Avengers: Age of Ultron is a very odd experience, at least on first
viewing. In many ways, it’s the darker, more personal sequel that Joss Whedon
promised. But it also has more (a lot more) of everything audiences loved about
the first one. It’s hard to imagine viewers not thinking they’ve got their
money’s worth. In fact, the film is so stuffed with characters, action and
quips, not to mention references to what has come before and events that will
happen in future Marvel movies, that it sometimes forgets to be its own thing.
Whedon’s plotting usually works better on the small screen and it’s almost like
he crammed a whole TV season’s worth of ideas into a little over two hours. I’d
be very interested to see the rumored 3.5 hour original cut, which hopefully
does a better job of getting the plot coherently from a to b. It’s also missing
the novelty and more simple charm of the first film, which is probably why the
critical reception has been more muted. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely
more good here than bad, but it’s not the Empire Strikes Back or Godfather Part
II of comic book sequels.
The James Bond style opening starts at 11 and doesn’t let up. It’s a lot of fun
and makes for a stronger opening than the first film, which really took about
half an hour to hit its stride.
Hawkeye. People who were like, “what’s the deal with the bow and arrow guy?”
last time will be pleasantly surprised. Jeremy Renner has a lot to do and
really becomes the heart of the movie (especially in a subplot with the always
welcome Linda Cardellini as his “secret” wife). Lots of funny lines, too. I
liked the misdirection with setting him up to be the Avenger to sacrifice
himself in the final battle when the one that actually dies is (no, I won’t
Iron Man, Bruce Banner and Captain America are pretty much themselves. If you
liked them last time you’ll like them this time.
Thor is given more to do. He gets many of the movies best lines and action
(though his magic pool subplot probably should have been cut).
The twins. I was worried about Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, especially as
X-Men Days of Future Past seemed to steal Marvel’s thunder with the former
character. But both characters are actually pretty good, despite their dodgy
Eastern European accents. Elizabeth Olsen comes off the better of the two, and
fits neatly into the River Tam/Willow Rosenberg school of Whedon’s wounded
heroines with special powers. Aaron Taylor-Johnson does his best with an
underwritten role and just about manages to sell the emotional arc he goes
The Avengers attempting to lift Mjolnir at a party – classic Whedon humour that
is also paid off later.
Ultron – his origin was rushed and he had a few too many goofy lines (I get
that he was emulating his “father” Stark, but I wanted him to be a little more
menacing) but he looked cool and James Spader was the perfect voice.
The philosophical debates about AI and the nature of heroism are nicely done, though I would have liked to have seen Stark face more anger for his recklessly creating a murder bot that almost destroys the world,
The visions the Scarlet Witch puts in the Avenger’s heads were creepy but I
would have liked to have gone further – what did she put in Banner’s head to
make him Hulk out?
Hulk vs. Hulkbuster – probably the most epic action scene in the movie.
The chase scene in South Korea was pretty cool.
The Vision is so awesome he’s what Superman should be like in the DC movies.
The final battle, while not as insanely fun as the last act of the first movie,
is still spectacular and full of great moments. One shot in particular, with
all the Avengers fighting Ultron’s drones in a circle is the closest any movie has
ever come to capturing the look of a comic book splash panel.
The way the heroes go out of their way to reduce collateral damage (even more
so than in the first film) was great and a nice little fu to Man of Steel.
The ending is a perfect Whedon moment where Cap’s dialogue is cut off just
before he calls the new Avengers (yep, there’s a different team at the end of
the movie) to assemble.
THE BAD (or just odd)
The action is more relentless and quicker cut than the first film, and does
become a little tiring in place.
The score is unmemorable (even with an assist from Danny Elfman) but at least
they brought Alan Silvestri’s main theme back.
As mentioned before, so much has been stuffed in (and then cut out) of the
movie, the plot lacks coherence in certain places. It’s never exactly clear how
or why the twins join Ultron, and their turn on him is just as abrupt. It
almost would have been better to just make the movie about the twins facing the
Avengers or Ultron/Vision. Both stories are good, but neither is given the
screentime they deserve.
Hulk isn’t as fun in this movie. There’s no moment to rival pounding Loki into
the ground, and he doesn’t even speak (mute Hulk is getting old, Hollywood).
The Hulk/Black Widow romance is also a little weird. I like the actors
together, but it seems out of character. And the part where Natasha says she is
a “monster” because she can’t have kids is somewhat problematic, even if that
wasn’t Whedon’s intent.