Avengers: Age of Ultron (Movie Review)

This movie is 141 minutes long. And they had to cut an hour. Think about that for a sec, will ya?

Before Age of Ultron, I had to do four major exams and a French oral presentation. That made May 1st one of those days that was simultaneously the best and worst day ever.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Directed by: Joss Whedon

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Written by: Joss Whedon

Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Genre: Superhero

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany

Music by: Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman

Plot: The Avengers; Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, have been at their superheroing ways for a while now, fighting evil wherever it may rear its ugly head. However, after a somewhat traumatic mission in the fictional Eastern European nation of Sokovia or whatever (Where the official language is apparently heavily accented English),Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) decides that what the world needs is not the Avengers, but a super-powerful artificial intelligence whose goal is to achieve world peace by any means necessary. This is a wholly original concept that has never been attempted before in fiction, right?

Right!

Stark and Dr. Banner (Mark Ruffalo) accidentally create an A.I. named Ultron (James Spader) who, as anybody with half a brain could predict, is overwhelmed with a god complex, concluding that, since humans are the ones screwing up the world, the only way to ensure world peace is to destroy all humans, particularly the Avengers. Not exactly taking his kindly, the Avengers set out to defeat Ultron, but find themselves contending with divisions within the team, two mysterious twins working with Ultron, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) and the mysterious android named the Vision (Paul Bettany).

If that sounds like a lot of stuff going on, it’s because it kind of is. It’s become a growing trend among superhero movies lately to really up the amount of complicated subplots. I guess it makes sense that an extended universe would have more complicated storylines. You can’t merely have Superman saving Lois Lane anymore, you must have Captain America destroying HYDRA, have that tie in with a damn TV show, and have THAT tie into a movie that stars Vin Diesel as a fucking talking tree.

While I wouldn’t go so far as saying that you needed to have watched the other Marvel movies in order to understand this one, there are still some issues to be found in Age of Ultron. Joss Whedon has said that there is one hour of footage that had to be cut in order to get the movie down to a manageable length, and I commend him for that, because who wants to see a three and a half hour long superhero movie?

Besides me, I mean.

That said, during the second act, the movie starts feeling a bit rushed, trying to squeeze in development  and plot points that kind of come out of nowhere. There’s an entire sequence involving Thor that tries to serve as both an advancement of the plot and a setup for Thor: Ragnarok (Get hyped for that November 3, 2017 release date!!!) and… It doesn’t work. There’s just not enough explained. I understand part of the conclusion that Thor comes to during the subplot, but I’ll be damned if I know what happened up until that point. Something about Asgard, Stellan Skarsgard, Chris Hemsworth shirtless in a pool of water, whatever. Until the extended edition comes our on Blu-Ray (Please???), I can’t really give this movie points for flawlessly cohesive storytelling.

Also, while I’ll get into Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch a little later, their accents didn’t do it for me at all. Who knows though, maybe the official language of Sokovia is English spoken with a cartoonish Russian accent? Fuck if I know.

I’m done dicking around, though. What did I think of Age of Ultron as a whole?

I fucking love it.

I know, I know, I’m predictable, but this movie…. It’s just so cool, you guys.

Yes, in terms of story, it’s not the most narratively well done, and the “Evil A.I” has been done to death, but if you’re really bothered by that when watching… You were probably too far gone to enjoy the movie in the first place.

While the action is great, as one would expect from most summer blockbusters nowadays, and the CGI is on point (… Save for some moments in the opening action sequence), this movie, even more than the first Avengers, lives and dies on its larger than-life characters and personalities.

Some people assumed from the trailers that Age of Ultron was going to be yet another goddamn “dark and gritty” superhero movie, and while it does have some heavy moments, its not a dark movie. Like, at all. It has more or less the same tone and atmosphere as the first one, just with, you know, a threatening villain.

Again, thanks to the trailer, many people assumed that Ultron would be the most threatening villain in the MCU to date, based on his menacing appearance and penchant for monologuing. Once again, that’s kind of misleading. While Ultron is really cool, and James Spader is downright fantastic, he was also, completely unexpectedly, really damn funny in an appropriately twisted, dark way, which makes sense, when you consider that he was created by Tony Stark. In addition to that, he’s not entirely a creature of logic, he could be seen as a child with a very black-and-white view of morality. That’s a pretty good way to distinguish him from the humorless “Evil A.I.” archetype that fiction has beaten to death at this point.

“Dave…. Pull my finger…”

What I’m most impressed with, though, is what they did with the main characters. Actually, scratch that, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man are just as awesome and well-written as they were before, but the secondary Avengers, for lack of a better term, get a whole hell of a lot more interesting. Hulk and Black Widow have a relationship that some people are calling forced, but I think it helps develop their character arcs a little more. especially since we haven’t had a solo Hulk movie for a while, and fans are still holding out for the Black Widow solo movie that is growing more and more unlikely by the minute.

