Review: The Avengers – Age of Ultron

Synopsis: When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner
Release Date: 23rd April 2015

AP:
I, like most people, have been looking forward to this movie for years.
Since 2012 to be precise.
During this time, I built up such high expectations in my mind that I felt no movie could ever surpass them Despite those expectations, I secretly hoped Joss Whedon would soar through my expectations.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is a great movie. Great characters. Great action. Great story. But it also has problems. Problems that I couldn’t seem to let go of after the credits rolled. Perhaps I’m being too picky after having such high expectations, but I cannot help but feel a little let down.

Going ahead, I want to warn you. There are lots of spoilers ahead.

SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*

Age of Ultron begins with our heroes in the middle of an action sequence. Surprisingly, everyones fighting style has changed. Captain America, played by Chris Evans, no longer exhibits the extremely cool and tight mix of parkour, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, karate and boxing depicted in The Winter Soldier. He’s back to his generic and over-the-top jumps, twists and turns. He has somehow dropped down slightly in the skill level.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) seemed to be really into kicking people but I suppose it’s nice to see him not so reliant on his hammer.
Black Widow, portrayed by the flawless Scarlett Johansson, seemed less… Black Widow. But perhaps this had something to do with the fact that Scarlett was pregnant during most of filming. She was less about hand-to-hand combat and more about driving vehicles, perhaps an effort to hide Scarlett’s pregnant stomach.
Iron Man was, well, Iron Man. Perfectly performed by Robert Downey Jr.
The opening sequence had some pretty hokey and questionable CGI, but on the whole, it was extremely enjoyable and full of great quips and one-liners.

Another problem. The movie is full of great lines and quips, at the cost of the larger story which became a muddled mess.

Throughout the movie we see the evolved relationship of Black Widow and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo); a romance that was heavily rumoured for at least 6 months before the release of the first trailer.
It’s a sweet relationship, but to be honest, where did it come from?
The last time we saw these two characters together was in 2012 and there wasn’t much of a hint that this is where their direction was heading.
The relationship textbook Joss Whedon; two characters who want to be together but can’t.
The relationship it evolved too fast. In the first 45 minutes of the film they’re basically already admitting their feelings to each other?
I’d have rather seen the small seeds that could have been more eloquently and subtly planted throughout the film so I could feel like they actually had a connection.
It is obvious that Black Widow has a connection with the Hulk, as shown by the ‘Lullaby’ she gives him. Natasha’s connection with Bruce is one that we as an audience, don’t get to be privy to.
Because of this their relationship feels forced and false; a lie to audiences and to themselves.
It’s a shame as it could have actually been something beautiful. It also feels wrong to see Natasha enter something like this so quickly, when considering her past, you would think she’d be having an internal struggle against her feelings. That would have been very interesting to see.
Speaking of her past, we are given the most beautiful insight into some of the Black Widow’s past.
It was, without doubt, my absolute favourite part of the film. Come on Marvel, just do the Black Widow movie. I need more of her.

As for our villain, voiced by James Spader, he succumbs to the curse of Marvel Villains.
He’s just not good enough.
Sure, he’s big and scary and has a great voice, but there was not one second where I actually believed he could do more damage than his villainous predecessor (*cough*Loki*cough*), nor did I ever think that perhaps there was a small chance our heroes couldn’t get out of this one. Ultron felt easily disposable, which is not what you want from your villain.
He also doesn’t look nearly as badass as he did in the comics, 2013 San Diego Comic-Con teaser and very early promotional / conceptual art.
As for Ultron’s companions, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) there was a lot of backstory and development missing from their characters. When we first meet them, they’ve already been experimented on by Strucker and gained their powers. It would have been nice to see how this had actually happened, the roads they took to get there. Unfortunately, we weren’t given access to that.
You could easily mistake the twins for a romantic couple, as some people I saw the movie with did. Personally, I’ve never seen a brother or sister that hands-y.
Elizabeth Olsen does have some incredible moments as the Scarlet Witch. She’s an incredible actress who displays glimpses of such power throughout the film. Scarlet Witch is a great character and I hope that Marvel realise that she has a wealth of incredible potential and stories that should be shared.
Brief scenes featuring Strucker were fantastic, I would have liked to have seen more of him.
Personally, I’d also like to know how Strucker actually got his hand on Loki’s scepter, considering that the last time we saw it, it was in the hands of Black Widow. I’m only assuming that Hydra delivered it to him, back before it was discovered Hydra was infiltrating SHIELD (Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

I could continue to point out parts of the film I was disappointed by.

I recently read an article where Joss Whedon said his first cut of the movie was nearly three and a half hours. Seeing the theatrical cut (and even the trailers for the movie) it’s strikingly obvious that there were a lot cuts to the movie.
Most of Thor’s storyline is cut. I assume most of Black Widow and Hulk’s romance is cut. There are a lot of cuts that were made; likely to make room for the too-long (and too many) action sequences. I’ve never left a movie thinking before that there were too many action sequences. I did this time, because these sequences were at the expense of the larger story.
In the same article, Whedon mentions that he hadn’t even seen the final cut of Age of Ultron. So I wonder if perhaps he harbours many of the same criticisms?

While Whedon created a great action film, one that was full of humour, action, romance and character, it’s not on the same level as the first Avengers was. It’s unfortunate because Whedon is such a fantastic writer and director but it feels like he just couldn’t beat what he did with the first one. Age of Ultron feels more like it was made just to bide time before the next phase in Marvel’s slate. It was made just to placate us until the next one. Because, honestly, this movie doesn’t actually do anything except serve as an introduction to the next Infinity Stone.
Our characters don’t advance. Their dynamic doesn’t change and clash and evolve. I suppose we will need to wait until Captain America: Civil War to see that.

It’s also unfortunate that Age of Ultron looks like it will be Whedon’s last mark on the Marvel Universe. I do hope he writes and directs another because (my criticism aside, it was an enjoyable movie) I really feel that he could do better than this most recent outing.

P.S. Marvel, stop releasing so many promotional clips prior to the release date. You’re ruining parts of the movie.

 

 

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