Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Director: Joss Whedon

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, and Mark Ruffalo

Original Release Date: May 1st 2015

After three years the sequel to the most successful superhero movie of all time has finally dawned upon us. I know I said I’d review this after I watched everything that the MCU has to offer, but I fell behind and I am most certainly not missing Age of Ultron for anything. I’ll have a review up for the first season of Agents of SHIELD very soon, but in the meantime lets talk about the Avengers, because lets face it we care about that more.

Age of Ultron does not wait to get the action going. The movie starts right as the Avengers lay siege to a secret Hydra base, it’s there that Tony Stark discovers that Hydra has been conducting experiments with Chitauri technology, and more importantly the staff given to Loki by the mad titan Thanos. Using the alien technology within the staff Stark decides to finish the Ultron Project, a means to put a “suit of armour” around the world when the Avengers cannot defend it. Unfortunately for Stark the powerful A.I becomes self aware and declares that Humans are the true danger to the planet and that the only way to save the world is for the extinction of the Human race.

Just like the first film where this movie stays strong is when our characters interact outside of combat. Joss Whedon loves his banter, and Age of Ultron certainly shows it. Just seeing these characters interact is a comic book geeks dream come true, and while the novelty of the Avengers teaming up has died off that doesn’t mean we can’t get some great scenes with our favourite heroes. It seems like Whedon has thrown his skill with banter up to an 11 because every single scene holds something special, each interaction is a stand out point amongst itself and any viewer can find something new to pick up on with the rapid pace dialogue.

The action set pieces in this movie are even more spectacular than the first film. Age of Ultron has more action than the first and every time our Avengers suit  up insanity will ensue. Every action scene is filled with multiple things at once, and Whedon really wants us to see our Avengers in action, now the crazed insanity of all the fight scenes are a little hard on the eyes and I might sound like a cranky old man but there is just so much on screen sometimes, but that’s my only complaint with the action, it’s all spectacular.

It seems that Whedon heard the pleas of many fans after the first film because many characters who don’t have their own franchises are given so much room to breath, especially Hawkeye.  Jeremy Renner didn’t get much to do in the first movie, for most of the run time he was a lapdog of Loki. In Age of Ultron Whedon has made sure that Hawkeye is the standout Avenger amongst the original cast (more on the new players soon). Whedon has really encapsulated Clint’s dry sense of humour and probably the funniest moment in the entire movie is given to the character during the films climax. Black Widow and the Hulk are also given a lot to do in this movie but their side plot is one of the many problems this movie has.

Our new Avengers are Quick Silver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany). Now I won’t talk about Vision because his character is best experienced fresh with no knowledge at all of his inclusion, but know this. Vision is one of the best parts of the entire movie and I cannot wait to see where they go with his character.

Many fans (myself included) were worried about how Marvel would translate Quicksilver on the big screen. Fox has already portrayed the character to utter perfection in last summers Days of Future Past. Now Aaron Taylor-Johnson does do a commendable job with the character but I have to say Evan Peters is still the better Quicksilver, and with that kitchen scene in Days of Future Past Age of Ultron couldn’t even hope to best it. Marvel does do a pretty good job at explaining how Quicksilver and his sister are not Mutants but at the end of the day I don’t think this iteration of the character will resonate with anyone.

Now the best, and I really mean the best character in this movie is Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch. I’ve been a very big fan of the youngest Olsen for a while now, it seems that within the last few years she’s finally making her mark on big budget films and Age of Ultron has assured us that we are going to see a lot of her in the future. Scarlet Witch’s  powers are complicated to say the least, the reality warping Mutant has been depowered quite a bit for this film, but she is still a force to reckon with. Scarlet Witch alone is a bigger threat to the Avengers than Ultron himself, and for the first two acts of the film both Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are lackies to the insane A.I. With all that’s going on in the movie telling the origin story of two new characters seemed like quite a feat, but Whedon somehow manages in one scene to make both characters motivations seem realistic.  I could watch Scarlet Witch use her abilities all day, the way she moves her hands is an intricate dance that’s hypnotising, I’m very happy that she’s now on the team.