IT’S SCARLETT JOHANSSON AS A SEXY RUSSIAN SPY!!! HOW DOES THIS NOT WRITE ITSELF!!!!????

There was definitely a more PC way to phrase that caption, but my point still stands.

The surprising one for me (And a whole lot of other people) was Hawkeye, who was pretty much nondescript in the first movie, was my favourite character in this movie. Without getting spoiler-y… He’s a scene stealer. Hawkeye is a scene stealer. God, this movie is bizarre.

Lastly, the new characters are, big surprise, pretty damn great. The Vision, without spoiling any details, is fucking awesome, and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are also good. While I wouldn’t say that this Quicksilver is as entertaining as the one in Days of Future Past, but this one has a pretty enjoyable personality that Aaron Taylor-Johnson has a lot of fun with. (Fun fact: Taylor-Johnson was the star of Kick-Ass, while Evan Peters, who played Quicksilver in Days of Future Past, played Taylor-Johnson’s friend in Kick-Ass. Full circle, or whatever.

Also, I have a crush on Elizabeth Olsen. I didn’t know that before today.

Her performance makes this movie the best project an Olsen sister has ever been associated with.

Overall: Age of Ultron delivers as a summer blockbuster on every sustainable level, being almost as good as the first movie. Shame the mid-credits scene sucks balls.

Rating: 9/10

“Wait’ll they get a load of me…”

My Saturn Award Picks

Joss Whedon attended once, so they’re legit, you guys.

In a few hours, the 40th Saturn Awards are due to be presented are to be presented in Burbank, California. Those of you with lives that involve more than lazily scrolling through Wikipedia might ask me what exactly the Saturn Awards are and why they should care about them. The short answer is that the Saturn Awards are presented each year by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films to honour the best in not only movies of those genres, but also TV and, for some reason, home video.

“Chucky: The Complete Collection” and “Award Nominee” are two phrases that you never thought would ever appear in the same breath.

As for why we would need this fairly anonymous award, that’s rather straightforward as well. While I love and cherish the Academy Awards, they can be notoriously stuffy when it comes to nominating movies for the Best Picture Award. There’s a reason that some movies are referred to as “Oscar-bait”: It can seem sometimes that all some movies need to to is try really hard to be nominated for an Oscar and the Academy will lose  its shit over it, even if it’s just so-so or, in some cases, just plain bad.

Unrelated Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close poster.

 One of the more recent examples is The Dark Knight in 2009. TDK was the highest-grossing movie of that year and is widely considered, along with The Avengers and the new X-Men movie to be in the running for the title of greatest comic book movie of all time. It’s such a damn great movie that even the Academy took notice, rewarding it with 8 nominations: Best Visual Effects (Which it lost to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Best Film Editing (Lost to Slumdog Millionaire), Best Makeup (Lost to Benjamin Button), Best Cinematography (Lost to Slumdog Millionaire), Best Art Direction (Lost to Benjamin Fucking Button) Best Sound Mixing (Lost to Slumdog Bloody Millionaire) Best Sound Editing (Which it won) and, obviously, Best Supporting Actor for the late Heath Ledger (Which it also won, as it damn well should have).

Notice anything about those categories?

Not a single one of them is the Best Picture category.

Now, I can understand that not every great movie can get a nomination. If that was the case, the Oscar ceremony would double in length, and Ellen DeGeneres was already a bit thin on material during regular programming. But do you know what movie was nominated for Best Picture instead of TDK? The Reader. A movie that just barely got a “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and that you have probably never heard of before. Oscar-bait at its most stereotypical.

So basically, that’s why I like the Saturn Awards so much. Even if the movie are, in general, inferior to the Oscars, the Saturn Awards still let the movies that us plebes enjoy take the spotlight. Besides, let’s be honest here: How many of you actually watched 12 Years a Slave before it won the Oscar?

Ah,whatever. I’ve rambled long enough. The following are my Saturn Award picks. The list of nominees can be found here. I won’t be doing predictions for TV or Home  Video categories, but I do hope that Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones clean up.

Best Independent Film

“Fucking Matthew McConaughey.”

My pick: 12 Years a Slave

Second place: Inside Llewyn Davis

12 Years a Slave is the best movie of 2013 (The Academy didn’t screw this one up!) So it’s obviously going to win the majority of awards it’s nominated for, and it doesn’t even have to contend with Dallas Buyers Club or Gravity this time around.

Best Special Effects

My pick: Gravity

Second place: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Gravity has proven since its release that as long as you combine an unspectacular, somewhat predictable script with plot holes, nobody will give a shit if your movie looks pretty enough. Hell, I didn’t care! I gave it a 9.5 out of 10!

Best Makeup

Fun fact: Evangeline Lilly is from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. She remains the only Fort Saskatchewan resident whose fame isn’t attributed to hockey or petty crime.

