Steven graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications, focusing on film studies, journalism and theatre arts. Dubbed a "prolific" writer by Hollywood icon Kenneth Johnson (The Incredible Hulk, V, The Bionic Woman, Alien Nation), Steven has been honored by the Arkansas College Media Association for his story writing prowess. He has also received recognition for his dramatic writing from the Eerie, Shriekfest and Screamfest horror film festivals. Publications include: Carroll County News, Saline Courier, Forum, Echo and Moroch.
"Avengers: Age of Ultron" early screenings begin Thursday at 7 p.m.
Marvel's answer to Jim Cameron's mechanized menace the Terminator comes to fruition in the form of the penultimate superhero baddie Ultron (James Spader) in the new film "Avengers: Age of Ultron. Writer and director Joss Whedon has created a sequel that is, in the words of the Mighty Thor, "worthy" of the original, but the ending is not nearly as satisfying as the conclusion to "The Avengers" (2012). However, it seems necessary, because the devastation left in Ultron's wake fashions the upcoming future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
"Age of Ultron" features MCU alumni Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Cobie Smulders, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany and Samuel L. Jackson. Joining the fun are newcomers Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and James Spader.
Get your popcorn, candy and sodas quickly! Don't be late to your seat, because the movie literally hits the ground running with a breathtaking opening sequence of the Avengers storming the snowy fortress of Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann).
After a brief but violent encounter with Strucker's thugs and his Homo superior soldiers the Scarlet Witch (Olsen) and her twin brother Quicksilver (Johnson), the Avengers breach the stronghold. Iron Man/Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) recovers the missing scepter used by Thor's (Hemsworth) evil brother Loki in the original film. But before he can abscond with the staff, Tony's mind is manipulated by Scarlet Witch.
She uses her mind-control powers to show Tony a horrifying phantasm. In this apocalyptic future, Stark watches helplessly as his friends and comrades are murdered and the world is left ravaged. Tony decides to take action, after the vision and his inspection of Strucker's enhancement experiments.
Without the knowledge of the rest of the squad, Tony and Dr. Banner (Ruffalo) use the scepter's power source, aka an Infinity Stone, to create an artificial intelligence to bring Stark's army of protective Iron Men aka the Iron Legion to life. The plan goes horribly wrong when Ultron (Spader) is given life and becomes a sentient being that partially reflects his creator and father.
Ultron reveals his presence at a party where the Avengers celebrate their recovery of the scepter. Ultron has a brief scuffle with our heroes, before his consciousness is forced to concede defeat and he escapes through the internet The future tyrant of his cleansed-of-humans Earth quickly assimilates every last piece of information about the Avengers, before he seeks out the aid of the "enhanced" twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
It isn't until Scarlet Witch is able to penetrate Ultron's mind that she realizes he means to exterminate the human race to save Earth. The twins quickly switch their allegiance to the Avengers, along with Ultron's unfinished creation the Vision (Bettany). Reprogrammed with Stark's A.I. known as Jarvis, Vision becomes a pivotal team member. It all leads at an epic battle for the fate of the Earth and all its inhabitants.
The film delicately and effectively balances new characters with fan favorites and a formidable agent of evil. While the movie works well, and is extremely entertaining, it lacks a few ingredients that made "The Avengers" so memorable. The most critical difference between the original picture and the sequel is the caliber of villain. Ultron is a daunting evildoer, without question, but he's no Loki.
There was something so charismatic and loathsome at the same time about Tom Hiddleston's performance of Thor's whiny, brat of a brother. Those combinations of elements are noticeably absent in "Age of Ultron." Spader is an excellent actor, he's very good, but he just doesn't emulate the same cold and calculating threat.
The fact that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver aren't actually mutants may not sit well with diehard Marvel Comics fans. Instead, the Maximoff twins are instead volunteers to Hydra's cause and the experiments of Strucker. "Age of Ultron" missed a golden opportunity here to acknowledge and expand their so-called cinematic universe by sticking more closely to the twin's true origins.
