It’s been a really long time since I did a belated review, mostly because I haven’t seen any of the summer movies until now. But since no TV series are ending and I need something to do on Thursdays, I’ll drop some reviews, this time for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, that came out back in May, but just hit Bluray.
Now I loved the first Avengers film, not quite as much as things like the first Iron Man, but I am a fan of most of the Marvel movies so you might think this is a lock, but it wasn’t as good as the first movie or a lot of others that I’ve seen. In any case, let’s take a look at Avengers: Age of Ultron and see what’s what.
The remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers have been playing mop up after Hydra took down the organization, but they find that Baron von Strucker has been experimenting with the staff of Loki and has been trying to create a super computer. Once they defeat von Strucker, Tony Stark ends up with the plans and decides to complete them, making Ultron, a computer that is even more advanced than Jarvis. But of course, this never goes well, as Ultron decides to wipe out humanity and recast a new world in his own image and it takes the Avengers, and pretty much everyone else, to finally defeat this menace.
I know this really has nothing at all to do with the comic series of the same name, but I was definitely not a fan of the comic. I also know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an entirely different thing from the comic universe, but come on, they already planned to introduce Hank Pym in the Antman movie, we didn’t need to turn Tony Stark into the creator of Ultron. Then add in Scarlet Witch, which really has nothing to do with the Scarlet Witch of the comics and I think they’re drifting a little too far from their roots. I know they want to be slightly original, after all, if it followed the comics completely, why would anyone who has read the comics see the movies? But when you go left at Albuquerque and your characters on screen have little to do with the characters in the comics, that’s a different matter.
Okay, for the good. I loved seeing War Machine and Falcon in the story. I loved Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie in previous films and I’m a massive War Machine fan anyhow. Is it somehow wrong that I want to see a Captain America/Falcon movie? All of the previous actors did really well in their roles and the effects were stunning, as you’d expect from any Marvel movie. Paul Bettany, who has played Jarvis in all of the Iron Man movies and did an amazing job as Vision. Of all of the newcomers, that’s the one that stood out the most. I also really liked the idea that Hawkeye had a family hidden away, it gives a bit of tragic possibility that the guy with the most to lose, being among the weakest of the Avengers, actually has more to lose than we might have thought. His kids were entirely forgettable, but I liked Linda Cardellini as his wife.
But then there’s the not so good. Starlet Witch and Quicksilver were completely wasted. It felt like they were just stuffing people into the movie for cameos for no good reason. Even Nick Fury felt like a pointless cameo, so did Peggy Carter, and the obvious one, the one that they even made an excuse for not being around, was Pepper Potts, although she really wasn’t missed at all, they had to tell us why she wasn’t there. And while I think James Spader did a pretty decent job with Ultron, I really wasn’t too impressed with the army of piss-poor Ultron clone soldiers. Now I’ve said that I’m not a particular fan of Ultron in the comics, mostly because he’s a one-shtick character. He evolves, he becomes stronger, the Avengers find his one weakness and defeat him, lather, rinse, repeat. He never becomes so powerful that he wins for any appreciable amount of time, nor does he ever fix that one fatal weakness that finds him defeated. Here, too, he has all of these mini-me’s that are very easy to destroy, they really fulfill the same role as the Chitauri in the first film, disposable minions of no real note, but shouldn’t they be stronger than that? Shouldn’t Ultron, who has evolved beyond them, have followers as strong as he is, especially since he can mass produce them?
I also didn’t care for the Black Widow/Hulk romance, which seemed to have no precedent in other movies and didn’t seem at all believable here. Somehow, the idea that Scarlet Witch, who was traumatized in the last movie when Hulk beat the crap out of her, would be hitting on Bruce Banner here just doesn’t work for me. They could have cut it out of the movie entirely and we never would have missed a thing and that’s the sign of a bad subplot, when it just doesn’t add anything significant to the overall storyline. This is especially true at the end where Banner just takes off without so much as saying goodbye.
Now I’m going to rant a little here because I’ve seen people screaming doom and gloom because Age of Ultron only made $1.4 billion, as opposed to the original Avengers which made $1.5 billion. That makes Age of Ultron the second highest grossing Marvel movie of the 19 movies that Marvel Studios has made and the #6 movie of all time. Not many movies ever make a billion dollars, if this is a failure, I don’t know what these people are smoking.
All in all, this is a fine popcorn movie, it’s got lots of flashy CGI and a lot of fights, but I expected more. Sure, sequels are rarely as good as the films they follow, but I think they tried to stuff too much into 141 minutes, they really needed to focus on the story instead of “hey, look who showed up for 30 seconds!” And now that some of the Avengers alumni are going away, this is the last movie for Robert Downey Jr. and, I’m assuming for Mark Ruffalo, as happy as I am to see Falcon and War Machine joining up, they’re going to have to find something to do because the real heavy hitters, the ones who either led the team in brainpower or brawn, are gone. That’s not going to bode well for future movies, especially since Joss Whedon takes his leave after this film as well. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the future of Avengers and hope they can do something better next time around.