This review is going to be chocked with spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it then maybe don’t read. Although the Marvel Marketing Machine has basically spoiled the whole movie already so it probably doesn’t matter. Anyway if you want to know whether you should shell out $20 to see this film the answer is depends. If you like the Marvel movies then yeah, go see it. All your faves are there and Joss Whedon’s trademark wit is on form. BUT if you aren’t already invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe then this movie is not likely to change that.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is entertaining, fun and it has just enough fan service to fill my inner fangirl full of feels. But it’s also kind of a mess. It relies far to heavily on the audiences established relationship with the characters. It drops plot points left right and centre. The pacing is off to a distracting extent and as a result it loses it’s emotional punch. The best thing about it is that Age of Ultron is not memorable enough to actually disappoint anyone. So with a little distance it’s likely people will remember this film as better than it actually was.
The biggest problem with this film isn’t actually the film itself. It’s the connection to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whereas The Avengers was the perfect conclusion to Phase 1, Age of Ultron feels like it’s in limbo because it’s not a conclusion, but it’s also not really a continuation. It desperately tries to connect itself to the wider universe and it wastes a bunch of time trying to set up future movies but it doesn’t feel connected thematically. The Avengers worked because it wasn’t just a fun team-up movie it made the effort to directly connect to each characters individual emotional journey. Age of Ultron makes me think that Joss Whedon hasn’t actually seen anything Marvel released since The Avengers, which is probably fine for casual viewers but for someone that is heavily invested in this universe it’s kind of upsetting.
There is just not enough time in the world for me to explain everything that bothered me about this movie so I’m just going to focus on the stuff most people seem to be talking about.
He’s in the title of the film so he’s kind of important but as a villain Ultron is super bland. James Spader does a fantastic job of being James Spader, which is always enjoyable to watch but the movie doesn’t bother to develop Ultron beyond the surface level. His motivations are confusing and his plans are even worse. He says he wants to destroy the Avengers but he doesn’t really actively try to do that. He seems more concerned with making his perfect body and we don’t understand why. Okay outside canon it’s pretty clear that the reason Ultron makes that body is so that Vision can exist but in the movie it just doesn’t work.
I know he’s a robot but I guess I’m just used to a higher caliber of villain from Marvel at this point. I honestly did not think I would miss Loki but I really did. Ultron is like Loki-lite. He’s sassy and he apparently has all these issues about loneliness but really he’s just a shell of a character that could have been. Joss Whedon is usually really good at creating well rounded villains - even if he does have a tendency to Woobify them - but with Ultron I don’t think he even tried. Ultron is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with this film. He’s shiny and kind of entertaining but if you scratch the surface you will find a stop gap to Infinity Wars which seems to be the only thing Whedon cares about even though he’s not going to be directing it.
Okay so Ultron is a fairly bland as a villain but that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that for the majority of the movie they are chasing down and fighting someone that isn’t actually there. Most of the fights are completely pointless. Ultron is on the Internet. Ultron is everywhere at once. Yet they just keep chasing that one robot in front of them. The majority of this movie is basically the Avengers literally trying the punch the Internet. It’s so incredibly pointless.
This one’s a hard one for me because I’m super biased. I LOVE Comics (616) Hawkeye, especially Matt Fraction and David Aja’s solo series, so I’m all kinds of annoyed that Whedon chose use the character from Ultimate Marvel. The one with a wife and kids, who has his life together and is hella boring. I’m probably not going to get over that, but I recognise that is a personal prejudice and when they’re adapting from such vast source material they are bound to make choices that I won’t agree with. So I know my bias prevents me from seeing this aspect of the film clearly.
There is one complaint I will make about the addition of Laura Barton is that’s it’s lazy writing. Logistically Whedon needed to get the audience attached to Barton before the final battle so we fear for his safety and understand Quicksilver’s sacrifice. The easiest way to do this is to show him as happy family man. Laura and the kids have no personally or motivation of their own. They are there has emotional leverage. It works but it’s a lazy, boring, and kind of sexist way of getting the audience to care about a character you don’t want to spend any time developing.
That said, once they leave the farm he goes back to being the Hawkeye I know and love. Especially his interactions with the Maximoff twins. Oh man I will be forever bitter at Joss Whedon for taking that ex-carnie criminal trash bag away from me.
Bruce and Natasha
First up: I don’t ship it, but I do understand where it’s coming from. Two broken lonely people finding solace in each other. I totally get that. Bruce and Natasha both need some love in their life so who am I do deny them. So I understand why Whedon decided to put these two together even if I don’t love it. The problem here is not with the concept, but with the execution. It starts out well enough, two dorks attempting to flirt with each other, then suddenly out of nowhere they’re talking about running away together and it’s like wait what? When did that happen?
