May 2, 2015

Avengers Age of Ultron Reaction and Review [Spoilers]

Image result for age of ultron
I was one of the many that went to the Thursday screening of Avengers Age of Ultron. My theater was buzzing with excitement and anticipation as me and the audience all awaited to first image of this highly anticipated movie. Finally, when it actually started everyone cheered and immediately went silent. From that beginning of the movie to the end of the mid-credits scene, it was a high intensity roller coaster ride of action, comedy, and despair. That last part is what I believe helped differentiate this Avengers from the first which is crucial. As a studio, you don't want to make your sequels feel like the same movie, and they definitely succeeded. As for the action, it was more intense and much broader in scope. Everyone got their due and everyone was able to shine. The choreography for each character felt like it fit very well. Then, the comedy. Wow. Going in to this movie, I'd heard from many sources like AMC Movie Talk, Schmoes Know, Variety, and Rotten Tomatoes that this movie was significantly darker than the first, so I was a bit skeptical about the presence of comedy in this film. However, it was so well done and appropriate that it is actually my second favorite Marvel movie in terms of the comedy and level of fun (Guardians of the Galaxy is number 1). From Ultron, to Vision, to Hawkeye, to Nick Fury, everyone had their due. They all got to say something quirky and funny. These three aspects made it a phenomenal Marvel movie, worthy of the mantle of an Avengers movie. So, let's address some of the strongest points in the movie.

What Worked?

1. The Vision

Image result for age of ultron vision

He was so much more than I could have expected. He lived up to the Vision in the comics, but surpassed the potential I thought he had for the big screen. His birth was handled very well with the team fighting over whether or not they should finish the creation process. Once he was born, it was nice to see a character that surpassed Thor's strength, Tony's wit, and Cap's wisdom. Although, just born, he was already so much more than any one of them could hope to be. I'm excited to see a character that can challenge the big three on the things they hold dearest. His action was also so incredible and fluid. It didn't seem to campy or not as grounded as the other characters. He is basically a god, but is so human all at the same time. That is something extremely hard to achieve, so bravo to Joss Whedon and the writers.

2. Hawkeye

Image result for hawkeye age of ultron poster

He is finally given his due in this movie, and it is better than great. We find out he has a family that he keeps secret to protect them as well as be able to visit them without suspicion. His role is so important to keeping the team together. He is the backbone for the whole team and keeps them all in the game when it looks like they are all but defeated. Hawkeye shows so much humanity in this film, something that was unfortunately taken from him in the first one, and it really keeps the idea of ground level victims fresh in your mind. Often with these big superhero films, we can forget that their are people on the ground that need hands on saving, and Hawkeye keeps us very much involved emotionally with that battle and struggle to save every person.

3. The Twins

Image result for maximoff twins age of ultron

The twins were handled very well as well. I was a tad skeptical about seeing their types of powers being displayed against the powers we already see our team have. However, Scarlet Witch's telekinesis was very appropriately represented without being to hard to follow. And Quicksilver's speed was shown in slow-mo as well as in conjunction with regular speed action. It was a great dichotomy between representations of one power. It really highlighted how great his abilities are. They also blended very well with the team as well as against them. They were tragic, but still had a nice rise to becoming heroes.

4. Team Tension/Dynamic

Image result for cap vs. iron man age of ultron

It was awesome seeing how the team functions now that they've been working together for some time now. The members actually have background to pull from and past experiences together that allow for some great rapport. The trinity of Thor, Iron Man, and Cap have some great lines together and a lot of tension. They are the best of friends and the worst of friends throughout the movie. The creation of Ultron, the loss of Loki's staff, and the creation of Vision allow for all three to have differing opinions and literally fight each other over who is right. This sets up Civil War up very well as well as Infinity War.

5. Ultron

Image result for ultron age of ultron

Most will agree that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is lacking villains that we care about. The game has officially changed with Ultron. He was conniving, menacing, brilliant, and funny. He was tragic, idealistic, and fanatical. He has all of the qualities one would hope to see in just a dynamic character, let alone a villain. What really lent to the character was James Spader's genius voice work and Tony Stark's personality qualities. The marrying of these two aspects are what helped make it easier to create a villain that could challenge the team in a way we've never seen before. It brought something new to the table with all the flavor of a classic villain hellbent on world destruction. I hope that this isn't the actual last of Ultron we see.

What Did Not Work?

