Three long years have passed since Marvel first played its biggest card in The Avengers. During these three years, the company’s thrown at us memorable (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and forgettable (Thor: The Dark World) movies, to finally overcome The Avengers with the downright terrific Guardians of the Galaxy. The latter’s success, however, did not undermine our excitement for the highly anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron, a movie that indeed eased our excitement but sort of left us hanging.
After the events of Winter Soldier, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes team up once again to defeat the remains of Hydra once and for all. While doing so, and during a mission to recover Loki’s scepter, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) has a go at Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) head which later on drives him to create Ultron. Obviously, Ultron does not turn out as Stark had planned and things start going downhill from there. What really works in a movie about a superhero team up is, obviously, the superhero team up. Seeing the Avengers back in action is a treat for both fans of the comics and the movies, and it’s a promise that any Marvel film featuring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will work.
But to enjoy watching these superheroes do what they do best, great action sequences need to be in order. And in fact, the action is everything one would expect from a Marvel movie, let alone an Avengers movie. Similar to the first Avengers in many ways, Age of Ultron portrays the same huge-scale battles and hero on hero fights.
The spotlight was stolen, however, by one particular Hulkbuster/Hulk clash. Being one of the first scenes teased for the movie, the fight generated enough hype that everything else was relatively overshadowed by it. Luckily, it deserved all the hype it got, and that concrete-crushing, hulk-busting sequence was entertaining through and through. The blend of humor and darkness is also something that works in the movie’s favor. While we didn’t get any in the first Avengers, and the amount in this one still isn’t remarkable, the closest thing to a dark approach Joss Whedon can orchestrate ticked well with the comedy the director integrated in his movie. Knowing that Ultron should be dark, and knowing that Whedon can’t do anything without cracking a joke or two, the balance between dark and humorous content did indeed come as a pleasant surprise.
Now, the addition of new characters to an already-heavy mix of superheroes was fun… while it lasted. Ultron is portrayed gorgeously by James Spader, and the character easily stole every scene he was in. However, the shame follows as we did not get enough of him – or of any character for that matter – as the movie was packed with characters and not enough time to develop all of them. Thus, though Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were pretty cool, they felt like strangers throughout the movie, as would have been the case for all the other Avengers if they weren’t already given enough screen time prior to Age of Ultron. Thing is, a lot of time was wasted on unnecessary, easily avoidable content, the most evident of which was the Bruce/Natasha romance. What Joss Whedon was thinking is beyond me, but sacrificing what seemed to be like fifteen minutes of a fast-paced, action-packed movie for some awkward and out-of-the-blue romance did more harm than good, resulting in an uneven pace throughout the 141 minutes run-time. That unbalanced, uneven pace proved to be frustrating at some points, especially when the action was interrupted by cheesy romance and cliché drama.
The film’s biggest problem, however, lies in the movie’s missing endgame. Like any middle part of any franchise, Age of Ultron suffers from being stuck between the start and end. Though it does indeed stand on its own feet to a certain point, it just relied too much on previous Marvel movies and ended up feeling like nothing more than a preparation for Civil War and Infinity War. So, Age of Ultron lacked the attraction of joining the Avengers on screen for the first time, and failed to achieve greatness at the cost of preparing the upcoming movies to achieve it themselves.
Luckily, Whedon did end his [presumably] last Marvel collaboration on a high note, and that’s by having fun with his movie. It was obvious Whedon went off-track at some points and that gave his movie some needed momentum to end with (You’ll know what I’m talking about when you watch the movie).
Age of Ultron isn’t half-bad. It’s a highly entertaining flick that falls in the better half of Marvel’s movie slate, but it still felt more like a passageway than a self-contained film. Its unbalanced pace, unwanted romance and lack of character development prevented its fantastic action from achieving greatness. And through the necessary evil of preparing for what’s to come than focusing on what’s at hand, Age of Ultron fell short, but left us with the promise of grandeur for Marvel’s Phase 3.