Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron photo starrating-3stars.jpgI consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. I understand that it’s a good idea to settle your credit card bill at the end of the month and not let the balance roll over. I grasp the difference between ‘there’, ‘they’re’ & ‘their’ and use them appropriately. But Avengers: Age of Ultron is confusing. I’ll admit it’s nice seeing the old gang get together and kick butt again. They do a lot of that here in cacophonous spectacles that are the best money can buy. Age of Ultron was made with an estimated budget of $250 million, making it the most expensive Marvel picture to date and I won’t question that figure. This looks like a costly movie. Although the battles feel a bit familiar this time around. More expensive doesn’t always equal better. The recent direction of superhero productions like Man of Steel (2013) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) don’t enchant me. They’re not rooted in dramatic storytelling but rather feats of engineering. There’s a lot going on. Kristopher Tapley over at HitFix defined the practice as “money-shot overload.” The term fits perfectly.

The Avengers was enjoyable because it kept things relatively simple. Let’s bring the superheroes of the Marvel universe together to fight a known enemy: Loki. Age of Ultron is about introducing even more characters to that universe. When I research the cast on the IMDb I see names like Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and The Vision. I could’ve missed it, but I don’t recall ever hearing those actual words in the film. What seemed so fun and effortless the first time has now become a thoroughly labored affair. It begins with a complicated opening set in a fictional eastern European country with a mad scientist named Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Von Strucker’s experiments have created genetically enhanced versions of twins Pietro and Wanda Maximofff. They’re portrayed by Aaron Taylor-Johnson & Elizabeth Olsen sporting embarrassing pseudo-Russian accents. It is interesting to note the actors went from playing a married couple in Godzilla to a brother & sister duo here.

Avengers: Age of Ultron makes precious little sense. I realize looking for consistency in a sci-fi fantasy is a feeble pursuit but I must start with a random observation. Pietro’s powers are wildly inconsistent. The dude is supposed to move at supersonic speeds. We saw this in 2014’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past when the individual was notably played by Evan Peters. In that film, Quicksilver raced around a room to prevent an onslaught of bullets from hitting his friends. So I take serious exception to what he does here. I must tread lightly to avoid spoilers but his behavior is beyond comprehension. Paul Bettany’s role as J.A.R.V.I.S.. takes on a new dimension in a mystifying story arc which I couldn’t spoil because I didn’t get it either. Somehow the internet made it possible though.

Also lacking clarity is Ultron, the main villain.  He is actually part of Tony Stark’s global defense program. I will say it’s kind of amusing seeing Robert Downey Jr. reunited with his Less Than Zero co-star, or at least his voice anyway. James Spader looks different but hey, that was 28 years ago. Apparently Ultron is Tony Stark’s fault and he’s kind of a jerk about it. The words, “I’m sorry” would’ve helped.  Initially he had the best of intentions.  He wanted to keep the peace. His Ultron program was designed to protect the Earth.  But Ultron becomes a sentient being and naturally decides that the human race must be eliminated because they’re the biggest threat. It’s that darned artificial intelligence gone wrong again. You didn’t see this coming? How many movies are going to use this as a plot point? From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Ex Machina.  Oh but why have just one Ultron when you can have many. Of course there must be an army of robot drones further cluttering the screen.

A big part of the narrative involves the gang coming to terms with their feelings. Assisting them in this is Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Her power is to get inside people’s heads. She disorients them with visions of their fears. There’s several dream sequences that put division amongst the Avengers. In fact much of the tale, in between conventional combat, is centered on Avengers who just wanna go home and walk away from all this.  Ah, that’s what was missing from the last Avengers movie, existentialist mumbo jumbo.  Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye gets an expanded back-story that seeks to further humanize him. There’s even room for a burgeoning romance between Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk. I hesitate to use an adjective like boring, especially in a film with so much visual stimuli thrown at the screen, but these arbitrary developments aren’t captivating. How about lame? Is that a better word?

