Elizabeth Olsen

REVIEW: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

My original review of Avengers: Age of Ultron from April 2015 is here and my spoiler-filled rambling thoughts on the film from May 2015 are here. I only reread both these posts after I wrote my MCU rewatch review.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) attempt to make a peacekeeping AI named Ultron, but Ultron (James Spader) has its own ideas of what peace on Earth should look like and the Avengers must stop him before he can enact his deadly plan.

Age of Ultron has a lot going on and not all of it is cohesive. It feels like a lot of things crammed into one move. There’s the introduction of the twins, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), two characters that present interesting powers, but you never learn more than what’s on the surface with them, especially Pietro. There’s also a lot on infighting in the Avengers team, while some events in the film certainly cause this, there’s also the sense that a lot of them don’t feel like a solid team or even a group of people that like each other. Side by side with the infighting is a surprising romance that is painful to watch – it feels like once the powers that be gave Clint (Jeremy Renner) his secret family, that Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) couldn’t possibly not have a romantic subplot and paired her up with the only other Avenger who didn’t have someone they loved. Then there’s Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who’s pretty redundant to the main plot of the movie and has his own sub-plot which is basically to give the audience a crash course in the Infinity Stones.

Age of Ultron is written and directed by Joss Whedon, the guy who did such a great job with The Avengers and had a decent take on each of the characters in that film. However, a lot of the characters development we’ve seen in various films between these two Avengers movies is just forgotten. Some elements make sense like Tony’s paranoia about aliens and protecting those who he cares about, but straightaway in Age of Ultron you see he’s built a load of robots when he’d partly dealt with his trauma by blowing all his suits up. Also, Steve (Chris Evans) often feels like a caricature of Captain America which is frustrating as we’ve previously seen the man behind the title so well in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The same can be said for Natasha, the version of her you see in Age of Ultron is a massive step backwards from the one in The Winter Solider. She’s still a badass, and while you can obviously have a female character who can fight and fall in love at the same time, the way it’s executed feels rushed and not in-line with what we’ve seen of Natasha’s character previously.

The action sequences are great, and the special effects are still top-notch. The humour that’s throughout the film doesn’t always land and sometimes feels like characters are saying a witty one-liner for the sake of it. The stakes in the final battle do feel high and you want both civilians to be safe and the heroes to succeed and survive, though I feel like a lot of that’s thanks to typical genre conventions and pre-existing affection for the characters rather than because of the characters as they’re shown in this film.

The stuff I really like in Age of Ultron are pretty much anything to do with Clint, surprise family and all, and Wanda. The way the film sets up their relationship is fascinating to me and I’m pleased that so far, those in charge of the MCU have continued to work with their dynamic. When it comes to pretty much anything else in this film, I’m either ambivalent towards it or actively dislike it.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is such a mismatch of themes and story ideas, and it’s a let-down after watching previous MCU movies in quick succession. A lot of characters seem to either take a step back in their development or receive none at all – a potential pitfall with an ensemble cast such as this that Age of Ultron fall right into. 2/5.

Advertisements

REVIEW: Wind River (2017)

When game tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) finds the dead body of a young Native American girl (Kelsey Asbille) frozen in the snow, FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is called in to investigate the murder.

Wind River is an atmospheric and haunting film. It’s beautifully shot and has a wonderfully melancholy score. The setting is a character itself and the beautiful yet often desolate snowy landscapes adds to the isolation the characters feel. All these elements bring an extra level of harshness to the story. This is an environment where only the strong survive and the characters you meet are made from the environment they live in.

Jeremy Renner is fantastic and his performance here is one of his best to date. Gil Birmingham plays Martin, the father of murdered Natalie and he is brilliant. There’s a scene when he opens the door to Renner’s Cory and the emotions that play across his face is like an acting masterclass. Olsen’s Jane Banner is a pleasant surprise as while she’s not used to the environment she’s thrust into, she’s competent and smart and can more than hold her own.

The mystery may not be the most complex, nor the most original, but it is the characters that pull you into this film as they fight to discover the truth. Wind River is gripping and eerie and it’s almost uncomfortably gritty and realistic. The final act is heart-pumping stuff but it never becomes outlandish. Wind River is a chilling film and one that will stick with you for a while. 4/5.

REVIEW: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

dwV6BZ2When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) want to protect the world with a peacekeeping program, things go awry when the program Ultron (James Spader), decides that the only way to protect the world is to destroy it and the Avengers must come together to stop it.

Age of Ultron is truly a global film (something that doesn’t always works but is admirable) as the action goes from America to Eastern Europe to Africa and Asia. It definitely makes Ultron feel more of a threat and he along with Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are a real adversary for the Avengers.

The action sequences are amazing and it’s always great to see the Avengers team, acting and fighting as a team. The moments where they help each other out whether it’s Thor (Chris Hemsworth) hitting Captain America’s (Chris Evans) shield with Mjolnir or Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) being the one to take the team to safety when they really need it – it’s a delight to watch.

Each character gets their moment to shine (and there’s a lot of characters) and Hawkeye especially gets to be the calm centre that helps keep everything together – a welcome change to the character being side-lined in the previous film. Also many characters get more of a backstory or at least a bigger look at their personalities and fears which is mostly thanks to Wanda Maximoff.

Both Wanda and Pietro (or Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver as they’re otherwise known) are great to watch. They are truly believable as twins who have only had each other to reply on and who have been hurt badly. Another new addition to the franchise is Vision (Paul Bettany) whose introduction is sort of beautiful and Vision then went on to steal every scene he was in.

Probably one of Age of Ultron’s biggest failings that it really feels like a stepping stone to future films, especially Infinity War. It’s still fun and exciting but there’s an air of expectation that the film doesn’t manage to fulfil. That being said, there’s still the humour and quite a few emotional hits – some are definitely surprising – so it isn’t all bad. One element I wasn’t over keen on was the romance hinted at between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson), some may like it but it felt a bit forced and out of place to me.

Once again, every character has their time to shine, there’s some welcome additions to the cast and the action sequences are fantastic. The pacing is sometimes a little off but overall Avengers: Age of Ultron is a lot of fun. 4/5.


l will be posting a full-on spoiler review/word vomit with all my thoughts as a fangirl of many of these characters, and the MCU itself, later this week.