His name is in the title and I have been waiting to see James Spader’s menacing Ultron face  the Avengers, unfortunately he’s the weakest part of the entire film. It really kills me to say this because every trailer made Ultron out to be the power threat and villain that the MCU desperately needed. Spader’s voice is a perfect fit to the character, its smooth and charming yet menacing and creepy, just what the character needs. However we never get to feel that Ultron is a threat at all to the Avengers, I even think Aldrich Killian could dismantle the A.I’s many bodies with ease.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers you’re going to have to throw any preconceived notions out of your head because Age of Ultron and the character himself are nothing that has been advertised. Ultron is a joking clown, and since Tony Stark has put his personality in the A.I it makes sense, but two Tony Starks are far too many.  I really think Kevin Feige needs to take a step back because Age of Ultron suffers from the same issues that Thor the Dark World had. The cutting room floor took away all of the character development that could have made a very interesting villain. We are given no reason to believe in Ultron’s motivations nor why he even hates Humans. He is created, goes insane almost instantly, fights the Avengers and then appears in his full form in a castle. It’s jarring to say the least and is a big shame because this character was what these movies needed.

Now this movie is far from perfect and it’s because Joss Whedon had to cut an hour out of the movie, yes you read that right. Age of Ultron was originally 3.5 hours long, I think that people would honestly sit through a over 3 hour Marvel film at this point. The movie never really feels like it starts, it feels like you’re in the middle of the movie. Plot points seem to already be developed and underway with no buildup at all. How do the Avengers know that Baron Strucker has Loki’s scepter? Why is Tony Stark Iron man again? And more importantly, where did the Ultron project come from? It seems that Stark had already been working on the project before the movie started, but as an audience we don’t know that. This isn’t a comic book it’s a movie and the two are very different mediums. Audiences sort of need to have these things figured out for them. Did Hank Pym originally start the Ultron Project but scrapped it?Or is it just a continuation of what Stark was doing in Iron man 3 (which seems more pointless than ever now).

There are also far to many random plot lines that only serve to lead up to future films. I thought after Iron man 2 Marvel had  learned their lesson. Age of Ultron feels like a buildup for Civil War and Infinity War Part I and II. Doing this just makes Age of Ultron feel sort of pointless, we need to feel that Ultrons plan is a terrifying world ending calamity; knowing that Thanos is out there plotting to use the Infinity Stones for his own means makes everything in this movie feel insignificant.

The Black Widow Hulk relationship also falls flat. Now, I’m not one to hate in any relationships in superhero movies, they just need to work. This relationship feels so out of left field, there is no buildup to it at all and as far as I’m concerned this was never even hinted at in the first Avengers film. What about Betty, Bruce? Seems like Marvel is just continuing to ignore the Incredible Hulk’s existence (probably because it’s a Universal film).  I also thought it was very strange that Bruce needs Natasha to calm himself down when he was the Hulk. I thought that after the first Avengers it was established that he could control it. It’s not like Joss to ignore/write over continuity, so I’m really curious why he did that.

The score by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman also falls flat. It feels very generic and forgettable and I cannot remember a single track from the film that was memorable. I even went back and listened to the soundtrack on it’s own and even Elfman’s work is very forgettable, which is a true shame because I know the two are very good composers. Tracks just all sound the same and don’t mesh well. I really miss Silvestri’s score, at least some of his themes are used and they’re the only stand out pieces in the music.

I also personally found the effects to be off as well. The cg looks, well, cg. You can tell that the Hulk and Ultron are not there, they feel disconnected from the rest of the sets and look very fake. For a film series that primarily relies on big cg effects you’d think that they would have put more work into the final print. The cg in the Incredible Hulk is more impressive than what’s on display here.

I know that Marvel is now known for its comedic aspects, but this movie could have used less comedy. Now before you go and call me a cynic let me reiterate something I said in my Iron man 3 review. Comedy is fine, but when it doesn’t serve the story it shouldn’t be there. Almost every line is a one liner from a character, now I don’t want all my movies to be dark and brooding like the Dark Knight but when the stakes are as high as in this I sort of want the situation to feel dire and you just don’t get that with this movie. The first Iron man and the Winter Soldier had the perfect balance in my opinion of humor and action, I just wish this movie followed their amazing example.