It’s not all bad. There are some genuinely humorous moments that made me smile. The Hulk’s dream (which we unfortunately never see) causes him to fly into a rage and forces Iron Man to don his Hulk-Buster suit of armor to calm him down. The team takes turns trying to pick up Thor’s hammer which has a hilarious payoff later. But then Ultron and the twins go to a shipyard in South Africa and Andy Serkis inexplicably pops up. Cue fanboy giggles. Bewildered looks on everyone else. Enough with the fan service! It shouldn’t come at the expense of a coherent story. As per usual, stay for a mid-credits scene (no post credits one) where we’re reminded of that creature with a purple face that we saw briefly in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. (I’m told it’s Thanos) I only wish Age of Ultron were more focused on giving the audience a lucid plot instead of being a character springboard for future films.

05-01-15

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27 Responses to “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

  1. great review mark!

  2. GaryGreg828 Says:

    So glad I’m not the only one who was disappointed by this. There are a lot of disappointed fans on the IMDB board, as well. I guess I just don’t think it’s a good idea to have a movie with so many characters; part one got away with it and did a decent job, but part two felt gimmicky.

    On another slightly related note, I don’t like the direction of this Batman vs. Superman film, either, as I feel it’s going to run into the same issues. I don’t like this new BVS trailer where Batman asks Superman if he bleeds. That just doesn’t seem like Batman to me, especially considering how adamant he is against killing and uses violence sparingly. It looks like they’re making Batman a dark character and I don’t like that. I know he’s supposed to have a “dark” side in the Nolan trilogy, but really he didn’t. He just had an extreme focus. But he always had a good heart. I don’t want that aspect compromised in any future installments.

    • By and large, the moviegoing public seems to have embraced Age of Ultron. But just not as much as the original.

      So far the promotion for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been extremely underwhelming for me. We shall see.

  3. We are pretty much in lock-step on this one. Too many characters = insufficient time with each and I wasn’t as invested in the newcomers without having an independent film (at least for QS and SW) behind them. Maybe that’s unfair, but there was a lot less joy to be found in this one vs it’s predecessor. And Guardians of the Galaxy is proof that more characters doesn’t mean you have to have a super convoluted narrative, either.

    • You’re right. More characters isn’t the problem. It’s the way you handle them. Frankly I grew fatigued by this story. It was so convoluted. I prefer the effortless joy of the first as well.

  4. i agree with you here. Joss Whedon moves closer to Michael Bay with this one, but Whedon at least still has some wit and somewhat sound sagacity. Yet, this film is more clangor than clever.

  5. Psquared Says:

    I don’t think showing Bruce Banners fear sequence was necessary. He A. Talks about it all the time. B. It actually happens when he attacks the South African city. Killing innocent people and senseless destruction is his fear and I think The director chose not to have a redundant scene. At 2 hours plus I think it was a smart move.

    • If you’re saying that the film was too long, then I wholeheartedly agree. But then I would’ve cut a lot more out. The dream sequences were a lot more interesting than say a stale romance or watching Hawkeye putter around the house.

  6. Admittedly it was a little tame, but ‘lame’ is a little further than I would go. I actually preferred some of the sub-stories, like Widow’s romance with Hulk and Hawkeye’s backstory, because it grounded the action that, as you said, was essentially a series of expensive moneyshots. But hey… it’s nice to see a review that’s a little different from ‘OMG – explosions – fanboyism – eighteen out of ten!!!’

    • I just meant that those stories felt like a ‘flimsy’ attempt to engage our emotions. I appreciate an alternative to action so I understand your point. I just wasn’t moved by their love affair.

  7. I mostly enjoyed Age of Ultron, although I couldn’t shake the fact that it felt like a marked step down from its predecessor.

    • A step down from its predecessor and honestly a step down from virtually all of the 11 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the exception of The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Thor: The Dark World (2013)

  8. Disappointing, but expectedly so for me. Anyone could tell from the trailer there were a zillion characters to follow and endless SFX had been thrown at the screen in an attempt to distract us from noticing that the originality factor was zero. Added to this, Aaron Taylor-Johnson was playing a blonde Russian – I should’ve learnt the lesson from watching Anna Karenina that this wouldn’t end well. On a side note, Elizabeth Olsen is hot though.

