Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron 2015
I think it’s actually quite fitting that I have a review of Ultron just after my review of Suicide Squad. Both films had large expectations behind them, and both ended up falling quite a bit short of them for many fans. The biggest difference is that while considered a disappointment, it still snagged around a 75% approval rating from critics, though I imagine that many of those positive reviews still have the word “disappointment” or some variation of it within the text. In fact, one of the reasons why I didn’t immediately review this film after seeing it for the first time in theaters myself was because I felt like I needed to let it settle for a bit and I wanted to give it a second viewing with tempered expectations to help see some of the positives without getting stuck on the feelings of being let down from the perfection that was the first Avengers movie. I just didn’t quite expect that second viewing to come almost a year and a half later. But here we are. So, did it improve from that initial viewing? Yes, but there are still plenty of flaws throughout the run time.
Before getting into some of the better things about this film, there are a few immediately noticeable flaws that stand out. As soon as the film starts, it throws you right into the action, and while technology has improved to give us very lifelike CGI versions of characters that can do incredibly superhuman things, there is still a sheen of unreality to many of the action scenes in this film. This wouldn’t entirely be a problem except for the fact that everything else is generally grounded in reality, especially when it comes to the very posed and comic book inspired moment where every character is jumping forward at the same time. There is that “cool” factor that will make some comic book fans giddy with joy, but from a general film-goer’s standpoint, it’s just a little bit too far outside of reality and cartoonish. This is also the case when it comes to the climactic battle with hundreds of easily destroyed Ultron drones that swarm onto the grouped up heroes like ants and are dispatched just as easily with the heroes rarely the worse for wear unless it’s for the cause of a dramatic beat.
The overall narrative arc of this film also still feels overly scattershot. The villain shifts from moment to moment even though it’s generally clear just from the title of the film that the overall villain is going to be Ultron. But first it’s Baron Strucker, then the Maximoff twins, there’s even Andy Serkis for a brief moment who seems out of place unless you happen to be aware of his Black Panther connection. And as far as the twins are concerned, it’s very difficult at the point to not compare this version of Quicksilver to the one that we’ve seen in two different X-Men movies now. There’s only one or two very brief moments where the camera slows down to his point of view and there’s no way that it could capture the moment in the same way that Days of Future Past did, but it goes a different direction to showcase his speed and it generally does that quite well aside from the forced accents. Even the antagonistic relationship between him and Hawkeye ends up working in his favor, up to the point where he sacrifices himself to save Hawkeye. Even watching it a year later, there’s so much buildup to the fact that one of the characters are going to die in this film, and everything seems to point towards Hawkeye. But at the last minute, this character who was a villain less than an hour ago comes to the rescue and ends up dying because even as fast as he was, it just wasn’t quite enough.
But even though there is a lot to say about the flaws of this film, including the early dream sequences that put such a narrative halt to the film and only succeeded in letting the villains get away even though the original intention seemed to be to cause a rift in the team. That rift doesn’t even really show up until this year’s Civil War. But again, there’s a lot to enjoy about this film. While it would be an easy decision to portray the character of Ultron as this cold, unfeeling robot, it does feel like an interesting choice to make him much more like his two creators. Well, not exactly creators, but the two who set him free. He has the personality and quippiness of Tony Stark, combined with the internal rage of Bruce Banner, though the exact reason why those personalities came through is never exactly spelled out, it’s only referred to a few times about how much Ultron is like Tony Stark, much to Ultron’s dismay.
The characters themselves are also presented brilliantly, which isn’t much of a surprise since aside from the villains, they’ve all had more than one chance to get a handle on their respective roles. Everyone gets their moment to shine, though Falcon gets the short shrift during the final battle in favor of War Machine. The relationship between Natasha and Bruce isn’t overbearing, it’s there just enough to make it work. And the moment where they all have to retreat to the farmhouse gives a lot of depth to Hawkeye that we haven’t really had the chance to see in any of the earlier films. He even gets to make a nice little speech to Scarlet Witch to essentially convince her that she’s a part of the team. There’s also a lot of attention being paid to the lives of civilians. It does partly feel like it’s a direct answer to DC’s massive destruction in Man of Steel two years previous, but for the most part it’s handled in such a way that it doesn’t slow the momentum of the action scenes, at least until Sokovia. It feels like it’s nearly impossible to mention a good part about this film without adding a caveat that’s sometimes a nitpick, and sometimes more than that. But at the end of the day, it’s still a Marvel film and it has the same mix of humor and action that you’ve come to expect from a Marvel film. These are all characters that we know and love and while the film definitely stumbles from time to time, when it’s working it’s running full speed and you’re right there along for the ride. It may not be perfect, but it’s still a helluva good time more often than not. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.