Age of Ultron is like a beautiful car crash, it’s filled with  great moments but there are so many issues with the plot. I think that everything that was cut could have served the film, instead the movie feels sort of jumbled and makes many of the issues in almost every category apparent. Is it better than the first Avengers? No, but it is still a fun film to watch even with it’s issues. I would still tell people to go see this movie because there is still some fun to be had. I just feel there were too many missed opportunities in what could have been an excellent film. A movie is only as good as it’s villain and when all of the promotional material is focused on Ultron you really wish there was more to be had once you walk out of the theatre.

Age of Ultron feels like filler, nothing mattered in this movie because we are always reminded that Thanos is out there trying to obtain the Infinity Stones. I thought this movie was supposed to be its own self contained story? Looks like it isn’t and Marvel really put themselves in a corner in the end.

I give the movie a 7/10

I am looking forward for the deleted scenes that have been confirmed to be on the bluray when it hits shelves. I just hope we don’t have an Amazing Spider-man situation on our hands here because it’s really looking like history is repeating itself.

Mass Effect 4: Leaked Details (rumor)

  • Takes place in the Helius Cluster in the Andromeda Galaxy, far removed by time and space from Commander Shepard’s heroic acts and the final events of the Mass Effect trilogy. 
  • You are a pathfinder, a combat trained but untested explorer leading an expedition into the Helius cluster to establish a new home for humanity.
  • This series of solar systems is over 4x the size of Mass Effect 3. 
  • Scour solar systems and planets within the Helius Cluster to find valuable resources and blueprints of long forgotten alien technology that will allow you to craft better equipment and weapons, such as improving your leg armor to allow you to jetpack jump, or upgrading your cryo-beam (laser cannon) to target enemies or do area damage around you to clear out close threats. As you build your arsenal and resource infrastructure, you will be able to explore deeper into the Helius Cluster.
  • To survive and colonize the wild reaches of space, you will need to grow your arsenal, your ship, your crew and make strategic (and often uneasy) alliances to fight against increasingly menacing foes. 
  • Along the way, you will encounter the remains of a once powerful and mysterious alien race, the Remnant, whose forgotten technology holds the key to gaining power in this region of the galaxy. As you uncover who the Remnant were, and the mysteries their ruins contain, you are drawn into a violent race to find the source of their forgotten technology that will determine the fate of humanity. 
  • Throughout the story, you will recruit seven distinct crew members to fight by your side. Each crew member has a unique personality and specific abilities that open up strategic options as you choose which two of them to bring into each mission. For example, Cora has the ability to deploy a biotic shield that protects everyone in the bubble while still allowing you and your squad to fire out of it. Your crew will grow alongside you as you explore the Helius Cluster, and you can choose how you upgrade your crew’s weapons, gear and abilities to increase their individual combat effectiveness. 
  •  Increase each crew member’s loyalty by pursuing missions that are important to that specific character. For example, when a Krogan colony ship has been stolen by one of the outlaw factions leaving the colonists stranded without resources to survive, your Krogan squad mate, Drack, is determined to strike out against them. If you take the mission and help him track down the outlaws’ hideout to return the ship to its rightful owners, Drack’s loyalty toward you and your squad will increase and Drack will unlock a brand new skill tree. 
  • “Horde” multiplayer pits you and up to three of your friends against waves of enemy troops on various battlefields throughout the galaxy. 
  • During certain conversations, you will be able to take action based choices, such as the option to pull out your gun and force someone to open a door instead of convincing them to do it through conversational guile. Action based choices give you more options for how you approach dialogue with characters in the game and can lead to more extreme outcomes on the story as it evolves around the decisions you make when interacting with a huge cast of NPC characters. 
  • Discover new things in Andromeda Galaxy, like alien artifacts and natural wonders, that serve as trophies and decorations that you can use to modify the look of your character, Tempest (Space Ship) and Mako (land vehicle). Customize the way your squad and your character look with clothes and aesthetic modifications that you unlock throughout the game. Photos you take from the far reaches of the galaxy can be used to decorate your starship or sold to certain characters. 