    • Of course you know as well as I do that those characters were from the fictional country of Sokovia, which is SOOOOO convenient because now no one can technically claim that their accents weer incorrect, right?! 😛

  9. Great review! I enjoyed it but yes it was incredibly flawed at the same time. I don’t think the repetition is helping – the last third of the film was almost the same style battle like in the first Avengers film. By the end there were so many superheroes on screen to the point it was hard to keep track. It raises questions about how they’re all going to fit in. Furthermore, each one of them just used their powers/gift to beat Ultron. For once it would be nice to see them team up and outwit an enemy. I want to see the directors cut and see if it helps with the plot or not.

  10. I always go into these films knowing that it’ll never be as good as I as would like it to be. So, I’m rarely that disappointed. That said; I had a really good time. Yes, there are flaws, but no movie is perfect . Let’s face it; with all the restrictions put on the directors from the studios that own the Marvel characters and their particular storylines (of which there are so many) not to mention the fans, I’m surprised we get the spectacular, mostly coherent, extravaganzas we get.

    The few things that disappointed me were tiny when compared to my overall experience. Obviously I would love it if the twins could have been linked to their father, because(even though they’re owned by different studios) I would have an absolute fan-gasm if The Avengers ever teamed up with The X-Men. It’s already pretty awesome that The Guardians of the Galaxy have been further linked to The Avengers. I do understand your confusion though, but I sorta feel like, if you really want to know what’s going on you’ll look it up or ask one of the many fan boys/girls standing in line and sitting in the theater with you.

    I don’t read the comics, but I have been waiting for Paul Bettany to become The Vision. Ever since first knowing he was going to be in Iron Man. Talking to those who blindly recite the entire cannon of each and every character adds to my excitement and every so often – my disappointment (knowing what could’ve been). I almost feel like I’m gossiping about some celebrity or even an old friend I haven’t seen in years and I can’t believe all the stuff they’ve been up to?! So watching the films is like getting all the juicy details. Therefore, I can’t wait for the next Marvel movie!

    P.S. I know Andy Serkis IS a somewhat exciting character in the Marvel universe(at least to the people I spoke to), but he’s also a fanboys favourite actor, you know – what with Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Planet of the Apes and soon Start Wars. So, there’s a chance the giggles just came from the excitement of seeing him add The Avengers to his resume, as he is unlikely to hinder the story with his awesomeness. 😁

    • I wish this movie was as much a treat for me as it was for you. I went in with fairly low expectations and I suppose they were at least met – hence the 3/5 stars.

      When I go to the these kinds of films, I wanna relax and have a good time. With this, I felt like I was watching a convoluted overworked story that was being shoehorned to fit within a pre-existing methodology for future films. Ugh! I just wanna enjoy some lighthearted shenanigans in a superhero film, not study a history book. Guardians of the Galaxy excelled in this regard and delivered on every level imaginable. Only thing this delivered was a headache and perhaps a few chuckles. 😀

  11. Great review. I liked the first one more. They took too long explaining everything in detail. I don’t need all that. Just give me the fun, more organic when possible. 3 1/2 stars.

  12. Great review. I think the film was good but still quite disappointing.
    Not sure if it is in comparisons to their reason great films but it felt like a foot note rather than a solid film of its own.
    2 hour trailer for phase 3 is a bit harsh but not wholly untrue.

    • It ended with all the future characters posing for the camera next to each other, so maybe your comparing it to a trailer isn’t so harsh after all. 😉

  13. I forgot that Taylor-Johnson and Olsen played husband and wife in Godzilla! I agree it’s kind of funny they play siblings in Age of Ultron. The battles do feel pretty familiar this time around and it also seems like they’re trying to cram in a lot of material to help set up future movies. Too much in my opinion. One thing that bothered me was the romantic angle between Black Widow and The Hulk. It never really worked and felt so disconnected from the rest of the film. I wasn’t as confused by the story as you, however I did take issue with the belivability of Stark creating Ultron. Logically it made sense for Stark to want a mechanical army, but I never felt like the script or the character really sold me on it.

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