So, fair warning. This isn’t really a finished, polished Review. This is me sitting here the night after the movie trying to see how I feel about what I saw. I know I promised a spoiler-free version, too, so here it is.
Hawkeye actually got some time not being brainwashed, which is nice. The acting was as good as ever from the regulars, and the new additions are no slouch. Particularly James Spader’s utterly creepy Ultron grumble. The effects were great, the jokes were funny, the nods to the comics were exciting to see, and the fights were well choreographed and thrilling. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s not a perfect movie, but there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had.
WARNING: SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT
But when you get down to it, Age of Ultron is… problematic.
First and foremost, I liked it. But I don’t yet know if I loved it.
The Avengers was the culmination of everything that had been building since Iron Man. Age of Ultron is more like a sneak preview of what’s to come. Just like a few other movies from Marvel.
Age of Ultron is The Avengers, but bigger. And less groundbreaking. The Avengers created the formula, but the sequel seems to be a slave to it. We all know the big characters won’t die. They have other movies to be in, like the Thor and Captain America sequels. And we all know by this point that things have to be building up to Infinity War 1 and 2. So what does this movie do to throw us for a loop? Not that much. Which is odd, because it seems to do pretty much everything else in the 141 minutes it has.
I firmly believe that Age of Ultron should have been longer. An odd thing to say about a movie that was over two hours long, to be sure. But there was just so much packed into this movie. Character development, plot elements, setup for future movies… As someone who hates the recent trend of splitting movies up into two parts… this should have been two movies. The pacing is just so problematic. Important details are casually tossed out in dialogue, which can be easily missed by sneezing, coughing, reaching for popcorn, or even blinking, in the case of Thor’s vision of… Vision.
Apparently, the first cut of the movie clocked in at around three hours. And some of it had to go. But we lost a lot of nuance and subtlety in the process.
For example, take Ultron. After the initial fight scene, this is pretty much the chain of events….
Tony: “Hey, cool scepter. It’s got a living mind in the gem!”
Tony: “I’m gonna use it to make Ultron!”
Ultron: “I exist now! You’re all dead.”
And it happens so quickly that there’s really no sense of why Ultron’s doing this. I mean, the character knows his main objective, and he figures out how to bring it about in a snap. But there’s really no sense of Ultron’s self-awareness coming into play. Within the space of about a few minutes, Ultron goes from “I am” to “Destroy the Avengers.” And for the rest of the movie, he waxes on and soliloquizes about his logic, but not really explaining his obvious emotions on the matter. For lack of a better word, the humanity of the character isn’t explored.
As another example, Thor’s vision quest. Thor leaves. He meets up with Dr. Selvig from the Thor films. They find a magic pool. Thor bathes. He gets a vision. He comes back to the team with the solution. Now, I know it’s an Infinity Well. But Bob H. Moviegoer doesn’t. All he knows is that Thor’s in a magic well that was never mentioned before and will never be mentioned again.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more questions you could ask. Why did Hulk run away at the end? (Besides needing to write the character out before the Civil War film.) Where did Helen Cho suddenly appear from? Is S.H.I.E.L.D. back? What has Nick Fury been up to? How does Thor seem to know about the events of Guardians of the Galaxy when he mentions “four Infinity Stones”?
If this had been split into two movies, then not only would there be enough of a status quo for the formation of the New Avengers at the end to really feel like a new chapter, but everything would have had a bit more time to breathe. And maybe then they could have actually followed up on the whole Ultron-and-Tony-are-two-sides-of-the-same-coin thing that disappeared after the first half of the movie.
And that’s not even getting into the fact that Tony Stark make a joke about Primae Nocta (long story short, the right of feudal land owners to take their pick of young women in their domain… whether the women like it or not) and a slightly clumsy reveal that Black Widow had been forcefully sterilized…. This movie’s come under a bit of fire.
Apparently, Joss Whedon himself isn’t happy with a lot of changes that the studio demanded with this movie. So for a lot of these problems, I’m going to have to withhold the majority of my specific judgements until I have a better idea of what was planned from the beginning and what was meddled with.
Ultimately, with every other Marvel film since The Avengers, I knew right where I stood from the moment I finished seeing them in the theatre. But Age of Ultron is a different beast. So much of it seems like it doesn’t care about its own events, but the next thing. The next movie. Only time will tell if I can come back and enjoy this movie after the next movies have come and gone. And if the rumors of an upcoming extended edition are true… then I’ll definitely have to reconsider a lot about what I said.
As time goes by, I find myself with the opinion that Age of Ultron’s pros outweigh its cons. By the time I do a full Recap/Review in a year or so, we’ll see how that holds up.