It’s necessary to point out Dragon Age: Inquisition was leaked in the same way - via an unverified survey. Chris Wynn has also hinted at ME4 taking place in Andromeda. I want to believe, if only because of: 

Finally, get your Mako looking the way you want with a custom paintjob.

Imagine this, but pink.

10 Solutions to the Fermi Paradox

Tentatively finding even the most faint sign of extraterrestrial life would be the single most important discovery in the history of mankind, it could possibly help us find answers to most pressing unsolved mysteries of science, like “how did life on Earth arise,” and, more importantly, “are we alone?”

On that note, as our body of knowledge and technological prowess grow, the size of our galaxy (and the universe itself) continues to be refined. We now know that the Milky Way—an ‘island universe’ that spans more than 100,000 light-years across—has between 200 and 400 billion stars. Further revisions to that number suggest our galaxy could have billions of habitable planets. Our search for these potentially habitable worlds has just begun, but surely, based on numbers alone, the environmental conditions of a select few must be conducive to life, and the sustainability of it.

The problem, of course, is that, after 56 years of searching, we have yet to uncover proof that intelligent life exists beyond Earth, which is where the Fermi Paradox comes in. It attempts to address the apparent contradiction between the calculations that say our galaxy may have hundreds of thousands of intelligent alien civilizations, and the lack of proof.

Most solutions are rather simple; things like “maybe life exists, it just hasn’t been around long enough to become intelligent yet;” or conversely, “ intelligent civilizations were around so long, they went extinct long ago” (after all, the Sun is rather young compared to the age of the Milky Way itself).) However, a few are pretty inventive.

In our new infographic, we take a look at 10 solutions to the Fermi paradox:

Professor Says Aliens Have Been Abducting Humans To Create Hybrids

Space Aliens Walk Among us? Indeed, Claims Retired Temple Professor

Retired professor David Jacob speaking from his Wyndmoor home.

THE WAY David M. Jacobs sees it, aliens from outer space have been kidnapping humans for aeons and sexually molesting them to create human-alien hybrids that walk among us today undetected and will soon take over Earth.

He knows that sounds crazy.

But he long ago quit caring what people think of him. As director of the International Center for Abduction Research, Jacobs, 71, has made it his life’s mission to investigate claims of extraterrestrial abduction.

“What I’m doing will either be an interesting but nonessential footnote to popular culture or the most important thing that’s ever happened to humankind. I see it as the latter,” said Jacobs, who’s now working on his fifth book, tentatively titled The New People.

While most people might write off UFO believers as deluded, conspiracy-theorist kooks, Jacobs isn’t your typical believer.

He was a tenured professor at Temple University, where he taught American history for 36 years before retiring in 2011. He’s a married father of two who lives in a picturesque, 134-year-old Victorian just over the Philadelphia line, in Wyndmoor. He makes his case with well-reasoned, articulate explanations and applies a scholarly approach to his research, which he has shared in four books - printed by well-known and academic publishers.

Jacobs has interviewed about 150 people who say they’ve been abducted by aliens, the forgotten details of their cosmic kidnappings resurfacing in relaxation sessions the self-taught hypnotist does in his home.

Citing public polls, he estimates that aliens have abducted more than a million Americans.

He readily admits that the evidence of extraterrestrial life and body-snatching is “weak,” muddied by an abundance of blurry photos and confabulation (phony or misinterpreted “memories”).

Yet he insists evidence exists:

* Abductees independently report similar experiences and recall common details, such as the humanlike or insectlike appearance of aliens and their mission to breed.
Many abductees told Jacobs that aliens stared deeply into their eyes, sometimes touching foreheads, in a neurological scan that enabled them to harvest human sperm and eggs. Women frequently claimed that aliens impregnated them, removed the alien-human hybrid fetuses from their wombs and forced the women to nurse the hybrid babies.

* People are physically absent during the time they say they were abducted, Jacobs said. Some families even have reported loved ones missing or seen them vanish, he added.

* Abductees sometimes are taken in groups; strangers who never met on Earth recall each other from their deep-space experiences, Jacobs said.

* People return with unusual marks, injuries or scars - including scar tissue that formed overnight, “a biological impossibility that I have seen myself,” he said.

