So, let’s hit the ground running on this: “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a bit messy while managing to be both fun and affecting. In some ways, it’s an improvement upon the first, but in other ways, it comes off rough for the wear. I would not say it’s exactly like the first movie, for wheras the first movie was more of a 2-hour long stunt of, “Can this Marvel continuity shit ACTUALLY work on the big screen?”, this is more of an establishment of what’s to come. As is expected of a movie trilogy (or should I say quadrilogy?) it leaves one wanting. That isn’t to say that the movie is a disappointment, because given the way Marvel/Disney works, “Age of Ultron” in its current form is probably the best thing they could do. Though, if Joss Whedon is right about this actually being a 3-hour movie cut into a 2-hour one, then…yeah, I could say it feels a bit rushed.
Here’s the thing: a movie with the length of “Age of Ultron” has to have more than just action, it also has to have arcs and character development. The movie certainly has arcs, but character development? More of a baby’s crawl than anything. I mean, of course it would be that way considering the movie has so many things to hold up. It’s definitely a movie for those who have followed up on the Marvel movie mythos, and hey, previous movie-watching generations had serials, and generations afterward have people like Tarintino, Jean Luc Goddard, Joe Dante and Paul W. Anderson dropping movie references left and right, so why not try to bring the Marvel comics experience to the big screen? It’s just that such an emphasis seems to come at the expense of art. Not that the movie doesn’t try, what with it’s few bits of character emphasis and cinematic show-offs like the tracking sequence at the Avenger’s HQ in the first half. But such moments are few and far between, extinguished when the next big chunk of plot comes along.
Ok, so now to address The Elephant in the Room: The Bruce/Natasha relationship? I don’t have a problem with it, especially given that Bruce himself shows a lot of vulnerability as does Natasha. However, I would have liked to see Natasha do some more awesome shit, even if their backstory is pretty much Generic Super Spy As Inspired By James Bond #456. Oh, and Marvel is being moronic for not having Black Widow toys. Yes, I’m probably the millionth person to say that, but sometimes the consensus is right.
I actually liked Hawkeye’s own part in this, especially with the dialogue between him and their wife, where Hawkeye states that he needs to save them and the wife saying that is the most dangerous thing of all. In the first movie, Hawkeye felt like something of an afterthought in a movie where a Rich White Dude in a Robot Suit fights alongside a Norse God, a sexy spy, a Green Man with
a huge dick anger issues, a cybernetic man with a Power Gem on their forehead, and an embodiment of what America Aspires to Be. In the sequel, his purpose is more clear: putting The Avengers into perspective as it details the fight between the team and a cybernetic monster teaming up with a guy who runs REALLY fast and a psychic woman (and fuck Copyright Law for not letting Magneto even be mentioned as their dad).
Speaking of which, Ultron is a good enough villian. I say, “Good Enough” because they do the Heath Ledger Joker thing where on the one hand they are propped up by the average Hollywood Writer’s idea of psychology/mental health, but on the other hand are entertaining and even menacing enough to actually work. Problem being that even at it’s most intense moments, one already knows how it all ends. Yes, the final tussle in the 3rd act is inventive as hell, but any real tension is gone the moment one realizes how, as a movie, “Age of Ultron” is married to plot structuring. One can already see the foreshadowing and callbacks before they even appear on the screen, which dampens some of the tension the movie tries to manufacture.
Still, when it comes right down to it, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” is quite an achievement. So many movies try to do what the Marvel movies do and most of them fail spectacularly, due to a misunderstanding of what really makes the whole enterprise work: the characters. A movie can survive things like plot holes, predictability, sloppy technique, tone whiplash and pacing issues, but without a compelling center it’s all for naught. “Age of Ultron” is probably one of the best case scenarios of what to expect from an entertainment industry where trends are made, followed, and beaten to the ground faster than one can say, “Scorched Earth”. Sometimes, Good Enough is enough.
Oh, and apologies in advance for this taking so long. Life gets in the way.
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