The Avengers reassemble but not without some battle wounds.
I am going to begin this review by stating that in 2012 Joss Whedon set a really high bar for himself. The Avengers was easily one of the most fun and entertaining superhero films to hit the big screen in years. It was action-packed, funny, and highly entertaining. To put it simply, it was everything a comic book summer blockbuster should be. I think the majority of film fans, comic book fans, and critics alike will agree with me about that statement. Needless to say, with the entire cast returning, Joss Whedon manning the wheel, and James Spader as Ultron, I went into Avengers: Age of Ultron expecting nothing less than another superhero masterpiece.
Avengers: Age of Ultron opens with a slow-motion battle sequence that introduces the audience to Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The story then shifts gears to a conversation between Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) about making the Jarvis program even better with the hope of creating world peace. Unfortunately, the artificial intelligence instead creates a robot named Ultron, who is set on not only destroying the world but the Avengers as well.
Now, before the fanboys and fangirls get all pissed off, I want to say that I did enjoy Age of Ultron but was disappointed. It is hard to really explain why Age of Ultron isn’t quite as magical of an experience as the first film was, but I will go ahead and try to explain my likes and dislikes about the film. Just be warned, I will try my absolute hardest to keep this review spoiler free so that I don’t ruin the film for anyone who has yet to see it.
First off, Scarlett Witch, Quicksilver, and Ultron are all pretty great additions to the franchise. I was actually blown away by how well Elizabeth Olsen fit the role of Scarlett Witch and loved what she did with the character. She had a great on-screen presence and the character was entertaining and interesting at the same time. Aaron Taylor-Johnson leaves Kick-Ass behind to play Quicksilver and I gotta say, he was pretty solid. Taylor-Johnson may not be as good as Evan Peters in X-Men: Days of Future Past but he’s still great and is a welcome addition. Lastly, you have James Spader as Ultron who just nails it. I won’t deny that I am a Spader fanboy but I think most would agree that Spader’s voice fit the menacing tone of the character perfectly.
Now on the other hand, you have all the original Avengers. I will say that I loved that Hawkeye/Clint (Jeremy Renner) got more screen-time and story this go around. The same can be said about Black Widow/Natasha (Scarlett Johansson). I think both these characters really dazzled. However, the others felt like complete déjà-vu from the first film in many scenes. The first film focused very heavily on Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America and I understand that they are the lead characters in this film as well. The problem, however, is the ongoing bickering and sarcastic comments between these characters. It just gets a bit old after a while. Their snarky remarks this time around weren’t nearly as entertaining as they were the first time.
Also, it should be noted that the film itself isn’t nearly as witty or funny like the first one was. Sure there are some great comedic moments like when the gang tries to lift Thor’s hammer but those moments are few and far between. I think the first film had a great mix of action and comedy that this one lacks quite a bit of.
In addition, the overall film feels sloppy and uneven. There are times where the film feels bloated with action sequences and robot fight scenes and other times there are things that don’t seem necessary like Thor’s return home. To make matters worse, you have certain story-arcs that aren’t fleshed out enough. Without going into spoiler territory, there is a storyline between Bruce and Natasha that seems forced and doesn’t get nearly as much development as it should. I think if the film’s story spent less time showing Captain America throwing his shield repeatedly at a bunch of robots and more time developing this relationship between Bruce and Natasha, it would have given the film a healthy dose of drama that it clearly needed.
I really believe that Age of Ultron lacks the emotional punch to make it really stand out from the plethoria of superhero movies that are being released each year now. While Spader voice makes for an awesome villain, Ultron as a character lacks a real introduction and his defeat is extremely anti-climatic. Ultron simply didn’t have the on-screen presence that Loki did to take this film to the next level nor did the story have the emotional pull to engage me like some of the more recent Marvel films had. I know a lot of people will love the Hulkbuster scene but for me, it didn’t top the Hulk smashing Loki scene from the first film.