Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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Edited by: Pat Aldo (cousin, co-author, Marvel expert)

Avengers: Age of Ultron is an exciting, action-filled spectacle and a new mark in the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since the first Avengers, I’ve been waiting for this group of heroes to team up again, and here it is. I thought it would be hard to recreate the same kind of magic as seeing them assemble for the first time, but it wasn’t. There’s more character development this time around and we get to see the relationships within the team evolve. Everything I loved about The Avengers is back in Age of Ultron, with the addition of some new, interesting heroes and a different kind of villain. Marvel fans will likely be pleased with the result, but for those who aren’t quite on that bandwagon, it’s still a pretty fun blockbuster and there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it too.

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are back together as an epic team to take down a HYDRA bunker run by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), who is in possession of Loki’s scepter and is using it to experiment on humans. Siblings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are two such humans who have developed abilities as a result. Scarlet Witch is capable of telekinesis and mind control, while Quicksilver can run at the speed of light. Because they have a personal vendetta against Stark, they allow him to take back the scepter, knowing full well what he’ll use it for will backfire. Ultimately, he and Banner use it to jump start a peacekeeping program called Ultron. Ultron, after seeing the kind of destruction people like the Avengers can cause, becomes a new threat who believes the only real path to peace is their extinction.

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Despite whatever feelings one might have about the movie’s flaws, Joss Whedon deserves a ton of credit for creating such a giant film that successfully juggles a large group of characters, ties up loose ends from the previous events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and sets up for the next few films to come, while at the same time, still maintains its own unique story. That may sound daunting, I know, but it never gets as overwhelming as you’d expect. What’s necessary to accept about the MCU is that “it’s all connected,” which means you’re going to get a lot more out of every film if you’ve been following the timeline up until this point. That’s not to say that none of the movies can stand up on their own, because many do, including Age of Ultron, but knowing what’s going on in regards to the bigger overall story is certainly going to affect your experience with it.

For me, there’s a special nerdy excitement I get out seeing these characters that I’ve been watching for the past 7 years interact with one another. What makes this experience different from the first Avengers is that the characters all know each other now so the relationships between each have had a chance to evolve. The smaller moments in the film where the team’s hanging out together are some of the best scenes, like when they’re partying at Avengers Tower and Thor challenges his fellow Avengers to try and lift Mjolnir. It’s also nice to see that some of the supporting characters from other movies aren’t totally forgotten about, like James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) from the Iron Man movies and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) from The Winter Soldier.

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The action is just as good, if not better than in the first movie, starting out with a tracking shot following the team while they work together to breach the HYDRA bunker. It’s quickly paced and full of adrenaline, and of course, you’ve got the trademark humor and one-liners spread throughout. Take it how you will, some people enjoy the humor and others don’t. The jokes are excessive at times and it does down play the threat a little bit, but Marvel’s thing isn’t to be super serious, and that’s a theme that runs throughout all its films. If you haven’t accepted that by now, you probably never will.

The formula for Age of Ultron is definitely cut from the same mold as the first. There’s some build up of story which leads to a climactic battle, and then it winds down towards the end. Most, if not all superhero films follow this formula, so it may seem a bit repetitious, but the way it is executed definitely helps. There are plenty of epic moments in the action that make up for the over-familiarity and I love seeing the teamwork in play.

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One thing I was somewhat disappointed with was that Ultron wasn’t as menacing as the trailers made him seem. I think James Spader did a good job, but the most threatening aspect of his character was the fact that he can travel through the internet and access anything he wants, gaining him the upper hand. He’s also able to upload his consciousness to any of his robot legion as well. But these individual bots are pretty easily defeated, and thus prevent Ultron himself from contributing to the larger battle sequences. I think that besides Thanos, who’s been portrayed as the puppet-master of sorts, Loki remains the MCU’s best villain to date.

Additionally, I wasn’t overly fond of what they did with Black Widow’s role in this film. I like how both her and Hawkeye have more to do this time around, and Hawkeye’s character development is great, but I can’t help but feel like Widow was reduced to a stereotype. The romance between her and Banner seemed unwarranted, and it was too random for me to get behind. Their scenes together seemed cheesy and forced, and basically, I just wish they hadn’t made the only established female character on the team a love interest. I enjoyed finally discovering Widow’s backstory, but her character can be so stiff at times. This could just have something to do with Whedon’s take on her. Something my cousin, Pat, actually pointed out to me was that Widow and Scarlet Witch don’t exchange any dialogue in the film. I think if Marvel can improve on anything in the future, it’s the way they handle their female heroes, and I’m eager to see how they fare with the Captain Marvel movie, since it’ll be the first film in the MCU centered on a female character.

