The biggest summer blockbuster has arrived. Avengers: Age of Ultron will prove to be the movie to beat this year. There’s a very good chance it will beat Furious 7 in total box office receipts.
Initially, I just have to say that Marvel fans are in for a treat! The Avengers sequel delivers on everything you loved in the previous movies and so much more. It has upped the action in a big way. Hulk, who stole the show in the first Avengers, gets plenty more green time. Also, there are at least three times the jokes that you enjoyed in the first movie.
It’s apparent that those who enjoyed the cotton candy of the first 10 Marvel flicks will continue to devour this 2 1/2 hour sequel that the almighty Joss Whedon has so graciously placed before us.
Now, before you start to think that I’ve lost my mind, I want to assure you that I’m still just as cynical as I’ve ever been. There is little point in being completely negative about an Avengers movie. My little-seen words will do little to turn an already established fan of the series away from seeing this whiz-bang fireworks show.
Age of Ultron finishes phase two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The team has once again joined to find Loki’s glowing scepter, again. Even though Tony Stark retired from being Iron Man and destroyed every extra suit, he now finances the Avengers (as Iron Man, complete with a team of extra suits).
Stark studies the glowing cube in the scepter and secretly conspires to build a robot that will protect the world so that the Avengers can stay out of harm’s way. Cue science montage…and Ultron magically builds himself. Stark soon realizes that he got more than he bargained for. A sentient Ultron crashes an Avengers party and describes his plans to destroy the team in order to protect the world.
The team dispatches of Ultron and his Iron Men, but not before he literally escapes through the internet…
The rest of the movie follows
Johnny Storm Captain America, Thor, Bruce Banner III, Hawkeye, Iron Man and Black Widow as they travel the globe to cater to foreign audiences investigate Ultron’s grand plans and stop him before he destroys humanity.
Age of Ultron feels like a movie created by committee. It takes everything that has ever worked in Marvel movies and multiplies it by seven. The three strengths of the Marvel universe are likable characters, nonstop humor and flashy action scenes. Whedon, in a fit of laziness or gluttony decided that those three aspects needed to on screen together the entire time. There is not one scene that isn’t built on one-liners. Even expository dialogue turns into clever asides.
The first movie worked because it was an interesting experiment to get a group of super egos and put them in a room together. The Avengers managed to balance out the group in a superficially entertaining fashion. The thrill of seeing these heroes collaborate is largely gone. The outward fanboy/girl/person may squeal in delight at Hulk running through swarms of goons, but a deep inner voice will quietly say “Obligatory.”
Age of Ultron feels obligatory. It’s a sequel that doesn’t progress the story in any meaningful way. Surely, it is meant to bridge the gaps that we need to cross before we get to Civil War and Infinity War, but the hints of things yet to pass, are unearned.
Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) join the mix as they fight alongside Ultron. Olsen is a welcome addition that could fit nicely into the series. Quicksilver’s role is “Kevin Costner as Robin Hood” bad. James Spader seemed to be a welcome villain in a franchise that so desperately needs one. The trailers made him seem menacing and unstoppable. I even felt that the Avengers may be in some threat. Yet, Whedon, and the Marvel powers that be, cannot help themselves and probably thought he’d be a forgettable villain without any humor. He is meant to be the robotic prodigy of Tony Stark and that shows through his snarky one-liners. Honestly, the last thing this franchise needed was another Tony Stark type in another suit of metal. Any chance of being sinister is removed when Ultron talks about being unable to physically puke in his mouth.
Fans of the Transformers series will be happy to know that this movie equals it in action. There is so much happening at once, that it seems like nothing is happening at all. The lack of actual threat takes every emotion out of the green screen wonderland.
To the movie’s credit, many of the faults of the first Avengers have been remedied. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who spent the first movie brainwashed and forgotten, is now the heart of the story. He gets the best lines and even a few emotional scenes without jokes. Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) is wasted in a one-note role that does her no favors. She exists only to pine after Bruce Banner.
Whedon’s original cut was over 3 1/2 hours long. In this movie, it’s evident that there is a lot left on the cutting room floor. Technically speaking, the editing of Age in Ultron is a mess. There’s no rhyme or reason in the plot advancement. It’s just a haphazard jump from action scene to action scene. Pacing is all over the place. Also, there’s not an ounce of artistic cinematography. Whedon has never been a great director. He is known for his witty dialogue, but unfortunately it doesn’t mask the plotholes and inconsistencies in this flick.
Marvel fans will see nothing wrong in the Age of Ultron. I don’t think they’ll like it as much as the first movie, but will still find reasons to get overly-excited by it. And they should, it caters to everything they’ve loved so far.
Otherwise, it’s a sloppy movie that wants to exist on its own, but only serves to be a setup for upcoming flicks. Next year’s Civil War (i.e. Avengers 2.5) will be a far better movie because this exists to support it. As a moviegoing experience, you’ll laugh at one of every five jokes. But you’ll still be laughing. Only, after 11 movies, the formula is getting a little more than tired. C+