Avengers: Age of Ultron Somber Revisit to the Verse

Poster for Avengers 2

After having to wait for iTunes to stop offering Avengers: Age of  Ultron for purchase (sorry but if it’s to own, Blu-Ray with a load of extras is how this reviewer rolls) and giving punters the chance to just rent Joss Whedon and Marvel’s follow up to The Avengers (Assemble) the viewing experience turned out to be a somber revisit to the Marvel verse. The sobering sequel introduces two new characters, one lasting much longer than the other (Scarlet Witch aka Elizabeth Olsen) who becomes a member of the home team before the end credits roll.

This sequel is darker than the first. It also has less of the obvious Whedon touches. There are, most likely, a number of reason for this holding back of the Joss effect.

Firstly, it is not news to anyone who loves the Avengers films that Joss “Is Boss” Whedon  is bowing out of the business of forging the films.  As Whedon also has a small screen version of the Marvel world to produce weekly, it makes a huge amount of sense to leave the big screen shenanigans up to another director/writer to play with.

Secondly, things in the comic book world of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man (Tony Stark) Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, et al are due to become very dark indeed with the next installment dealing with the infinity war, civil war, the death of Cap and any number of dark and disturbing issues in Marvel land.

The Avengers did have  Joss Whedon all over it, a clear stamp of his wit, framing, dialogue and directorial genius. Avengers: Age of Ultron feels grim, in comparison, and dangerous. The overly clever wit has been toned down and is less Joss than usual. (Although the Iron Man scene where Stark says, after shooting all the bad guys in the room is, “Good talk,” and an obviously in-pain shot guard moans, “No it wasn’t.” Pure unadulterated Whedon.)

*Sidenote* Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury gets what may just be the best, i.e. funniest, line of the film. Speaking about Ultron’s building up of an army, he says that he is producing quicker than a “Catholic Rabbit.” While this may not necessarily go over very well with the Pope, is it very, very funny. Although Spader’s Ultron comes a very close second with his “I can’t physically throw up in my mouth, but …”

Why?

Well, as stated above, Whedon is due to hand over the reins of power to Joe and Anthony Russo for Avengers 3 Part one (due out in 2018).  Also, as mentioned above, fans of the comic books for each of the main characters know that dark days are coming and this has also, apparently necessitated a change in style. The franchise should not have a huge shift in directorial influence with some transition. Hence the darker feel.

The film is not, however, without its amusing moments but the banter is either missing or toned down to near nonexistence.  The entire storyline is sobering, so much so that even the re-emergence of Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury fails to elicit  a cheer.  James Spader, who plays Ultron, kills it, sounding uncannily like Tony Stark, with the way he delivers many of his  lines  and feeling like the ultimate rebellious teenager who wants desperately to overpower/outperform  his father (Stark).

The plot in the second Avengers film has Tony Stark doing what he does best,  acting independently, although he has Dr. Banner (the Hulk) helping him. He develops an AI peacekeeper to help defend earth. Ultron, his creation, is flawed and ultimately decides that mankind must evolve to survive. Unfortunately his idea of evolution is an enforced extinction of the species therefore allowing  one to take over.

All of the Avengers must reform and evolve  in order to face and defeat this threat, in the process, Tony and Banner create Vision (Jarvis with an infinity stone in his biotic forehead).  While the film feels a bit sobering, there are a still a few moments of levity and a couple of things that tell us these uneasy team members were meshing very well, until the rise of Ultron.

Hawkeye and The Black Widow are Clint and Nat. Bruce and Natasha have “a thing” and we learn a whole lot more about Barton. For instance, he has a house in the country with kids and his wife Laura is played by  Linda Cardellini.   Clint also has DIY fever and constantly remodels the house.  

This iteration of the Avengers has our heroes fighting an even bigger army with a huge threat going on all about them. A huge section of ground that, when released from its ever increasing height, will annihilate life on earth is the battleground setting where all the heroes fight Ultron’s mechanized troops.

Andy Serkis has a  brilliant cameo and he is not in a mo-cap suit for once. Elizabeth Olsen kills it as the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff)  as does Aaron Taylor-Johnson who plays brother Pietro (Quicksilver). Paul Bettany finally gets to show off more than his dulcet tones and he proves to be just as impressive in the “flesh.”

The ubiquitous Stan Lee cameo comes at the start of the film and is said to be Stan’s favorite one to date. “Excelsior” aside, the film has a lot of memorable moments.  The scenes are on par with the first foray into the big screen world of Marvel heroes.  We have some backstory for Natasha, courtesy of the Scarlet Witch, and we learn what Tony Stark really fears.

By the time the film ends, we have a new group of Avengers, Stark has stepped away from the new “S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Cap is still heading up the organization.  Vision looks to be the new “in the trenches” leader of the group and Earth is still under threat.

