Maybe it was the fantastically long lead-in to this movie, or all the hype Disney's stellar marketing team built up around it's release, but I found myself slightly disappointed with their new Avengers: Age of Ultron.
To be fair, this sequel had a lot to live up to. Not only was it expected to top 2012's Avengers, but there have been four other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies released between that year and 2015 - Iron Man 3, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Then you have the two television shows, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil. It's a wonder this super franchise hasn't collapsed yet under the weight of it's own continuity.
But predictably, it's now made more than $201M in it's first weekend internationally, and with no real competition until May 13 when Mad Max: Fury Road is released, it looks like it's on track to become the biggest movie of 2015.
At least until Star Wars: The Force Unleashed arrives.
For those of you who want an impression of the movie without spoilers, I thought it was hugely entertaining. If Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy hadn't set the bar so high, this sequel might have been higher on my list of the MCU's best films.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON.
As it stands, I felt there were character arcs that really felt shoehorned in, and action that felt overly sensationalized. I spoke about how Daredevil's fighting style was so interesting because it felt more real, more visceral, due to the fact that he was always getting hurt. The fights in Avengers: Age of Ultron, while pretty awesome, feel too much like action in a Michael Bay film to me. Lots of slow mo, lots of visual effects.
It's like an entire comic book full of centerfold splash pages.
Which may have been what they were going for. This is after all, a superhero movie. One of the characters in the film even calls the heroes "gods". They can't be harmed by mortal men. And that's how it feels like.
Which felt odd, since Whedon is known for making you feel invested in his movies. If you've never watched the show Firefly and it's film sequel, Serenity, I suggest you do. He builds up this band of ruffians until you can't picture the crew without any single one, and then proceeds to kill them off.
Then you're left thinking, "Are any of them going to get out of this alive?" That's invested. Look at HBO's Game of Thrones. It seems like characters there are dropping left and right. How many Starks did we start with? How many are there now?
In Ultron, I never felt that edge of your seat, holding your breath excitement.
Speaking of Ultron, I wasn't sold as him as the big bad.
The trailer was awesome. The lines he had in that were dark, and menacing. You felt the gravitas when he talks, and can see how he might actually be a great opponent for the team. But the movie version of Ultron seems way too much like James Spader. He's got what look like nervous ticks and mannerisms and he gets distracted and he talks as if SQUIRREL!
Yeah, so he goes off on tangents that are weird. I think in this case they brought too much of the actor to the animation of the actual CG construct. It felt kind of like I was watching Mr. Richards from 1987's Mannequin.
The fact that there's literally about 5 minutes of build up to his conception also really killed any chance there was of him beating Loki as the villain to watch out for in the MCU.
VIKI from I, Robot was more sinister.
This has been a pretty negative review in hindsight, but to clarify, I do like the movie. I was never bored, and I felt that it was able to give some nice character beats to both Black Widow and Hawkeye.
Hawkeye in particular (played by Jeremy Renner) got to shine in this movie. He really got to strut his stuff and show the audience why he is an Avenger, despite being "just human". You also got to see more of the "SCIENCE BROS!" with Bruce Banner and Tony Stark pairing up to create Ultron, and later Vision. I love that they did the most they could with the limited characters they had. You also see the building rift between Stark and the rest of the team, which I'm sure will lead into Captain America: Civil War somehow.
The fact that they brought back so many others from the previous movies was pretty sweet, too. I won't spoil which characters, but when they popped up, I smiled ear to ear.
Then they mentioned Wakanda. Oh, man,
If I were to pick three things that stood out for me, they would be:
- The Hulk v. Hulkbuster fight. Ho. Lee. Shit.
- The discussions about Thor's hammer in an elavator
- "Please be a secret door... Please be a secret door... Please be a secret door... Yay,"