1. The Cut

When watching this movie, there are certain scenes where it is too obvious that the scene was cut shorter for the sake of time. Many movies do this, but unfortunately some of these scenes seem to stick out. For instance, Thor's re-entrance into his dream sequence was obviously cut down and reworked to fit the time of the movie. It was very interesting and I wish we were able to see more of this side storyline, but I understand why it was shaved off. I just wish it wasn't so obvious. Also, while the team is at Hawkeye's house it seems like there was more going on with the characters, but that too was cut down for the sake of overall time. For a moment in the movie that is supposed to be a rest from the action, it seemed to still move very fast. 

2. The Accents

I know that they wanted their Quicksilver to stand out and be different from Fox's Quicksilver, but did they really need him and Wanda to be Eastern European? Both Fox and Marvel must take large liberties with the character because neither can use him or her to their full advantage, but it seems like an unnecessary addition to the movie to have two talented actors do horrible accents for characters that didn't need to be from that part of the world. Marvel just seemed to reach too far with their wanting to make the characters different, and in doing so, almost took me out of the movie every time one of these actors spoke. It's so unfortunate because both are extremely good actors and had some very good lines, but when spoken in that accent it just comes off as campy and amateur.

3. Joss vs. Marvel

This wasn't as apparent at first, but after seeing it several times now, it is clear that Joss Whedon had a very different vision in his mind that didn't make it to the big screen. Now, I know that the studio and producers should have a lot of say in what makes it into the final cut, however, Joss knows these characters so well and has proven himself worthy of guiding the team through universe changing events. It seems like Marvel perhaps should have listened to him a bit more. Also, Joss in recent interviews seems to be a bit bitter when talking about Marvel and the process of getting this film done. However, this is a minor complaint, that again, is not that apparent. 

4. Ultron's Evolution

Image result for ultron age of ultron

Even though the pace was extremely fast, it was still too jarring to see Ultron transform from a broken piece of scrap metal to a fully formed sentient robot. It was literally from one scene to the next. Then after the second battle he and the Avengers have, he already has his Vibranium body. It just seemed too fast, and like his struggle for evolution wasn't fleshed out as much as it could have been.

5. Where We Are Left

Once Ultron is destroyed the movie ends in like 5 minutes. It was not long enough for us to breathe and calm down like the team apparently had. Also, I'm fine with a new team of Avengers forming, but it didn't seem like a good spot to end to prepare us for Ant-Man, Civil-War, or any other upcoming Marvel film. Now, I know that they should focus on making a movie good by itself first, before they try to set up other films, but I feel like Marvel has set a standard of universe building and easter-egg hunting that they just didn't live up to in this film. It's not a big criticism, but it's one that has left me feeling a bit curious. After several viewings already, I can honestly say there are not very many easter-eggs to be found and roads left untraveled allowing us to wonder what is to come.

Should You See It?
OF COURSE! You'd be dumb not to go see it. To be honest, it was hard to find things in this movie that were negative. I really had to try and nit pick just to find the few that I did find, however this movie is overwhelmingly awesome and spectacular. It has everything we've come to expect out of an Avengers' movie and improved in the areas that felt a little less than great in the first movie. We got to see our team grow and intensify emotionally not only with each other but with themselves as well. This is a blockbuster in it's truest form. It keeps you engaged, enthralled, and excited throughout the entire movie. It's satisfying on almost every level and a job well done by Joss Whedon and Marvel.


Apr 27, 2015

Inhumans Vol. 2 part one

After I subscribed to marvel unlimited, I started reading Comic Book Herald's excellent marvel comic complete reading order in preparation for civil war. I finished reading Inhumans Vol. 2 and here's what I got from it.

     The Inhumans is a society of people who were genetically modified by the Kree to be weapons in their war against the galaxy. Ultimately they were considered a failure and left behind on Earth. By being exposed to the terrigen mists their abilities are revealed.

     The Inhumans are lead by the royal family. Black Bolt, their king, has a destructive voice; one whisper can read havoc on his enemies arena friends alike. Medusa, the queen, reads Black Bolt's intentions and relays them. Her power is her prehensile hair. Crystal, Medusa ' sister can control the elements. Cousin Gorgon can make the earth quake by stomping his bull like legs, Cousin Karnak was not exposed to the mists. He is an excellent martial artist and can sense the opponent's weak points. Karnak ' brother Triton is a fish man. Lockjaw, an extra large bulldog who transports them. Black Bolt's brother, Maximus the Mad, can control minds; he is angry that Bolt accidentally  killed their parents after he gained his power and now wants to overthrow Black Bolt's throne.

