The most anticipated movie of this Summer blockbuster season is here! I finally got to see it, and without anymore buildup here are my thoughts and humble opinions:
Avengers: Age Of Ultron is just as fun, yet darker, and more flawed than its 2012 predecessor. That being said, in some ways it is better than every other Marvel movie we’ve seen since their cinematic takeover of Americn pop culture. Everything you’d expect from a comic book film of this magnitude is here. Joss Whedon knows what we want from him and he delivered an incredible product.
The big question everyone is going to want answered is whether or not Ultron is better than the first Avengers film. My honest answer is that I don’t know. I went a long time thinking The Dark Knight Rises was Nolan’s best Batman film. Now I realize that it is clearly not. Just the fact that it lived up to nearly all my expectations made me think it was the best. The same applies here so I need time to sit with it, see it a few more times before I can say which one I thought was better.
The way Marvel’s cinematic universe works, there are story lines happening in between movies that bleed into each other. They also set up new stories in during the movies that will be developed in future films. Thor, for example, goes on some kind of spiritual journey mid way through to set up for his sequel. There were some heavy implications from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3 that would clearly affect this film. However, many of them are simply brought up in conversation to let us know they haven’t been ignored. That is the major downfall of an otherwise fantastic movie: Joss Whedon and company had too much characters and stories to juggle into a two and a half hour movie.
Age Of Ultron introduces us to several new characters. The twins, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) were surprisingly enjoyable. Once they found their niche, I thought they were a good addition to the team of superheroes. Despite awful Russian accents they both gave honorable performances. The primary bad guy is of course Ultron, voiced by James Spader who was without a doubt the perfect choice for this part. His voice fit the character so well and had a good amount of sarcasm that you kind of assume he got from Tony Stark. The problem I mentioned before unfortunately shows up here as well. Ultron just appears five minutes after he was first brought up. I would have liked to see more of his origins explained, but when he is on screen he dominates.
One of the funnest parts of the first Avengers was the back and forth all the characters had with each other. I’m sure Whedon was more than aware of this, so he injected everyone with even more humor. Stark had more jokes, Hawkeye became funny (and more human), and even the bad guy was funnier than Loki was. Not every joke hit as much as they could have. There were scenes where it seemed Whedon was just trying to be funny for sake of being funny when it wasn’t really needed. I still laughed out loud many times and the laughter in the theater was similar to that of a great comedy.
The last few days I’ve seen a landslide of criticisms and complaints over this movie. It is getting compared to its predecessor, understandably, being the inferior of the two. The Avengers may have less faults if you were to tally them. But Age Of Ultron had to deal with topping the first while adding more story and increasing the stakes. This movie wore Whedon out to the point of retiring from directing anymore movies for Marvel. His first cut was over three hours. Those extra scenes, rumored to be on the DVD and Blu Ray releases, may make this a better film as a whole. With those flaws being recognized, this movie also did something that no Marvel movie has done this well before, something that should be applauded and encouraged for future filmmakers of the genre. Age Of Utron benefits from a personal touch, it is a product of mostly one person’s vision. Hundreds of people made this movie, but you know it is Whedon’s movie.
I think Matt Zoller Seitz’s review on rogerebert.com puts it best: “This film makes a better case than any other Marvel picture for the notion that quarter-billion-dollar-budgeted, CGI-festooned slabs of multimedia synergy can be art, too, provided they’re made by an artist with a vision.” Whedon has shown us that these movies can be thoughtful think pieces or “artful” films. It is not flawless, but it is something different. You have to wonder how much of Whedon’s vision was compromised making this film. I have no idea what factors went into the production or the role people like Kevin Feige had, but Whedon leaving the director’s chair must have been the result of too many universes, and producers.
I think Avengers: Age Of Ultron should be a template for a new form of superhero movies. One that doesn’t fall into cookie cutter, formulaic plots and big special effects. One that challenges the viewer in more ways than how much popcorn they can eat in a sitting. I want to be able to call these filmmakers auteurs. Whedon and Feige are currently the closest thing to that. But for today go enjoy a fun, action packed film. Then tomorrow hope for cinematic evolution.