I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron in the theater this evening and it was really fun. It was a rare date night with my wife (i.e., what with graduate school studies during the day and working in the evenings), and that was a pleasure in itself. She enjoyed the movie too.
However, as to the movie itself I think I had the most mixed reaction to this picture of all Marvel films that I have seen.
Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers all the basics that we have now come to expect from a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film. We love the characters by now, and the enjoy the actors who play them. The action in these movies is just tremendous. (I’m still in awe of what can be done with CGI nowadays.) And the story was, at least for me, engaging.
So what could be wrong? Well, two facets of comic book superhero films became apparent to me from watching this movie. One is that it seems that “establishing” stories about how superheroes are either “born” as individuals or come together as a team are the ones that I have tended to enjoy the most.* I could only get that special experience for the Avengers once. (It’s the nature of the beast, I realize.)
The other thing is that I get attached to characters in these films and the teams that they form. So I am sad to see the original Avengers team dissolve at the film’s end. It actually reminds me just faintly of how I felt when the Beatles broke up–in the sense that for the superhero film genre the Avengers are roughly their equivalent to me. By the same token, I realize that in order for the MCU to grow and evolve, things have to continually change. Marvel has a large stable of characters to feature. Again, it is just the way things are. But it still makes me a bit sad.
I guess that do have a couple relatively minor gripes about the film. So I will try to quickly get those out of the way. (Disclaimer: I know nothing of the character Ultron from the comic books.)
First, Ultron evidently has quite a bit of his creator Tony Stark in him. It seems he is a chip off the old block with his snarky wit and narcissism. I can appreciate that, but even so I found him to be far too “human” for a super-intelligent AI program. James Spader does a fine job of voicing him, as this character was conceived. I just didn’t feel that the character came even close to matching what I would imagine such an intelligent creature to be like.
Second, the pace at which the story developed was breakneck. It felt rushed. In a similar sense it reminded me a bit of the central failing of The Amazing Spider Man 2 (although I still enjoy the film very much overall) in trying to pack too much story into one two hour movie. There wasn’t sufficient time for the essential plot element of the Avenger’s personal fears and vulnerabilities to properly simmer, and for the theme of their struggle of working together as a team to really be “felt.”
Okay, so with those personal issues stated and minor complaints registered, there is obviously much more to like about Avengers: Age of Ultron than to be niggled by. I am a big fan of Black Widow (okay, yes it is as much about actress Scarlet Johansson as it is the character–but the two of them come together so beautifully). I’m really enjoying the character development and screen time Natalia Romanoff has gotten in the last two MCU pictures. I also appreciated seeing Bruce Banner and Hawkeye developed in this film.
Tony Stark, Thor, and Cap were entertaining as ever. It was such fun to watch the camaraderie and competitiveness, both, between these three heaviest hitters among the team. There was some fun repartee bouncing around among the trio. In general, the humor was maintained at the already strong level that MCU has established, and did not disappoint for this movie. I personally did not feel that the humor was overdone. It was about at the right level for my taste.
To be honest, I was fairly indifferent about the new additions of Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Vision. Vision certainly has potential, though. I’ll give both Scarlet Witch and Vision a chance. But for the next film I can’t really muster great enthusiasm about Rhodey, Vision, Sam Wilson, and Scarlet Witch replacing Thor, Tony Stark, and the Hulk. (I realize we will see Iron Man again, though–just not on the same side, at least not until the end.)
Anyway, Avengers: Age of Ultron was a really good time for me, and I’m a very happy camper overall with respect to this film. Good job Marvel.
Here is where I rank the flick on my superheroes film favorites list:
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- The Avengers
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Iron Man
- X-Men: First Class
- The Wolverine
- Sin City
- Daredevil (Yes, and I realize few fans share my appreciation)
- Man of Steel (when grasped as setting the stage for Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- X2: X-Men United
- Iron Man 2
- Thor: The Dark World
- Superman (1978)
- The Dark Knight Rises (Yes, ranked here, above The Dark Knight and Batman Begins)
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- Batman Begins
- The Dark Knight
- Superman Returns
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Batman (1989)
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
- X-Men: The Last Stand
- Iron Man 3
- The Fantastic Four (2005)
- Spider-Man 2
- Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
- Spider-Man 3
- Kick-ass 2
- Green Lantern
- The Incredible Hulk
- The Phantom
- The Crow
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
- Mystery Men
- The Punisher
- Judge Dredd
- Batman Forever
- Batman and Robin
- Batman Returns
- Superman II
- Superman III
- The Shadow
- Superman and the Mole Men
- Batman (1966)
- Howard the Duck
* Some of my favorite films in the superhero genre are so because they felt special to me for establishing who the characters are, or for telling the story of how the team came together: Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, X-Men: First Class, The Avengers, Hellboy, and Guardians of the Galaxy.