A great scene in this underrated Danny Boyle film. It got me hooked on Bobby Darin for a fair while and remains one of my favourite Cameron Diaz performances.


‘Sugar High’
Renee Zellweger – Empire Records
It’s hard to pick one scene in a film packed with musical gems. This one is so much fun that it makes the cut. And Zellweger is so sweet singing her little heart out.


‘Hey Ma’
Anna Kendrick and Jake Gyllenhaal – End Of Watch
Apparently on a long drive the two actors were mucking about singing in character with director David Ayer in the back seat. He caught this and stuck it in the movie. That’s a moment.


‘Brass In Pocket’
Scarlett Johansson – Lost In Translation
This Sofia Coppola film which gave Scarlett her break remains my favourite of her performances. As she donned a pink wig, Bill Murray’s resistance was futile.


‘These Eyes’
Michael Cera – Superbad
Comedy that stands the test of time, now that’s tough. This film holds up though. A modern classic, encapsulated in this memorable scene. The hurtin’s on me yeah!


‘Here Comes Your Man’
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – 500 Days Of Summer
I have to say, I know one or two girls that would fall over themselves to get a piece of Gordon-Levitt. Here he gives us a masterclass in how to effortlessly rock a tank top.


‘Afternoon Delight’
Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner – Anchorman
Remember the first time you saw this film? Every scene held a wonderful surprise. This one was a classic example as I doubt anyone saw this 1976 song by the Starland Vocal Band coming.


‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’
Tom Cruise – Top Gun
I am sure I’m not the only one that’s had mates reenact this in the direction of unsuspecting women; essentially cornering them till the song is done. Ladies do love a crooner.


‘New York New York’
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Filmed with Mulligan singing live in one unbroken shot, this scene is so raw and affecting that I’ve only been able to watch it twice. Along with Fassbender, Mulligan elevated this film to pure art.


‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’
Steve Buscemi – Con Air
Supremely creepy, yet mesmerising in a way. An innocuous little scene in the middle of this – clearly quite bonkers – Michael Bay movie has Buscemi singing like a loon as their plane prepares to crash.


‘Blue Shadows’
Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short – Three Amigos
This 1986 John Landis classic was packed with wonderfully witty musical ditties. Whilst ‘My Little Buttercup’ tends to get all the plaudits, honorable mention should go to this song too.