The final scrutiny of "Age of Ultron" comes with its ending. While the original and sequel stack up very well with one another in most aspects of storytelling, production and acting, it is their respective third acts that really separate the men from the boys. "The Avengers" was so satisfying with victory being achieved and the core group bonding and being formed and forged in the heat of battle. "Age of Ultron" is quite the opposite. Instead, the Avengers still prove triumphant, of course, but not without serious consequences that reshape the team and their future together. Crucial changes are coming that concern three of the core four Avengers.
Now, some of the fun storylines woven into the main plot include a romance brewing between Banner and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Johansson), a look into the personal life of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Renner) and a glimpse at the feud between Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man that will lead to next summer's "Captain America: Civil War."
The script is solid, the production value is off the charts and the special effects will satisfy most die-hard moviegoers. Next to the final confrontation, the best of the best comes when Scarlet Witch messes with the Hulk's mind and sends him on a Godzilla-like rampage. And since the Witch has effectively neutralized the rest of the team with her mind powers, it's up to Stark and his Hulkbuster armor to tame the not-so-jolly, green giant. It's five minutes of fandom and lovelorn for comic books and film that should enthrall audiences.
Skip to the final paragraph, if you don't want to know the cool secrets and Easter Eggs of "Age of Ultron."
Whedon has not made the future of the Avengers franchise an easy trek, especially with the announcement of not one but two more sequels in the form of the "Infinity War Parts I and II." If the film took place today, here is the team that would face off against Thanos. This is pathetic, by the way:
- Captain America
- Black Widow
- War Machine
- The Falcon
- Scarlet Witch
Hmm, where are Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye and the Hulk? Oh, that's right, they're all gone! At the film's conclusion Hawkeye has returned to his wife and children, Thor has returned to Asgard to pursue leads on the Infinity Stones, Iron Man has stepped away and the Hulk has gone back into hiding. One would hope that these mainstays will return for the "Infinity War," but that is certainly up in the air now. Way to go Whedon!
There are a ton of supporting roles and cameos sprinkled throughout "Age of Ultron" including Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, Don Cheadle as the War Machine and Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Idris Elba (Heimdall) and Stellan Skarsgard (Erik Selvig) all appearing. There's even a credit's scene featuring Josh Brolin as the ultimate Avenger's villain Thanos.
The film also seems to have a heavy dose of Captain America and Iron Man compared to Hulk and Thor. The beginnings of Rogers and Stark's future feud in the "Civil War" appear, as does their growing friendship. This contradiction will make the emotional value of the "CW" even richer, because of audiences' deep investments in these intricate characters.
Yes, Banner finally kisses Natasha! However, after his deadly rampage at the hands of Scarlet Witch, Bruce retreats into himself, including his old notions of his place in the world, and he decides he is too dangerous to be around people. At the end, despite Black Widow pleading for him to return, the Hulk cuts off communications and flies away in a stealth-shielded fighter. Unable to trace him, Natasha watches helplessly as her love flies out of her life.
Before his self-imposed exile, Hulk does get another huge laugh as he takes on Ultron. Damaged and on his way to defeat, Ultron tries escaping in a jet. The Hulk jumps aboard and approaches the demented devil. Off screen, audiences can hear a tussle and then Ultron screaming "Oh, for God's sake," as the Incredible Hulk throws Ultron from the plane and sends him hurling back to the earth below. It's there that the Scarlet Witch rips out Ultron's heart, aka power source, before Vision destroys that last Ultron minion carrying his essence.
The bitterest pill to swallow is when Quicksilver sacrifices himself to save Hawkeye. Agent Barton attempts to save a young boy when Ultron sends a barrage of gun fire their way. Accepting his fate, Hawkeye breathes and prepares for the end, as he shields the young boy's body from the bullets. Quicksilver speeds between the gunfire and Hawkeye, taking the fatal blast. Scarlet Witch senses her brother's death and is inconsolable. It's just more heartbreak that pulls the third act down and will leave many unsatisfied with the conclusion.
Despite, the tiny allotment of flaws and the depressing nature of the finale, "Avengers: Age of Ultron" most definitely delivers as the summer's most anticipated movie event. No other film during May, June, July or August will have much chance of dethroning Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America from their likely utter dominance of the box office. It may not be until "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" that we see a true contender in terms of hype, appeal and fan satisfaction that will be reflected in box office dollars and rave reviews.