    This is a good volume about what it takes for the ruler of a hidden city of meta-humans in a time of crisis to lead and secure his city while trying keep from destroying all of humankind.

      Now, Black Bolt, he’s a mysterious character, and at the beginning of "Sonic Youth," he is acting more suspicious to the royal family. Gorgon questions his passive intentions, Karnak who sees the flaw in everything, can not find a weakness in Black Bolt, Medusa, his wife and proxy, can not read his intents. Seeding the beginnings of the story arc, Bolt's brother, Maximus, who blames Bolt and his power for the death of their parents, seeks to rule Attilan while a Portuguese comprised mercenary army stands outside the protective barrier after the city ready to attack. I felt this book gave me a good idea of who each of the Inhumans in the royal family are and set up the volume well.

     “Genotypical” follows the terrigenesis of the next selection of worthy teens. This book felt out of place after all the setup in the first book, it felt like it broke tension that didn’t exist. Six teens are chosen for transformation via the terrigen mists. One of the chosen, the scared and unsure Tonaja, mutates into a flier, a currently rare, highly regarded mutation. Dewoz’s transformation however, is lost as an Alpha Primitive, the genetically engineered slave labor for the city, confined to the bowels of the city. The others while less important to the overall story are still present in the later half of the run filling out the ranks, giving us a connection to those on the front line.

    "Ghost in the Machine" takes a philosophical look at terrigenesis, Inhuman society and fate. Karnak explains that previous research into terrigenesis has shown mutations are adapted to future needs of the society; if a specific role is lost, a flier in the current example Tonaja, it will be replaced within three years. Losing an Inhuman to an Alpha Primitive or another useless mutation, not only is a blemish on family and society, but one less inhuman to fill the ranks, one step closer to extinction of the species. This was an interesting take on terrigenesis; not just a powerful mutation, but a doomsday clock counting the generations until their end. Not long after Woz is taken under the city to the Alpha Primitives, he discovers his true power of traveling through one mirror to another; this first jump ends with the mirror in Maximus' cell. This made the previous issue make more sense and solidified the how of Maximus’ plan from the first book as well.

    "Chinese Whispers" is one of my favorite comic stories; the (re)action of the general public. Mr. Fantastic on the Bill Maher show, Jay Leno making topical humor, professor's lectures and a copy cat cult group. This is what makes the comic feel grounded in reality, more like I'm reading a historical account of the stand off than a work of fiction. This book also introduces Namor's connection to Attilan and the Inhumans, believing Attilan is the risen city Atlantis. We also get to see the further plot of Maximus to take over his brother’s city by having Woz running errands for the madman, including bringing KGB agent Stalyenko into Maximus' cell. I really liked finding out Maximus was planning everything from the beginning, if you’re going to make a plan this is where you start, the beginning.

    "First Contact,” now, this is where Gorgon steps up and starts vocalizing his disdain for Black Bolt’s inaction. The KGB lead army begins its assault on the city of Attilan, soon after a, for lack of a better term, strike team of Inhumans go out to face their attackers to try and scare them away by showing them the Attilan’s lack of fear of the situation. Bolt catches a shell (cannon ball?) and after Salyenko spits on Black Bolt, crushes it in front of his face, a show of great strength and great restraint. The UN is visited by a group of diplomats from Attilan and say they will not help, but give them a token gift (a disrupter given to the US by none other than Black Widow in the beginning of this comic). Meanwhile, Maximus speaks to Woz about being brave in the face of humanity lest they will harm you, reiterating the inner dialogue that his brother began the comic with. Wrapping up this book, Karnak sees that the humans are not trying to break the first barrier, but overload it during the storm only too late. Another ingenious plan brought to you by your intricate planner Maximus.

    There's a couple of my favorite panels in "Welcome to the Jungle," two silent panels showing Black Bolts' resolve. His conviction to remain non-violent in his his interaction with the attacking humans. The first panel (page 7) shows the royal family standing behind Bolt; following him reluctantly as he has seemingly turned his back on not only them, but all of Attilan. The repercussions of Bolts' choice come to light as the mercenary army steadily breaks down Attilan's every defence. Gorgon continues to question Black Bolt as the walls come tumbling down and is summarily rebuked, Karnak reiterates that Bolt's word is final and Medusa visits Maximus in hopes of understanding the decision made by her betroved.