To say I was excited to see this movie is a massive understatement. As a comic book fan growing up (OK – I never grew up) the wave of superhero movies these past 10 years have been overwhelming and I have been loving every second of it. As someone who lists Superman II in my top 5 movies of all time http://redpilltalent.com/the-top-5-movies-of-all-time-according-to-this-movie-geek/ I can NEVER have enough comic book movies in my life. Throw in the fact that Marvel has been on an unbelievable streak of quality movies being produced, and you had one really excited dork for Avengers: Age of Ultron. I went opening night with a friend and got there super early to make sure we had great seats. With popcorn and milk duds in hand (aside – milk duds are the best movie candy – end of discussion) I was eager with anticipation of a great movie, especially because the first Avengers was awesome. To my amazement, this movie did not deliver. I am not going to say it sucked by any means – but I was definitely disappointed and felt that this was a big miss on Marvel’s part. With Batman v. Superman coming soon, in this writer’s opinion the window is now open for a new sheriff in town (I am looking at you, DC). What follows are some of the main reasons I felt Avengers: Age of Ultron was just “meh”:
1. Too many characters – The first Avengers movie worked so well because it limited the scope of the characters to ones we already had come to love and know through years of buildup to the first Avengers movie. We knew them, knew their back stories and cared about them too. Yes – the whole Shield thing for non comic book fans can be a bit confusing with who’s who, but to Marvel’s credit they laid the groundwork even for most of them in prior movies and with a TV show now too. In this movie, they throw in LOTS of new characters, including Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, The Vision, Ultron (more on him in a bit) and many more. We don’t know these characters and very little time is spent getting to know them anyhow, so what happens to them ends up meaning little to us in the frame of the movie. Warning – GEEK TANGENT AHEAD – one of my biggest gripes with the Star Wars Prequels was that they totally missed the point of why the original trilogy was so awesome. Not because of the effects, but because the group of characters were so iconic and their relationships with each other mattered. The prequels just basically threw a bunch of effects and random characters together and used familiar names and settings and demanded we love them. Didn’t work there and doesn’t work here either in Ultron.
2. Weak Villain – When I heard James Spader was playing Ultron, I was super excited. This guy is an amazing actor, and he payed some of the epic dicks in movie history. This movie totally wastes his talents. Yes – he is as good as can possibly be considering we just hear his voice the whole movie, but the fact remains Ultron is a weak villain to put up against Earth’s mightiest heroes. In essence, a J.A.R.V.I.S given bodily form but with evil intent, the threat is never really so epic that we, as an audience, ever really worry about the fate of anyone. Ultron can be beaten (and is several times in the movie) and the “scary” part about him is that he can switch bodies easily. His big “plan” is to destroy the earth by lifting a large city into the sky and then dropping it asteroid like on the planet, hoping for an extinction event. In terms of villainous plots, this one is a yawn, Most of the time our heroes are fighting Ultron robot minions and while the action is good, it all seems so silly. I am so sad I just wrote that sentence, but it’s true.
3. Trying too hard with Hawkeye and Black Widow – I get that they have big time actors playing these parts (Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson) but truth be told we don’t go to superhero movies to get back story arcs on the two non-powers having members of the team. Yes – they are both cool, but most non comic book geeks could give two craps about them in relation to their power having teammates. Yet Age of Ultron devotes significant time to both, pushing Cap and Thor to the sidelines more than we would like (Iron Man and Hulk get lots of love). It almost felt like the studio said “well, Hawkeye in the first one was basically a bad, hypnotized guy, so we have to give him some love in this one” and “we have one of the hottest movie stars on earth in our movie – let’s give her more dramatic scenes!”. If we are getting more character driven content, make it about the ones we actually care about most – not the fringe players. Or even better, as in point #1, give us more about the new characters you are shoving down our throats in the name of toy revenue (which I readily admit I will be buying for my “kids” – can’t take the geek out of me).
4. Too much action? – Words I never thought I would write that would have a question mark at the end, but in the case of Ultron true. The action/fight scenes were so plentiful (granted, beautifully made) that you cared less and less as more and more fight scenes between our heroes and nameless robot minions happened. The best superhero (or any action) movies build up the suspense for those fights and thus make us emotionally invested in them when they happen. Great example is my favorite superhero movie ever- Superman II. The whole movie Zod and crew are doing their evil things as we watch a helpless Clark Kent try to get his powers back. When the time comes for the amazing showdown in Metropolis, we are pumped and ready for a really special fight. Not so here – just action scene after action scene of really just excuses to see our heroes use their powers.
I will be seeing this movie again as I promised to take my kids, and am hoping a second viewing will lessen my apathy for this movie I was so excited for. No one bats .1000, so perhaps Marvel is due some slack for missing on this one. Have you seen the movie yet? Do you agree with my review? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Until next week, remember – there is no spoon.