Saturday, May 2, 2015

Movie Review -- Quick Thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron

Sally and the girls and I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron last night.  I liked it.  I don't know if it was quite as good as the first Avengers, but if it wasn't, that was largely because expectations for this new movie were so incredibly high.  The first Avengers was transcendentally awesome because it was largely unexpected.  A lot of people, including me, thought it had a good chance of being a total train wreck.  But it was terrific, in spite of having a very large cast and a lot going on.  The new movie has that as well, but even moreso.

The fact that this movie was not a total trainwreck is a testament to writer/director Joss Whedon's skill as a storyteller.

**Spoilers Below**

This is from the comic version of Age of Ultron.
James Spader is very good in this movie as Ultron.
This is a movie with a lot of principal players, and--amazingly--they all have something important to do.  It should therefore come as no surprise that Whedon's first cut at the film was over three hours, and that the actual, theatrical version came in at roughly two and a half hours.  As others have said, by the time it's over, you're ready to walk out of the theater.  That is in no way bad; it's just that the story is over, you feel done with it.  And yet, I would still really like to see the original cut with the extra half-hour because there were parts of this story that felt a little rushed, especially in the early going.  Whedon is a guy who seems to like stories about unintended consequences, but when Tony Stark and Bruce Banner make the decision to create Ultron, it isn't given much weight considering that it's the inciting incident to a film that's about to run for two more hours.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment