(Warning: This review contains spoilers)
As a comic book fanboy and a fan of what Marvel has been doing with their cinematic universe for the most part, I went into Avengers: Age of Ultron with very high expectations. Especially after the team assembled for Joss Whedon’s first foray into the universe with Age of Ultron’s predecessor, The Avengers. And since Marvel knocked it out of the park with Captain America: The Winter Solider, Guardians of The Galaxy and Daredevil, (which you can and should currently binge watch on Netflix. Seriously, work, school and your kids can wait) my bar was set high.
So, after a year of build up via trailers and with Marvel continuing to set the bar in comic book adaptation for big and little screens, Avengers: Age of Ultron was everything you’d expect a Marvel film to be. It’s a fun, lighthearted summer blockbuster that brings the comic book to life with the help of a more than exceptional cast – especially James Spader and Paul Bettany’s show stealing performances as Ultron and The Vision, respectively. This film will please non-fans and fans of source material alike on one level or another. That being said, the same formula that made the film enjoyable is its biggest enemy. It was a Marvel film, nothing more and nothing less, and that’s Age of Ultron‘s problem.
My only real issue with the film is some of its editing choices: something that is unfortunately starting to become commonplace for Marvel’s films. Most notable (also seen in Iron Man 3 and Thor 2: The Dark World) is all of the forced funny which stifles character development and detracts from any real sense of urgency. I’m not saying we need to go DC’s route and make them superhero Schindler’s Lists, but Marvel’s formula, while a proven success at the box office, is getting a little tiresome. I understand that when Tony Stark or his Frankenstein monsters Ultron and The Vision are on screen, you should expect some quips from them. And I understand that even though this film has the Marvel logo, it is, for all intents and purposes, a Disney film. But why ruin one of the best scenes of the film, The Vision and Ultron’s discussion of humanity, with the dad- joke-esque “Well, I was born yesterday?”The amount of time that joke and all the other detracting, forced quips took up could’ve been used to develop Quicksilver’s character so that the audience would actually feel something when he dies. I felt more for Ultron’s destruction than I did for Quicksilver’s and I didn’t see that coming.
I’ll be the first to admit that with the wealth of great comic book properties being published and adapted for our viewing pleasure, I’ve become jaded on what expect from a comic book film. So here’s the thing, while Avengers: Age of Ultron is a good flick and a great time for everyone, it still falls short of a somewhat unrealistic bar set by some of Marvel’s previous endeavors, and that’s in large part due to the issues of it’s formula.
Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the past, I’ve been at least moderately excited to see comic franchise films (like the first Avengers film) with Frankie, but this one hadn’t piqued my interest at all. However, having seen it now, I think my low expectations set me up to possibly enjoy the film more than he did!
The film begins – and nearly ends- with an incredible group fight scene featuring effervescent special effects. In comparison with darker comic films where super powers are hyperrealistic, these characters moved and performed like actual superheroes. The CGI wasn’t gimmicky, but it was definitely more colorful and exciting than I had expected. I appreciate both aesthetics, but I was happy to see it done this way and determined that Age of Ultron probably wouldn’t take itself too seriously.
That was certainly the case. While epic and sometimes touching, the movie was first and foremost about fun. It was a race to save the world, of course, and each Avenger seemed to have their own journey to complete within that. But there were some truly hilarious moments courtesy of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, James Spader as a supremely creepy Ultron, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and others. The heart of the film lies in the blossoming relationship between Hulk (played with nuance and intelligence, as always, by Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson.) Their chemistry was easy and helped lend a sense of reality to this world.
Looking back, my least favorite aspects were some of the forced humor and the inclusion of the Maximoff twins: also known as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. I can’t decide whether or not I disliked them as characters or as performers, but as an audience member, I felt very little connection to their plights. Elizabeth Olsen used a barely passable Russian accent and manipulated her mind control powers with hand gestures usually reserved for middle-school drama kids wearing fingerless gloves from Hot Topic (I would know, I was one of them.) Aaron Taylor-Jonhson, of Kickass fame, was surprisingly grating as Quicksilver, but does get credit for one of the funniest moments in the film when he impatiently fires a few machine gun rounds into a station of sleeping cops.
Thanks to a cast of mostly incredible actors, direction from the talented Joss Whedon, and a truly artistic design team, Avengers: Age of Ultron was a perfect date night movie. It combined action, humor and heart. I’m excited to see what lies in store for the next chapter of the franchise!