Avengers Age of Ultron – A Review

Joss Whedon directs the second chapter of the Marvel superhero multiverse in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremey Renner, and Scarlett Johansson return along with new stars like Elisabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and James Spader.

Because I hated the first Avengers move my expectations going into this were abysmally low and that is perhaps why I came off more impressed than I expected. While there are still plenty of gaping plot holes but there is a lot more done in terms of a worthy villain, a plausible catastrophe-in-waiting and in terms of character development with respect to the hulk and especially black widow and Hawkeye.

The gang is busting up some shady looking eastern European mobster who seems to be using Loki’s sceptre in some form of weapons development. After a scene reminiscent of Nolan’s Inception where blurry blobs fight other blurry blobs we are introduced to the Maximoff twins Wanda and Pietro Aka Scarlett witch and Quicksilver. RDJ aka Tony Stark is shown a vision of what future looks like which set off a series of events which will lead to the downfall of the avengers and the possible annihilation of the human race.

Recovering the Sceptre Stark goes about trying to uncover its secrets and sets in motion the Ultron project – where robot proxies of iron man will do the dirty work instead of the avengers having to go in and fight the good battle themselves. I find this to be a very interesting point of view where the heroes are weary of the burden of having to be the saviours of humanity. But what transpires splits the avengers with every single one of them turning against Stark as he sets of a rise of the machines, every AI-enthusiasts worst nightmare ( did you know that Elon Musk aka real-life Tony Stark has paid 10 million to stop AI from turning against humanity?)

The rogue AI-bot is voiced by James Spader and I have no shame in admitting that I giggle like a little school girl every time Spader speaks. And especially when Ultron tilts its head when speaking “down” to the Avengers you know IT IS James Spader. Through curious turn of events the voice of Jarvis – Paul Bettany comes to life as Vision and this is where the plot made no sense.

Skip ahead a paragraph if you dont wish for the movie’s surprise to be spoilt

Spoiler Alert ->

why would Ultron a Machine with the ability to traverse the internet try to create an android using human cells infused with Vibranium? And why not spend the time it takes to create this vision and transfer Ultron’s consciousness into the Vision be spent on creating more clones of the AI-bots to fight in Ultron’s army? Why are the marvel super-villains so patently stupid? Also once the plan to create a meteor like big-bang which would wipe out the entire human race is unveiled – how exactly does Ultron think he will be able to spawn and spread? I am guessing the big-bang would destroy the internet as well?

<- Spoiler Alert

 

The problem with marvel franchise is that it takes comic-book stories which were written in 80s and continues to push forward with the outlandish theories which make no sense in today’s world. A director of Whedon’s talent must find ways of bringing this forward into the 21st century. They rely on self-deprecating humour to overcome the inherent ridiculousness of the source material.

With Age of Ultron however they try to make inroads into the other neglected aspects of the storytelling, fleshing out the back stories of Black Widow via flashback and visions of what she fears and introducing to the secret side of Hawkeye’s domestic bliss and his out-of-place ness with the avengers in general. Also the romance between Bruce and Natasha is a welcome relief to the general Bayhem of NYC and Sokovia blowing up.

All in all this movie defies the curse of the sequel and ends up being the better movie in the avengers multiverse with the introduction of many many interesting characters and more importantly character development of existing ones.

Watch it for decent action, almost plausible end-of-world scenario and marvel’s coming of age. finally they don’t spend half the movie going into everyone’s back-story and get on with the task of saving the world

 

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The Wolverine – A Review

James Mangold directs Hugh Jackman in his 6th outing as the Adamantium –clawed superhero in The Wolverine. This movie explores Logan’s time spent in the Second World War serving the American troops and being held captive in Japan during the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the happenings of the X-men Last stand Logan is distraught at the loss of Jean Gray and living in a jungle with grizzly bears. There is a red-haired Yukio played by Rila Fukushima who seems to be tracking Logan at the behest of Yashida, the soldier who Logan saved when the Americans dropped the atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yashida is dying and has requested that Logan return to bid farewell to the man whose life he once helped save. Logan is quickly pulled into the world of the Japanese mob the Yakuza and The black clan Ninjas.

The pacing of the first half of the movie is slow moody and melancholic with just one massive action sequence and it works to a great degree more than most super hero movies that try to meander into the origins/backstory territory. The stark cold landscapes of rural USA and the old world/ modern clash of present day japan are framed beautifully. The action sequence on the train is relentless and could have done with some editing. Hugh Jackman has said that this was the Wolverine movie he had always wanted, and with the first half of the story I would agree with him.  the second half with multiple unresolved storylines and the constant crossing and double crossing gets tiresome after a while.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is the best he has been as the titular character, a better suited person cannot be imagined to play the wolverine both physically and also physiologically. Jackman went from looking old and haggard in Les Mis last year to looking buff and all veiny in The wolverine and he looks as good as ever. Rila Fukushima as Yukio is also very very good with her mix of bad assery and a tongue in cheek humor. Tao Okamoto as Mariko the heir apparent to Yashida industries leaves a lot to be desired, she does vulnerable well but in other scenes she is too one dimensional to have any real impact or connection . Svetlana Khodchenkova as the Viper is either woefully underutilized or almost entirely unnecessary, when she plays the viper she has this femme fatale vibe that verges on comical but when she plays the doctor she carries a hint of danger that could have had more of an impact if she didn’t do the whole skin shedding act towards the final minutes.

The cinematography by Ross Emery is very good and it captures the contrasts of Japan perfectly.  The music by Marco Beltrami is pretty solid too mixing the drums and strings to evoke a very typically oriental experience while still managing to deliver a blockbuster worthy score which accompanies the adrenaline fueled action sequences.

The movie has been garnering mixed responses with most people complaining about not enough action in the movie and a lot of the samurai/Ronin references, my problem with the movie is a little different the samurai bits are the best in my opinion, had they taken the viper out and just had Khodchenkova play a evil doctor with no mutation it would have been more effective.  The Adamantium Silver Samurai towards the end seems like an afterthought whereas it is actually central to the theme of the movie, the action sequences are too long and the Yakuza angle seems to be a wasted opportunity.  Where the movie succeeds is in the contemplative nature of wolverine as he struggles to go back to being a soldier that he once was. The flashbacks of Famke Jansen as Jean Gray also work but they are maybe a little overused.

Overall I enjoyed this Wolverine movie a lot more than 2009 origins story, this is Jackman at his best playing the clawed mutant superhero.  I’ve always enjoyed the Marvels X-men universe more than the marvel’s Avengers universe and I seem to in the minority atleast when it comes to the movies. And once the credits roll please stay put and wait for 2 minute long teaser for X-men days of future past.  Trust me you will be surprised.