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The Maximoff twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, are both incredibly welcome additions to the film. The Witch’s abilities are, admittedly, cooler than Quicksilver’s speed, but they both work well together. I found her capability to manipulate the Avenger’s minds particularly awesome, allowing the team’s human nature and vulnerability to be revealed. Though the twins’ Eastern European accents may have proven to be a struggle at times, I think Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson fit their roles perfectly. I only wish that they had a little more screen time.

The best addition, however, would have to be the Vision. Hands down, Vision is the MCU’s latest breakout character, and his presence was insanely rewarding. This beloved comic book character, often referred to as “the Android Avenger,” is especially visually appealing, showcasing phasing abilities and powerful energy blasts. It’s fantastic to see Paul Bettany, who has been voicing Tony Stark’s A.I. program JARVIS for years now, finally assembling with the Avengers on-screen in physical form. He serves as a wealth of knowledge and powerhouse for the team, moving forward, and his addition to future installments is incredibly exciting!

The next adventure for our heroes will be in Captain America: Civil War in 2016. Judging by the emerging conflicts shown between Stark and Rogers, I’d say Age of Ultron has already set a pretty solid foundation for this upcoming plot. Despite whatever small faults I may have had with it, I think Whedon did a job worth recognizing with such a difficult task. Avengers: Age of Ultron is an enjoyable addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and an exciting reunion for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I truly loved it.

4.5/5

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Trailer Analysis (Summer ’15)

Hello, everyone! I’m Pat, the new contributor to Justine’s Movie Blog, and I’m going to present a brand new segment where I break down 2015’s most talked about trailers for the upcoming summer movie season.


Furious 7


If we’ve learned anything from six previous outings, it’s that the Fast & Furious franchise is an unstoppable force of action and entertainment. Furious 7 looks to kick off this year’s summer movie season with a massive, high-stakes adventure that has as much heart as it does explosions. In an interesting turn of events, this entry brings us to present day, immediately following the untimely death of Han. We discover this apparent tragedy is planned by a new character, played by Jason Statham, who so happens to be the older brother of our last antagonist, Owen Shaw. In a last ditch effort for enacting the ultimate revenge, we find the famed Toretto residence blown to pieces, allowing our cast motivation for another plot’s worth of (doubtfully) “One last ride.” With the combined ingenuity of Dwayne Johnson wielding a turret, Paul Walker running atop a hurdling cliff-side bus, and Vin Diesel crashing cars through Middle-Eastern skyscrapers, the stunts of this film appear to be at a mind numbing level of extremity. Regrettably, this installment also serves to pay homage to Walker, as it will be his last. His passing had been widely reported, causing a lengthly halt in production. One can only hope his send off will be done tastefully. Furious 7 hits theaters April 3, 2015.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron


In what some may consider the follow-up to one of the most well-received films of our generation, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron proves to have some weighty ambitions to oust its predecessor. The Marvel Cinematic Universe thrives on, at the peak of what it’s carefully established, thus far. The fall out from our favorite team/time bomb’s staggering shifts in momentum with “Phase 2” (Infinity Stones, Clean Slate Protocol, the demise of S.H.I.E.L.D.) will reach full realization with it’s finale. We begin with what appears to be a celebratory “assembling” in the newly revamped Avengers Tower, only to discover Stark’s been quite busy, sans arc reactor. The horror-stricken team’s introduction to our titular villain sends chills tingling through viewers, assuredly thanks to James Spader’s expertly delivered dialogue. Plot ensues, forcing the Armored Avenger to suit up once more with his pals to take responsibility for his horrendous creation. We’re graced with some fantastic reveals, including meeting the twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, after their brief, Hydra centric origins. With teases of how these new heroes’ abilities may shake the team’s foundation, a much sought after look into Widow’s cringe-worthy past, and, perhaps, the most epic, Hulkbusting battle between the Science Bros we may EVER see, Age of Ultron looks to be sheer, non-stop entertainment on a global level. Written and directed once more by Joss Whedon, the film looks to be in the best of possible hands. What’s both admirable, as well as notable, is that Marvel’s kept large portions of the plot under wraps, including, most excitedly so, the reveal of Paul Bettany’s (J.A.R.V.I.S) Vision. The excruciatingly long wait draws closer each day. Can ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ take down their greatest threat to date? Avengers: Age of Ultron opens May 1, 2015.