My pick: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Second place: Thor: The Dark World

 Any Middle-Earth movie is pretty much a shoo-in for awards like this. Odd that they couldn’t do anything about Orlando Bloom starting to look like Joaquin Phoenix though.

Best Costume

Good Lord.

My pick: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Second place: Thor: The Dark World

This might be the only category that 47 Ronin has ever been nominated for that wasn’t “Biggest case of cinematic blue balls of 2013.” Don’t pretend like you didn’t hear the words “Keanu Reeves samurai movie” and immediately start pissing yourself in excitement. Or maybe that was just me.

I might have problems, you guys.

Best Production Design

Blah blah blah Gravity, blah blah blah special effects orgasm blah blah blah so fucking good blah blah blah…

My pick: Gravity

Second place: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Man, if Gravity hadn’t been released in 2013, The Hobbit might’ve really cleaned up in their Oscar categories, never mind the damn Saturn Awards.

Best Editing

My pick: Gravity

Second place: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I’m still not totally sure how to properly evaluate editing, but when in doubt, go with Gravity.

Best Music

“Doo doo doo, dooo, doo doo doo… Do do do… DOO DOO doo doo… doo doo doo…” That’s classic stuff, right there.

My pick: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Howard Shore)

Second place: Iron Man 3 (Brian Tyler)

I’m kind of surprised that Steven Price wasn’t nominated for Gravity, but hey, he already has the damn Oscar, and it’s not like you could ever go wrong with Middle Earth music.  

Best Performance by a Younger Actor

From Kick-Ass to Carrie, Chloe Grace Moretz is at her best when doused in blood.

My pick: Chloe Grace Moretz, Carrie

Second place: Ty Simpkins, Iron Man 3

Yes, Carrie was total dogshit, but Chloe Grace Moretz was the best part of that whole mess. Just please pick a better movie next time.

Best Supporting Actress

My pick: Scarlett Johansson, Her

Second place: Evangeline Lilly, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug… I guess

It might seem like an odd pick, considering that ScarJo never once appeared on screen, but a) She was pretty damn amazing in that movie and b) Name one other actress on that list who was anything other than “pretty good.”

Best Supporting Actor

My pick: Benedict Cumberbatch, Star Trek Into Darkness

Second place: Tom Hiddleston, Thor: The Dark World

Some people may criticize Benedict Cumberbatch for being, y’know, a white guy playing an Indian character (Khan Noonien Singh), which would be a legitimate argument if he wasn’t already played by Ricardo Montalban in The Wrath of Khan, who was, you know, Mexican.

Best Actress

My pick: Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Second place: Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Because Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, and Gravity can’t win everything.

Best Actor

My pick: Joaquin Phoenix, Her

Second place: Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis

I also really loved Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man 3, so any of these three actors winning would be fine in my book.

Best Writing

My pick: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis

Second place: Spike Jonze, Her

Her might have won the Oscar, and that was a fine movie, don’t get me wrong, but to tell you the truth, I grew a lot more attached to the Coen brothers’ movie. On an unrelated note, I was surprised that Jennifer Lee was nominated for Frozen. I love Frozen, but.. y’know, come on.

Best Director

My pick: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Second place: Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Ah dammit, we’re back to kissing Gravity‘s ass. I guess you couldn’t really argue with it.  2013 was kind of Alfonso Cuaron’s bitch.

Best Comic-to-film Motion Picture

My pick: Iron Man 3

Second place: Thor: The Dark World

Gwyneth Paltrow notwithstanding, Iron Man 3 is the only nominee from this category that isn’t all that seriously flawed, although Thor, Man of Steel and Wolverine were all very enjoyable, in my opinion.

Best Animated Film

Seriously, that dress is made of ICE. There is no fucking way that’s comfortable.

My pick: Frozen

Second place: Despicable Me 2

Well, duh.

Best International Film

I don’t usually watch foreign films, so I’ve missed out on all these movies. The World’s End looks awesome though, so I’ll have to check it out at some point.

Best Action/Adventure Film

The only one of these movies that I’ve seen is The Lone Ranger, and fuck that movie.

Best Thriller Film

I haven’t seen any of these movies either.

Best Horror Film

My pick: This is the End

Second place: None. Horror movies suck.

Horror movies are, in general, pretty damn stupid. But hey, if this Academy is going to consider This is the End a horror movie for some unfathomable reason, then who am I to complain? That movie kicked all sorts of ass!

Best Fantasy Film

My pick: Her

Second place: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I considered going with The Hobbit, as I don’t consider Her to be a fantasy movie (At least in the traditional sense). However, This is the End isn’t an actual horror movie, and I still gave that movie the nod in that category, so whatever.

Best Science Fiction Film

My pick: Gravity

Second place: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

With no 12 Years a Slave or Dallas Buyers Club to stand in its way, Gravity should take the top prize it is capable of receiving. Much respect to Hunger Games, Star Trek and Pacific Rim  though, who would have been top contenders in any other year.