Avengers: Age of Ultron is a surprising film. Not because of the solid script or impressive action sequences. It’s not because rarely have we seen a comic book spectacle on this scale (are you taking notes, DC?). No, Age of Ultron is surprising because, for a decent chunk in the middle of the film, the action comes to a sudden stop as our heroes reflect. It’s a slice of character psychodrama that we don’t see very often. Age of Ultron is the better for it. But it doesn’t quite save the film from being something of a downgrade from the previous film.
Is it a terrible disappointment? Not in the slightest. But I think Age of Ultron suffers a bit from some flat spots; namely in its villains.
Ultron shows promise when we first see him. There’s a melancholy in his birth, a longing for identity that unfortunately slides towards villainous psychopathy in short order. Ultron comes off as one-dimensional the further we get into the movie, his issues boiling down to A) “Don’t compare me to Tony Stark or I freak” and B) “I don’t know what else to do with the world so I’m going to destroy it because reasons”. It’s not enough for Scarlet Witch to provide some exposition on what’s going on in Ultron’s mind. His early promise and sardonic wit gets lost and it’s a shame because this results in Ultron becoming flat, save for his final conversation in the film.
Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver aren’t given very much to do that is interesting. Elizabeth Olsen does her best with the Scarlet Witch but the cliched accent and lack of substance torpedo her for me. Quicksilver gets even less to do other than the occasional quip and a major act of heroism. He is even more of a disappointment given his character’s arc. Without spoiling anything it feels that he is in the movie to push Olsen’s character in a certain direction, and while this is accomplished well, it still feels like a wasted opportunity.
The main cast all perform up to the usual standard, which is a huge positive. Hawkeye’s character is given some unexpected growth, and by the end of the film he had been provided more development than in all his previous appearances. About the same goes for Black Widow’s character, although the romance angle in the movie felt forced. I never bought it for a second although it provided some fine dramatic moments.
I loved how the movie began as it’s own mini-adventure that tied into the overall narrative. It felt like an episode of a high-budget Avengers series and offered some neat tie-ins that comic book geeks will enjoy. There are also some unexpected great (and often humorous) moments in the film, including one with Thor’s hammer that left people gasping in the theater.
I think for me the problem with Age of Ultron is that, while the first Avengers film had this major, multi-layered build up which made it this amazing achievement for comic book fans, Age of Ultron doesn’t bring that same level of hype. It’s more of a straight-up comic book movie, in itself building up to the next major Marvel movie event (the Avengers: Infinity War two-parter coming in a few years). It’s a fun and enjoyable action flick and definitely worth seeing in the theater. It continues Marvel’s string of victories in the comic book movie realm, something DC is still hopelessly lost at. Age of Ultron shows that Marvel is still on top of their game, and that despite the film’s flaws, it is one of the best action movies you’ll see this year.