As a sort of PS type sidenote, the whole Captain America schtick of “Language” was amusing as was Stark in his Hulk suit beating the Hulk’s head into the pavement while  repeating desperately “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to…” Almost as good as Tony then knocking out one of the big guy’s teeth and saying in a very little voice, “I’m sorry.”

Even though the overall feel of this Avengers outing was  a little less Joss and more transitional, the film is, like the first, an exciting experience.  There were, however, no goosebumps inducing moments, as in the first film.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a 5 out of 5 stars for entertainment value and because (Duh!) it’s Joss Whedon, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chis Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Cobie…

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Teaser Ape Army (Video)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Teaser Ape Army (Video)

In keeping with the theme of a post apocalyptic world, the first teaser of the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes aired during the season finale of The Walking Dead and it shows an Ape army ready to ride into battle. Timing for the teaser clip shown on AMC during the Dead season four finale could not have been better for maximum coverage.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Teaser Ape Army (Video)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Teaser Ape Army (Video)

In keeping with the theme of a post apocalyptic world, the first teaser of the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes aired during the season finale of The Walking Dead and it shows an Ape army ready to ride into battle. Timing for the teaser clip shown on AMC during the Dead season four finale could not have been better for maximum coverage.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): Hail Caesar

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Rupert Wyatt,  Rise of the Planet of the Apes  is nothing short of magnificent.  My daughter and I saw this at the cinema and let me tell you, getting to watch  Andy Serkis as Caesar, was worth the price of admission.

Since I’m going to be writing about this film, I’ll explain now that I’ll be referring to it as just Apes from now on. And that honestly is my only complaint about the film. The length of it’s title. Apart from that, the film was nigh-on perfect. So perfect that I did not hesitate to buy the Triple Play Blu-Ray DVD the second it hit the stores.

Of course Andy Serkis was not the only performer who gave a sterling performance in Apes. The cast itself was of a high calibre and also well worth the price of admission. James Franco (Spider-man 1,2,and 3), Freida Pinto (in her third film), John Lithgow (Lord Farquaad in Shrek, Harry and the Hendersons), Brian Cox (in just about every movie made in the last twenty years) and not to forget Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter films. It seems that acting snotty is Felton’s speciality.

I am sure that there are some other films that have been remade as much as the Planet of the Apes, but off-hand I can’t think of them. Of course having just written that, I remembered that The Hulk at the very least ties with Planet of the Apes in terms of re-makes.

Planet of the Apes (1968 film)

The first Planet of the Apes was made in 1968 and it was a”Landmark” film.  Starring Charlton Heston, It featured full frontal male nudity, it featured state-of-the-art prosthetic masks and make-up for the ‘apes’, and it had no less than five sequels.In 20o1 it was re-made by Tim Burton with a stellar cast. And now we have a “re-boot” version that pretty much trumps the other two versions of the film.Planet of the Apes (2001 film)

The plot does vary from the original, so here it is in a very condensed form.Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist. He has been working on a cure for alzheimer’s, which his father Charles (John Lithgow) suffers from. Will has been experimenting on apes and has come up with a formula that increases their intelligence and overall ability.When the company that Will works for put on a presentation of his progress, Will’s prize ape (the female ape that has responded the best to the formula) goes berserk.

Not only does she scare the hell out of the attendees but she has to be killed by a guard before she can harm anyone. Will’s boss, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders the rest of the apes destroyed. While cleaning out the female ape’s ‘cage’ they find that she went mad because she thought her baby was in danger.

Rather than destroying the baby ape, Will takes him home to raise him and provide some sort of companionship for his father. Will discovers the the baby ape, who his father Charles names Caesar, has the improved intelligence of his mother.

Charles’s condition is getting worse and in desperation Will starts giving his dad the formula that was used on Caesar’s mother. He improves dramatically, but the change is only temporary. When Charles is accosted by a neighbour, Caesar protects Charles and savagely attacks the neighbour.

Caesar is then put into an animal shelter run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his son Dodge (Tom Felton). Meanwhile, Will has perfected the formula that he first used and has gotten permission to continue experiments with a new group of apes.

That is where I have to stop because I don’t want to  be accused of spoiling anything. I will say that you will be on the ape’s side for most if not all of the film. There are places in the film where you just want to cheer, rage against the character (human characters), bang your fist in frustration, and sit on the edge of your seat in suspence. You will laugh and if you don’t cry a little, you will at least get a lump in your throat.

The use of Motion Capture in the film has been improved and the CGI is faultless. I did not at any time  think that the apes were not real. The smoothness and the reality of the fx were perfect and really helped you get carried away with the film.

I will leave you with one bit of advice: Do not miss this film.