Sure a lot of that comes down to time. They don’t have a lot of it in this movie but still the whole thing was so out of left field that I honestly thought it was fake. I thought it someone was controlling one or both of them and I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then it wasn’t fake, it was just awkward and out of character. It especially didn’t gel with Natasha’s characterisation in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It makes sense that she might try to be more emotionally available but I don’t see her ditching the people she loves to run off with some guy, especially after the movie showed how integrated she is into Clint’s family.
There’s also the fact that Joss took the ONE female character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is not romantically linked and paired her up with one of her teammates. Don’t get me wrong. I’m usually a fan of unnecessary romance, I live for that shit. But there are like 100 characters in this movie so they really don’t have time to do this or ANY romantic relationship justice. It’s not fair to these characters, ESPECIALLY Natasha.
While The Avengers was praised because Black Widow had so much narrative agency she was still essentially the Smurfette of the team. Age of Ultron goes some way in remedying this with the addition of Scarlet Witch, a more prominent role for Maria Hill, and cameo appearances by Claudia Kim, Linda Cardellini, Hayley Atwell, and Julie Delpy. That’s more women than we’re used to seeing in superhero movies but it’s still not really a huge leap forward. Linda Cardellini’s Laura Barton has about has much personality as a pair of shoes, Claudia Kim’s Helen Cho could have been an awesome addition but it often left forgotten in the background and Hayley Atwell and Julie Delpy feature only appear in flashbacks.
The only significant addition is Wanda Maximoff, and I’m excited for her as a character but she was hardly a breakout addition. Plus they totally wasted her hypnosis powers! They had the opportunity to do something incredibly dark and amazing with the visions she inspires but they were mostly just meh. The fangirl in me LOVED seeing Peggy Carter and the Red Room but it really added nothing to the film and most of the characters got over their trauma fairly quickly. With the exception of Tony’s ego. The Scarlet Witch’s gift only really has a significant impact on Bruce Banner.
Black widow still has a certain amount of agency and she holds her own within the team but as her character arc was mostly confined to her romance with Bruce she didn’t have as much of as impact as in the first film. Not that a female character is not allowed to have a romance! It’s just disappointing that her role in this film was focused on that because there isn’t a solo film for further development. Then there was that scene with Bruce where she equates being unable to have children with being a monster. As it’s placed in contrast to Hawkeye’s wholesome American family, and Bruce doesn’t disagree with her confession, Age of Ultron seems to agree with Natasha’s assessment being unable to have children makes her a monster. It’s all kinds of gross!
- The Hulkbuster scene was a 20 minute toy commercial that completely interrupts the flow of the story. WORSE it’s supposed to be this super emotional moment where Bruce is hurting people and such but it’s just Robert Downey Jr jerking off to the Iron Man score.
- While everyone else is hanging out at Hawkeye’s farm, Thor goes off to find a magical bath and for some reason he needs Erik Selvig to accompany him. Why does this happen? Because they want to force-in some random exposition about the Infinity Stones.
- Thor’s vision quest also mucks with Scarlet Witch’s powers. For everyone else she’s supposedly tapping into their worst fears, but Thor gets an exposition orgy instead… with lightening. WHY?
- Joss Whedon is a big believer in getting shit passed the censors and normally I’m happy to play along, but this time he took it a little far. Tony says he wants to reinstitute Prima notch if he is to rule Asgard - if you don’t know that’s the one where the lord can have sex with any bride on her wedding night. Joss really needs to start putting his money where his mouth is with this whole feminism thing.
- Marvel totally ruined what could have been an AWESOME Wakanda reveal by revealing EVERYTHING last year. That seems to be a thing with them now because I had basically seen all of Age of Ultron in the trailers. There are no twists. What you expect is what you get.
- Also, in this movie they go to “the African Coast”, like that is a specific enough location. It’s not. Africa is not a cohesive whole and should not be presented as such. Like seriously. That should not be a thing.
- Vision tho, Vision is GREAT. He is without a doubt the breakout success of this movie, which is good because he’s really the only significant thing that happens. And he’s HOT! Sexiest AI in the universe.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is entertaining and inoffensive enough to please most fans but it’s not likely to gain the cult status of the first film. There is so much shoved into this film that it ends up feeling like a bloated trailer for the next Phase of Marvel movies. It’s so stuck on getting all those cameo’s in, and setting up Infinity Wars and Civil War that it doesn’t really have time to tell it’s own story. It drops plot points like confetti and swaps genuine character development with emotionally cheap cliches. Sure Whedon’s wit is on top form, and there are some laugh out loud moments, but overall Avengers: Age of Ultron of mostly guilty of being unmemorable.