Cast – Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, and James Spader (with appearances by Hayley Atwell, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, and Samuel L. Jackson)
Alluring element – It’s the Avengers. Check it out if you liked – Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man
Plot – 8 Acting – 8 Representation of Genre – 10 Cinematography – 9 Effects/Environment – 9 Captivity – 8 Logical consistency – 8 Originality/Creativity – 8 Soundtrack/Music – 7 Overall awesomeness – 8
Let’s go back to a time when comic book movies were just starting to break the surface of mainstream movie success. The year is 2008 and Iron Man has just broken the mold on comic book movies, starting off a chain reaction so large that Marvel Universe had to start naming them in Phases. Then The Avengers assembled. The 2012 team-up annihilated everybody’s expectations of what a comic book movie should be like, and grossed over $200 million in its opening weekend. Director Joss Whedon, who has been spectacular at putting together ensemble casts and giving each one a distinct voice of their own. Well, what happens when there are too many voices? When there aren’t even enough kids playing to collect all the Easter Eggs? In short, you end up with Age of Ultron.
Avengers: Age of Ultron had been building in anticipation, and pressure, for a couple years. Since the first Avengers, the climate has changed in the movie world. Marvel has realized what a cash cow they have in their hands, and are less willing to give Joss free rein creatively like he received. This wasn’t unexpected; it happens with pretty much anything niche that hits the mainstream. While the goal was always to remain a character-driven story, the movie became just too BIG for its own good. Pressure from the studio, and worse – from himself – have made for a tumultuous production. Even Edgar Wright, the original director of Ant-Man, left the production due to creative differences. Nevertheless, as Joss assured Vulture, “it’s baldly, nakedly” him.
I wish that this wasn’t a relevant discussion to the movie, but I’d be lying. It shouldn’t, however, detract from the fact that Avengers: Age of Ultron was a entertaining experience, full of as much dry humor as there were explosions. Each player on the team was given a spotlight, a purpose, and the film moved around from each teammate relatively smoothly. Each action scene was sandwiched with a slower scene, usually in the form of some comic relief. The scene in the previews where the team is challenged to pick up Mjölnir is just as hilarious the 20th time I’ve seen it, and there are multiple one liners that I hope will live on just as “puny god” did from the original. Wit wasn’t in short supply, and that can happen when your villain is supposed to be a mirror image of Tony Stark. James Spader (Red from The Blacklist) does a fantastic job as the spoiled artificial intelligence, and watching him go back and forth with Robert Downey Jr. was organic – even though one of the characters was not. Not all the characters were well-represented, though.
Black Widow was, up until Scarlet Witch joined the team, the only girl on the team. The stunt work in Avengers for her was awesome. She beat up a group of gangsters while she was strapped to a chair! This movie? Not so much. Her new tactical Tron suit was neat, and she had a few good punch lines, but it seemed like her entire purpose of being in the movie was to be the love interest of Bruce Banner. Their romance seemed trivial to the point that the movie would have been better without it entirely. Yeah, I get the necessity of the lullaby, but the whole “run away with me” thing? It just left a bad taste in my mouth. It was #notmyJoss. Also, even a Hulkbuster battle couldn’t make me forget how dirty they did Black Panther’s homeland. #NotmyWakanda.
Scarlet Witch, on the other hand, is everything you want in a strong female character: tragic backstory, symbiotic reliance on a platonic character, and enough firepower to destroy the world (literally, in the comic books). Elizabeth Olsen totally stole the show as Scarlet Witch, and she did it without being reduced to a helpless romantic plot device. The horror-type scenes where she taints the Avengers’ minds is the most Whedon-esque part of the film.
Her brother in the movie, Pietro Maximoff, did a wonderful job, too. Aaron Taylor Johnson is coming into his own as an actor, and is virtually unrecognizable as the same kid who played Kick-Ass; in both this film and Godzilla, I leaned over and asked Adrian, “Can you believe that’s Kick-Ass?,” to which she replied, “That’s Kick-Ass?!” Even Hawkeye, who was virtually a non-factor in Avengers, found his footing in Age of Ultron.
Look, it’s up to Marvel to look beyond the status quo, and with a project this vast, there isn’t enough space to carve up something new. The dawn of saturation could finally be upon us. The movie was good. It might even be better than the first Avengers. However, we knew the magic wasn’t going to last forever. We may have gotten just a little too much of the machine and not enough of the mind that turns the gears. To bring back the magic, Marvel Studios is only a few steps away.
First, stop releasing so. much. media… There used to be a sense of surprise and adventure to seeing a movie. Shoot, I remember when I saw Dude, Where’s My Car? as a 12 year-old based on the “Dude, Sweet” debate alone. Suffice to say that my standards have improved, but I can still do without having secret characters, fight scenes and plot twists explained to me in continuous waves for months on end. Ant-Man is a great example how a tiny bit (no pun intended) of exposure will result in a better experience for fans.
Second, if Marvel Studios is going to explore every inch of the Marvel Universe, they need to take their time. I didn’t like the idea of turning the Infinity War into a two-parter at first, but after seeing just how much they tried to cram into Age of Ultron (which is actually two minutes shorter than its predecessor), it’s clear that a more immersive experience beats a thrilling one anytime. We got to see the Vision in this film, what, like 10 minutes? Depth is the reason Daredevil is doing so well as a Netflix series; there is time to build attachments to these characters.
Lastly, putting out original content will make everybody happy. Marvel puts out a couple dozen comic books out every week; surely they could borrow an actual storyteller (Marvel has more than a few of those) instead of retrofitting and rehashing decades of previously-established events. Guardians of the Galaxy is a good example of how film makers can actually come up with their own source material.
It’s no coincidence that the most enjoyable parts of the movie were the unique and new aspects to it. When I sign up to see an Avengers movie, I’ve grown accustomed to the action scenes and dry wit. That no longer impresses me, though. It’s a shame, too, because Ultron has the potential to be the scariest villain they’ve faced so far. Instead, we ended up with a nuisance – one with access to nuclear codes that instead opts to elevate a flying city and drop it on the Earth like a meteor. That’s what made reviewing this movie so difficult; it’s a good movie, but it might just be too much of the same thing for fans that have been flocking to the theaters for seven years now.
All pictures belong to Disney and Marvel Studios.