Tag Archives: Joss Whedon

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

International-Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster

The Avengers was an ambitious experiment that surprisingly succeeded despite the naysayers and the weight of expectations. The idea that you could create an ensemble superhero feature by taking a bunch of characters with their own franchises was risky, but thanks to the genius of Joss Whedon it turned out to be one of best superhero films of all time.

And so I was excited about the inevitable sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I was also wary of unreasonable expectations. After all, what else could they do to improve on what was essentially a near-perfect formula?

As it turns out, not a whole lot. Joss Whedon tried a few new things and did all he could lift the bar again on the coolness and wow factors, though when you boil it down, Avengers 2 is basically the same movie as its predecessor. For a lot of people, that’s good enough.

You have the same superstar cast with a few notable new additions, some fresh faces and some familiar faces from existing franchises (I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say there were will be surprises unless you’ve been following the production closely). You have eye-popping special effects that turn the screen into a beautiful and coordinated mess of flying bodies, projectiles and explosions. You have an intelligent villain who controls an army of fairly useless robots and appears to have a bunch of mysterious schemes, but all he really wants to do is what all supervillains want to do: destroy Earth. And of course tensions will flare between our heroes and all will seem bleak, but in the end they realise — yet again — that unity is their greatest strength.

Running alongside this proven formula is all the stuff the comic book geeks want. Most of it will likely go right over he heads of regular viewers, but from what I understand there were plenty of well-placed leads into other characters and comics in the Marvel universe that set up the future direction of the franchise as a whole (you can read up on all that in your spare time if you can be bothered).

Despite not doing a whole lot different, Avengers 2 is still an entertaining blast fans of the first film will no doubt enjoy. Whedon finds creative ways to pit different members of the Avengers against each other and show off cool new powers and gadgets, while also giving existing characters opportunities to develop and evolve. Much of it is fairly shallow but I suppose it’s better than not trying at all.

The action itself is also varied and clever so that it’s not just a rehash or imitation of what has been done before. As usual, it’s all heavily reliant on CGI, though it’s done seamlessly enough that it allows you to be immersed in the action. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s an upgrade from the original, but it’s at least different enough so you realise you’re not watching the same film.

The cast is of course spectacular, with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye (also known as the shittier members of the Avengers) getting upgraded roles to get equal screen time — at least — with the main leads of Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans. Of the four, it felt like only Chris Evans did not display noticeable signs of character fatigue. Downey Jr, in particular, simply looks like he’s fed up with playing the same character over and over, and he’s pretty much said as much interviews about the future of Iron Man.

The two new characters introduced are Soviet twins the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) — who coincidentally played wife and husband in Godzilla last year. The former has mind control powers and what appears to be a similar power to The Force, while the latter has the ability to move extremely fast. Both were kind of disappointing, to be honest, partly because of the strained Russian accents and partly because they don’t get much time to develop, especially Quicksilver, who pales in comparison to the version of the character in X-Men: Days of Future Past played by Evan Peters.

The titular villain, Ultron, voiced by James Spader, received a lot of attention throughout the production but ultimately wasn’t as impressive as I thought he would be. He’s formidable and intelligent, much like Loki was in The Avengers, but he didn’t add as much to the table as I had wanted. Spader’s voice is great, but never did I feel like he was truly capable of defeating the Avengers.

On the whole, Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t as fun as The Avengers, but Joss Whedon fuels it with just enough enthusiasm and excitement for me to rate the experience as on par with its predecessor. As a piece of popcorn entertainment there’s not much I can complain about. He took the “why fix it if it ain’t broke” approach, upped the ante on the action and special effects, took the characters to the next level in their natural progressions, added some faces he knew fans would like to see, created new branches for future storylines, and even threw in a few nice little surprises.  It is of course not as fresh as the original, and it’s also not as funny, though all things considered the film takes the Avengers formula about as far as it can go. From here, it’s clear that Marvel has even bigger things planned for the future, and while the Avengers could very well return in future films, their presence and involvement will have to be very different to what it has been.

4 stars out of 5

PS: There’s a short mid-credits scene this time, but don’t bother sticking around until the end because there’s nothing there.

Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

I seriously cannot believe that The Cabin in the Woods, co-written and directed by Cloverfield screenwriter Drew Goddard and co-written and produced by the legendary Joss Whedon (he has to be now, after The Avengers), almost went straight to DVD.

I don’t care if it was because the studio was experiencing financial difficulties – while crappy torture porn and gimmicky 3D horror movies (you know what they are) continue to flood our cinemas, one of the THE best horror movies in recent years was on the brink of being shafted directly to the small screen. Are you kidding me?

It’s really hard to talk about The Cabin in the Woods without releasing a cascade of spoilers, so I’ll be careful. It has a typical teen-slasher premise – five college kids (three guys and two girls, led by Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth) with varying character traits go on a holiday to some in-the-middle-of-nowhere cabin in the woods, where nasty stuff is bound to be awaiting them.

But you see, the clichéd set up is only part of the film’s genius. This is a brilliant, incredibly creative horror movie that pays homage to the classics of the genre and tears down just about everything that has gone wrong with horror in the last few years.

Whedon called it a “loving hate letter” to the genre, which he and Goddard felt had devolved with the introduction of torture porn (and you know it absolutely positively has). This is what he had to say:

“On another level it’s a serious critique of what we love and what we don’t about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be alright but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don’t like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had swung a little too far in that direction.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you again, Joss Whedon.

What I love about the film, apart from the scares and thrills, and the flat-out awesome laughs, is that it is presented as a giant mystery that keeps everyone guessing right from the beginning until the very end. You see, there is another part to this movie, outside of the cabin, that will have audiences wondering what the heck is going on. And watching the mystery unravel, piece by piece, is a huge part of the film’s charm.

The film reaches an apex about 15 minutes or so before the end, at which stage the mystery was explained to a level of perfection. I would have been happy for things to end right then and there, but sadly, the film just couldn’t help itself and kept going until it spiralled out of control. Granted, there were some magnificent scenes in those last few moments, but the “final revelation” really ruined it for me.

Nonetheless, despite the unfortunate turn of events stemming from Whedon and Goddard’s desire to “explain everything”, The Cabin in the Woods borders on an instant classic – it’s one of those rare films that has the potential to spur a new generation of horror movies like say Scream or the original Saw. When all is said and done, this is one I’m going to be remember for a very long time.

4 stars out of 5