His inconvenient truth

Temple University

For years, Jacobs shunned speaking locally about alien abductions.
“I knew that it was embarrassing to the university,” he said, remembering one Temple donor who threatened to end his charity unless Jacobs quit teaching his UFO class, the only one like it in the country.
But he didn’t quit. Still, his beliefs carried a cost: Tenured in 1981, he said he was twice rejected for promotion and never became a full professor at Temple.
“I was not rewarded for my views,” Jacobs said. “But you do not often find yourself in the middle of a phenomenon that allows you to make a contribution to something that could be of unsurpassing importance in human history.”

Jacobs is among a small but surprising array of well-known folks who reportedly believe in extraterrestrial life, including former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, former astronauts Edgar Mitchell and Gordon Cooper, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and celebrities Mick Jagger, Dan Aykroyd, Muhammad Ali and William Shatner.

On the skeptical side

Critics aren’t swayed by the big names.
Even smart people can believe weird things, said Michael Shermer, founder and editor of Skeptic magazine and a Scientific American columnist.

Shermer interviewed Jacobs for his weekly NPR show, shortly after Jacobs’ 1999 book, The Threat, was published. Shermer said Jacobs “spoke like an academic” but that his beliefs are rooted in his “circular, impenetrable argument” that sneaky aliens have lulled skeptics into disbelief and complacency.

William Hartmann, a senior scientist at the Arizona-based Planetary Science Institute, described Jacobs’ methods as concerning: “Dr. Jacobs’ website describes ‘alien abduction’ reports extracted under hypnosis, but my sense is that most of the scientific community gives little credence to reports coming from hypnosis,” Hartmann said.

Hartmann said he and other scientists examined “photo evidence” of UFOs as members of the U.S. Air Force’s “Condon Committee” in the late 1960s.

“I went in hoping to find real evidence of some extraordinary phenomena, but I came out feeling we had no convincing evidence we could take back to Congress or the USAF or public, and that the sociology of the UFO phenomenon was much more interesting than any actual physical evidence like the alleged photos,” he said.

The SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit science group based in California that searches for signs of extraterrestrial life. But a spokesman declined to comment on Jacobs or the possibility of aliens on Earth, saying that SETI hunts for signs of alien life in deep space, not here.

No 'gee-whiz thing’

Jacobs himself says he has never seen a UFO nor been abducted by aliens. “I’ve never been to Japan either, but that doesn’t mean Japan doesn’t exist,” he said.

He remains undaunted by skeptics. He has been a believer since he first began researching extraterrestrial life in 1970.

As a college student, he read about aliens and UFOs “for R&R” - but became entranced when he thought: “This could be real,” he said.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he switched his doctoral dissertation from the portrayal of women in pre-1915 films to the UFO controversy in America.

He began focusing on alien abductions in the 1980s and vows to continue that research even as it terrifies him more each day.

“I used to think it was the most amazing, wowee, gee-whiz thing,” Jacobs said. “But the more I learn about it, the more I fear it, the more I don’t want to have anything to do with it.”

That’s because he suspects that aliens are intent upon planetary domination, as humans remain mired in ignorance and denial.

“This is a clandestine phenomenon,” Jacobs said. “There is one thing that I can say for sure: They don’t want us to know what they’re doing - because what they’re doing benefits them and not us.”


What Is a Von Neumann Probe?

In celebration of what would be John Von Neumann’s 111th birthday, we thought we would take a look at one of his most fascinating contributions to science: the Von Neumann probe. Simply put, a Von Neumann probe is a self-replicating device that could one day be used to explore every facet of the Milky Way in a relatively small window of time.

The general idea is to build a device out of materials that are readily available and easily accessible out in space, like on rocky planets or small moons. Once it finds a suitable destination, it lands and mines the material it needs to build even more devices, which, in turn, land on other planets and moons and build even more.

The system is very effective, and by some estimates, it would take around half a million years to dispatch millions of probes across our galaxy, assuming each one travels at approximately 1/10th the speed of light, or 18,640 miles (30,000 km) per second (though the real number could be closer to ten million years, which is still no time at all in the grand scheme of things).

Learn more here:

Concept art by Mark Molnar