Avengers: Age Of Ultron

I was tempted to start by saying this was not the best of the Avenger’s movies, but that might give a false impression, this is a classic Avengers/Marvel movie, what it lacked was the sense of something new, which the others had. Written & directed by Josh Wedon (Cabin in the Woods, 2012). Set post the battle of New York and the disintegration of SHIELD, the Avengers team essentially continues where SHIELD left off. While the operation is financed by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge 2014) it is lead in the field by Steve Rogers/Captain America as they battle the forces of Hydra under Count von Strucker (Thomas Kretschman, Dracula 3D, 2012).

Indeed the opening scenes set the tone for the movie – set-piece action sequences, interspersed with some dry comedy from the team. The comedy is verbal, rather than situational slap-stick.

As expected the team, win the day and capture their prize, but only after learning of the existence of two new “enhanced” humans, the Maximoff twins; Pietro/Quicksilver with his speed (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Godzilla, 2014) and his sister Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson Red Lights, 2012). Whedon gives us an interesting play with these characters and works them well into the story line and set-up the narrative for the ever increasing numbers.

The plot to the movie is nothing strenuous, while hunting down Hydra and recovering various artifacts, they recover Loki’s staff and Stark decides to use it for tests and to see if it can be used to restart a dysfunctional planetary defence system, he enlists the help of Dr. Banner/The Hulk (Foxcatcher 2014) but keeps the work quiet. This of course queues up the inevitable disaster and low and behold a super AI is created who – first sets-out to destroy the digital mind that is Jarvis (Stark’s AI)takes over the body of one of the fighting legion of Iron robots which fight with Iron Man. The creation is revealed to the world when it basically gate-crashes the Avengers and friends having a party.

What continues is the usual high-octane Marvel-fest of graphics, stunts, disasters and battles. As Ultron continues on his way to destroy the world using Hydtra assets, he works to transform himself from an electrical circuit to a living electronic being with a mind. He will do this using technology Dr. Helen Cho ( Claudia Kim, Marco Polo 2014) is developing to help the Avengers recover from injury using cell regeneration. This is interrupted as the team take back the initiative and out of the mess is created Vision, who is the “solidification” of the virtual mind that was Jarvis. The robot/AI has developed from being a comic foil for Downey to being an Avenger. The part is excellently played by Paul Bettany (Priest 2011), who having given the character voice now gives it form.

Needless to say, after much near death, a few heavy soul-searching moments and lots of near impossible stunt work the team eventually get their way. What is important is what happened along the way. We learn that Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner Kill the Messenger, 2014) has a private life outside of the Avengers, and also of a possible growing relationship between Natasha Romanoff and Dr. Banner/The Hulk.

The humour is laugh-out-loud in places while in others it is definitely for the fans with the occasional “in-joke” which works. It is clear from the start that this is a movie which knew it could not take itself too seriously and so deliberately added the necessary humour. Being part of a greater narrative means that they have quite a support cast to call upon. Don Cheadle, Idris Elba and Stellan Skarsgard all reprise their roles to support while we also have appearances from Anthony Mackie; Sam Wilson/the Falcon (Pain & Gain 2013) and Heyley Atwell’s Peggy Carter. (The Sweeney 2012).

I recently learned that there is actually no set number of Avengers (there is about 50 of them in total) and we see hints of this with the ever increasing number of Avengers and their supporters.

Judging by this movie, there is no hint of the franchise slowing down anytime soon, it might be picking up if anything.


Men In Black III

The first thing that hits you is the 15 years or so of this franchise. Unlike many other which were milked to death, these have been given a chance to mature. There is more characterisation than most comedies and indeed one of the main aspects of the story line is Agent J (Will Smith) trying to get the ever so taciturn Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) to open up more. The obituary for Agent Z just about says it all…or not.

The long story short; a really bad bad guy/alien escapes from a maximum security prison on the moon. He knows how to go back in time and rewrite history, and so he does this.  Agent J realises something is wrong and persuades people of the alternate timeline.  He then has to go back and try prevent the alternate history events from happening.

Along the way we meet the usual assortment of aliens, one that stands out is Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg (Flight of the Conchords, 2007-2009) who can see multiple future events based on probabilities. He brings both character and story to the offering. The main cast Agent J, (Will Smith, Robert Neville, I am Legend 2007), Agent K, the elder (Tommy Lee Jones, Colonel Chester Philips, Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011) and Josh Brolin (True Grit, Tom Chaney, 2010) all give the performances we have come to expect; we have the charged and excitable Agent J trying to force out some human expressionism from the stone faced K, only to come up against the young K. When J joins up with K he quickly realises that the younger man is more positive, optimistic and open that the older K he knows and asks “what happened you?” to no response, as the movie works to the climactic ending we eventually learn just what was that life changing event that transformed Agent K.

It should be pointed out that this is a movie that does exactly what it sets out to do, it entertains well.  One piece of the movie which stands out it Josh Brolin’s take-off of a young Agent K, it was great and produced some genuine laughs from the audience.  I saw this movie in China – 3D IMAX.

MIB is a rare thing in a franchise set, it works. This might be why the producers felt they could afford to leave so long between offerings. We now have three entertaining movies which will withstand the test of time.  Will there be a fourth? I don’t know. Will go see it if there is? Yes. So let’s wait and see, but in the meantime you might do a lot worse with your time than go see this third offering.

There are some side jokes and statements on 1969 America and these largely work well and serve to place the movie in the times.

Rating 7/10 – it is not the type of movie that would be happy with a 9 or 10 out of 10.