The fact that this movie was not a total trainwreck is a testament to writer/director Joss Whedon's skill as a storyteller.
|This is from the comic version of Age of Ultron.|
James Spader is very good in this movie as Ultron.
This is the second time Whedon's TV roots have shown through in a movie. The same happened with Serenity, the movie based on his former Fox TV show Firefly. In Serenity, Whedon tried to basically wrap up his ideas for the show in a single two-hour film... with good but suboptimal results. Serenity was fine, but like Age of Ultron, it had a shitload of stuff going on, and at times it didn't feel like the first half of the movie was overly connected to the second half. I liked it, but it would have worked better as a season of TV. Granted, the budget would have been a problem.
The same could be said of Age of Ultron. More happened in Age of Ultron than happened in the entire eight-hour runtime of Marvel's Agent Carter, for example.
Think of it like this:
- Episode 1: The Avengers raid Strucker's stronghold, encounter the twins, and steal the scepter.
- Episode 2: With sceptor in hand, Stark and Banner start working on Ultron. They throw a party, we get character development with Widow and Banner, and at the end of the episode, Ultron starts getting loose.
- Episode 3: There's a big fight with Ultron. In trying to pick up the pieces, the Avengers turn on each other.
- Episode 4: The Avengers get a lead, head to Wakanda, and have a showdow with Klaus and--eventually--Ultron and the twins. But Scarlet Witch brainwashes Banner, and now we have a serious problem.
- Episode 5: The Avengers are all in their personal Hells, except Stark, who is fighting Banner on the streets of Wakanda. In the denoument, we head to Hawkeye's house.
- Episode 6: Heavy character development. We meet Hawkeye's wife, Nick Fury comes back, and Widow and Banner start trying to figure out if they can have a future together. Cap and Stark eventually get back together. Thor heads off on a vision quest.
- Episode 7: Thor's vision quest.
- Episode 8 - 9 (part one): Another lead. Ultron is in South Korea, trying to fabricate a better body using the Avengers' healing technology. This leads to a major fight. Eventually the twin realize that Ultron is not a nice man, that they have made a mistake. Everyone turns on everyone else.
- Episode 8-9 (part two): Still in South Korea, but now it's Cap and the twins vs. Ultron and his hench-robots for control of the new body. The Avengers get the body, but Widow gets captured.
- Episode 10: Stark wants to play Frankenstein again, and he and Cap are back at each others' throats. Thor shows up, finishes bringing the Vision to life--with lightning, naturally--and everyone freaks out. Meanwhile, Widow and Ultron talk smack to each other. Eventually, the team comes together, and Hawkeye figures out where Widow is.
- Episodes 11-12 (part one): Second invasion of Sokovia. The Avengers go up against Ultron, but he turns the tables on them, using rocket-powered vibranium to lift the city out of the ground!
- Episodes 11-12 (part 2): The grand finale. Hooray! Plus the denoument.
So okay. That's not quite a whole season of TV. It's a season of cable, a season of Game of Thrones or Daredevil or Orphan Black. I liked it, but it was a lot to take in, and with so many characters, it's amazing that they all had a chance to show their personalities.
I loved the action sequences in this movie, especially the ending sequence with the city-as-meteor, and I loved the parts in South Korea. But my favorite bits of this movie were the quite moments, especially the ones with Hawkeye. This is a very different take on Hawkeye than we've seen in the comics, but it works. I love that we see him as the most grounded member of the team--it's heart--and that he showed real leadership abilities. I can see now why they don't necessarily want to do a Hawkeye solo movie, but he is without doubt an indispensible member of the team. That's awesome.
I really liked this movie and would like to see it again, just to see what I missed. It's very dense, so I have a feeling that a second viewing would be satisfying. I could wish that there was a little less plot, but what can you do? Whedon has a lot he's trying to accomplish here. It worked, but it's a long series of cause-and-effect sequences, and that takes time to play out. We all left the theater feeling satisfied, and that matters. All things considered, that's its own reward.