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Jurassic World


With roughly 14 years separating us from the last chapter in this beloved film series, Jurassic World places Hollywood’s latest go-to guy, Chris Pratt, in its leading role. Pratt’s new-found star power stems, deservedly so, from last summer’s smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy. Our first look at the movie grants us shots of Jurassic World open for business, attracting thousands of tourists to the wonder and discovery of these pre-historic creatures. We’re met with the revelation that park scientists have been busy, yet again, with genetic experimentation on dinosaur DNA. Owen, notably a reptilian wrangler of sorts, expresses his immediate distaste for the unorthodox creation of the Indominus Rex, whose physical appearance remains shrouded in mystery entirely. It becomes quite apparent this beast’s out for blood and a full-scale evacuation of the park takes place. It’s here the familiar ominous tones, suspenseful chases, and children fearing for their lives all materialize. With long time fans of the series theorizing, in detail, about just what makes this “D-Rex” so threatening, retractable wings, camouflage abilities, and human gene splicing all seem to have surfaced. Will they be able to take down the Indominus Rex, and is there more to its creation than we’re led to believe? We’ll find out June 12, 2015.

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Terminator: Genisys


Cue the iconic overture known by fans of the Science-Fiction genre everywhere. This could only mean one thing, another installment to the long-running Terminator franchise is upon us. At the center of this pseudo soft reboot, is the always incredible Emilia Clarke, of Game of Thrones fame, starring as Sarah Connor. Amusingly so, the timeline of this film looks to include elements of different events previously established canonically, with a bit of a modern twist. Dialogue exchanged between well-known characters, John Connor and Kyle Reese, discuss familiar moments from the original, when John’s mother Sarah still needs saving and the future needs altering. It’s to the viewers surprise, when Kyle is met by a far more empowered, self-aware version of his future lover, where it’s she who delivers the renowned “Come with me, if you want to live!” quote. Furthermore, we’re shown and older version of the T-800, again played by Schwarzenegger, destroying his younger counterpart upon his initial arrival. The mission at hand has changed, and the motivations behind this are left, somewhat intentionally, unclear. There’s no telling the repercussions to be had for the future once the credits roll. Terminator: Genisys “Will be back” July 1, 2015.

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Ant-Man


If there’s anything Marvel Studios has proven time and time again, it’s that they’ve never been afraid to take risks. It’s hard to imagine that seven years ago marked the beginning of what would be the most successful, cohesive cinematic universe the film industry had ever seen before. Marvel’s approach, from the start, had always been carefully calculated and formulaic in nature. Each “Phase” would be segmented yearly into at least one well-known property, as well as an entirely new property. With Avengers: Age of Ultron sure to account for all of 2015’s required revenue, Ant-Man’s wasting no time at all laying the ground work for Marvel’s Phase 3. So who is Ant-Man? Though his title may suggest otherwise, Ant-Man possesses the fascinating ability to manipulate his molecular structure, by means of Pym particles. Which leads to our story: Scott Lang, played ambitiously by Paul Rudd, is depicted as an ex-criminal searching for any means of redemption. What exactly transpires to place Lang in this position is unknown, however, it’s when his path crosses with Dr. Henry Pym that everything changes. We’re offered discussion between the two, suggesting Pym needs Lang to take up the mantle of Ant-Man, demonstrating we may meet our first generational hero. What’s fantastic about this, is there are countless possibilities for ties between Pym and, perhaps, Agent Peggy Carter or Howard Stark, both very recognizable, previously established characters. We’re offered glimpses of Lang’s assumed first transformation, his trainer/love interest Hope Van Dyne, and other stunning visuals. What’s honorable in what we’ve seen, is that Ant-Man seems to really own what it is, embracing humor when possible. But, “Is it too late to change the name?” Ant-Man opens July 17, 2015.

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