Title: Avengers – Age of Ultron
Production: Marvel Studios
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon, Stan Lee (comic), and Jack Kirby (comic)
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments)
Genre: Super hero team adventure
Runtime: 141 Minutes
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, and Samuel L. Jackson
The 2015 summer blockbuster season is off and running with the release of the highly anticipated sequel to the 2012 movie juggernaut, The Avengers. While Avengers: Age of Ultron is certainly a fun action flick, sure to mostly please the public, it does stumble in quite a few places and leaves many longtime Marvel comic readers scratching their heads.
I’ll keep this review spoiler free for those who haven’t had a chance to catch the flick.
I won’t say I didn’t enjoy Age of Ultron – I actually had a lot of fun catching it at a press screening – and there’s plenty to recommend about the film but it’s a bit disappointing to see Marvel Studios fail to follow up on the momentum built by the first Avengers film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and last year’s mega hit Guardians of the Galaxy. In truth, Age of Ultron skirts closer to the major misstep which was Iron Man 3 than the near perfection of Guardians.
Maybe that last statement is a little harsh – since I thought Iron Man 3 was utter crap – seeing Age of Ultron has a lot going for it: good doses of humor, heaping helpings of mainly effective action sequences, and plenty of cameos (and more substantial appearances) by a great many characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. All of this adds up to a good Marvel movie but simply not a great one.
I found Age of Ultron falters in three key areas:
Pacing and Character Development – While most of Joss Whedon’s film clicks along well there are a handful of points where it feels as if everything has come to a screeching halt. A couple of romantic plotlines are introduced which don’t make a great deal of sense and mainly just bog down the proceedings. I understand Whedon is trying to ground the film and tug a bit at the old heartstrings but for the most part it just doesn’t work.
While it’s obvious from the trailers Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch begin the film as villains, comic readers will know that won’t stay the case. Quicksilver’s powers are fairly one note (although a damn cool note by the way) but Wanda Maximoff’s powers aren’t clearly defined by any stretch. Is the Witch manipulating minds or simply showing the heroes each a possible future? Can she control someone’s actions or only compel someone to do something? At least we know she can fire off energy blasts at a wave of her hands. You know the filmmaker’s themselves aren’t sure what’s going on when Quicksilver is described as possessing super speed and the ability to slow his metabolism while the Scarlet Witch’s powers are “weird.” You read that right… “Weird.”
Too Much Tony Stark/Iron Man – I understand Marvel/Disney have a well found appreciation for Robert Downey Jr. since it was his turn as Iron Man which essentially put Marvel Studios on the map. Downey Jr. is also a big favorite with a lot of fans as well but the actor’s ever increasing involvement in upcoming Marvel films will end up being detrimental to the overall cinematic universe. Readers know Henry Pym created Ultron but, in the film, Ultron is essentially Tony Stark’s work. Seeing Pym (played by Michael Douglas) is set to make his first appearance in the film universe in this year’s Ant-Man I don’t know why the filmmakers give the character at least partial credit for the Ultron project. But, no, seemingly everything in the Marvel universe revolves around Tony Stark.
This leads to an inordinate amount of screen time for Downey Jr. compared to the other actors in the ensemble. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) seems to really get the short end of the stick – or maybe I should say hammer – in Age of Ultron as his character is treated as more of a side note through most of the film. I happen to really like Robert Downey Jr. as an actor, and Stark/Iron Man is a cool character although certainly not my favorite, but it’s getting a bit tiresome to see so much revolving around one member of the team.
Ultron is Sort of a Puss – As a kid I was a big reader of The Avengers and usually knew I was in for a treat when Ultron showed his shiny face. Add in the fact if George Perez was providing the art you just salivated over all the panoramic action on the page, with nearly everyone on the Avengers roster getting in on the fun. Ultron was just always one of the top notch baddies the Avengers would face. In Age of Ulron, the villain is more of a nuisance as opposed to a jaw dropping evil presence.
During production there was a lot of negative talk about James Spader providing the voice work for Ultron but the problem here isn’t with the actor but in the character itself; Spader is fine with the dialogue provided him. I surely wasn’t expecting Ultron to turn out to what in essence is a wisecracking evil droid standed from an unproduced Star Wars movie. Instead of using what should be an unparalleled access to institutions which allow the world to function and bring civilization to its knees, Ultron is only focused on making things go boom. Honestly, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are bigger thorns in the Avengers sides than Ultron ever seems to be. Plus the big battle with hordes of bot, which are supposed to be extensions of Ultron himself, smacks too much of the original Battle of New York in the Avengers. Ultron bots, Chitauri, six of one, a half dozen of the other… Honestly, outside of a handful of sequences, most of the
While I do have critiques of Avengers: Age of Ultron I don’t want to lead anyone to think this is a bad film by any stretch. You’re still going to have a good time and the movie is definitely worth the price of admission. It’s just a shame Age of Ultron turns out to be a good addition to Marvel Studios’ growing resume rather than a great one.