Monday, October 26, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron. A Review


The thrill is gone...
The thrill is gone away...
The thrill is gone, baby...
The thrill is gone away for good...

I can't muster enthusiasm for Age of Ultron.  I am going to try to give something of an explanation as to why I can't give Age of Ultron a high recommendation.  I know my comic-book loving friends, already having their patience with me tested with my dislike of Watchmen and inability to declare The Avengers or Spider-Man 2 masterpieces on the same level as say, Metropolis, will find my lack of enthusiasm for Age of Ultron more trying.  If I said Age of Ultron was better than any version of Fantastic Four, I think I might be met with death threats.  And for the record, yes, Age of Ultron IS better than any version of Fantastic Four.

Still, for me, the thrill IS gone. 

Whatever joy, whatever excitement that I, someone who didn't read comic books as a child, had for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and got from the films is pretty much over now.  I appreciate and can even admire how Marvel keeps creating this massive film series into a decades-long epic.  However, for me, Age of Ultron represents all that is wrong with current filmmaking, all that Birdman in its way spoofed and criticized about current filmmaking, all that is slick and calculated rather than inventive and original.  Age of Ultron is really nothing more than the continued reliance on brand over story, characters, or originality, as methodical and mechanical a film that can be made to hold fans over until the next episode in these feature-length serials the MCU has become.

I didn't hate Age of Ultron, but now, separated by a few weeks from when I saw it, I can say I don't remember much if anything from it.  What I DO remember is not for its good, and if comic-book fatigue has not set in by now, I feel we are at the cusp of either the complete dumbing-down of filmgoers or worse, the beginning of the counter-revolution against this endless parade of these types of movies, having grown more overtly calculated over time.

The Avengers are back: sarcastic billionaire genius Tony Stark aka Iron-Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Asgardian warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth), loyal patriotic soldier Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), expert assassin Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), master archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and anger-management failure Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).  They raid a secret HYDRA base where they all learn of two new figures who have unique powers through genetic manipulation (I think): the Wonder Twins...I mean, Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who can run at super-speeds, and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), who can control people's minds.

Sound like a couple of Mutants if you ask me...

Anyway, the Maximoff Twins escape, and I think we end up at a shindig at Stark's lavish building, where in between what might as well be a dick-measuring contest where Thor challenges everyone to lift his hammer Mjolnir (which only the pure can lift, Thor being slightly caught off-guard when Rogers is able to move it slightly), both Banner and Stark have found a way to make Stark's Ultron defense system sentient.  Wouldn't you know it: Ultron (James Spader) becomes alive, kills off the loyal computer system Jarvis (Paul Bettany) and now is going to kill all the humans to save humanity.

For some reason, the Avengers are all angry at Stark (and to a lesser degree, Banner) for creating this mess and trying to keep it secret.

Well, now they have to find Ultron, who has hooked up with the Doublemint Twins, gotten arms from a weapons dealer (Andy Serkis, and no, I don't know or care what the actual character's name is), the Avengers have visions thanks to Wanda, is stopped by Hawkeye of all people, and they take refuge in Hawkeye's secret farm, where we meet his family.

Yes, for some reason we have to get into the domestic drama of the Bartons, whom we didn't even know existed until now because, well...

Well, somewhere in all this Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) comes in, urging the team to keep at destroying Ultron, who is creating his own army for total destruction.  They struggle to stop Ultron from getting a new body, the Twins turn on Ultron after Wanda finds what's inside Ultron's head, and we get a whole city lifted up because Ultron is going to use it as a meteor-type deal to kill all life on the planet.

I think.

Well, in the midst of this, Black Widow & Bruce Banner discover they're in love, Pietro dies, the Vision (Bettany again) emerges from Jarvis (I think) and we get more jazz about the Infinity Stones and a whole group of New Avengers: Cap's associate Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda aka Scarlet Witch, the Vision, and Stark's associate War Machine (Don Cheadle).

Here is something that Age of Ultron doesn't know or realize: I. Just. Don't. Care. Anymore.

As I said, I can't say I remember much if anything of the plot because there was just so much going on, with all the talk of Infinity Stones and Scarlet Witch's visions (which were really just either hints for future Marvel movies or in one case, a chance for Hayley Atwell's Agent Carter to have a cameo despite being in the 1940s...and on a better TV show, Marvel's Agent Carter).   And as I said, what I DO remember isn't good.

I remember how Black Widow was treated in Age of Ultron, and that was badly.  Let's go over what has become of our Russian hitwoman.

She's been sterilized.  She's now Hulk's keeper.  She's the requisite 'love interest', falling for a guy we didn't see her falling for earlier.  She's held prisoner by Ultron at one point.

And she's the ideal representation of female action heroines, right?

I remember the seemingly endless Segway into Clint Barton's family dynamic.  Why?  It isn't because I don't like Hawkeye as a character (or Renner as an actor).  I just kept thinking why there couldn't be some secret base out there, or some hidden lair of Stark's, or why Barton has a wife and kids we never had any hint of, or why we should even care.

I remember Taylor-Johnson and Olsen training at the Boris and Natasha School of Russian Accents to where one wonders why they didn't look for Moose and Squirrel.  Really, they were terrible, terrible accents.

I remember wondering whether Serkis was even necessary to this story.

I remember thinking myself shamelessly manipulated by Joss Whedon by having hints of future films dropped on me in terms of 'visions'.

I don't remember having a good time.  Instead, all through Age of Ultron, I kept thinking that I was essentially watching a long trailer for future coming attractions (The New Avengers!) and how the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now cranking out things like a sausage factory, dispassionate, by rote, uninterested.

I can't recall a particularly good or special performance.  Everyone seems pretty much doing what they've done before (and even the effort to make Hawkeye a family man falls flat, me thinking how such a secret is maintained and whether the Barton children ever get asked what their Dad does for a living). 

I remember suppressing laughter when the city goes up into space, and thinking, what is that thing flying around looking like Paul Bettany.

Again, nothing in Age of Ultron made me feel anything other than a slight chill save for Black Widow (which just disappointed me in how the woman has to be either the romance or damsel-in-distress, undercutting all the good both Black Widow and Johansson had done).  Spader was OK as Ultron, but I didn't care whether his plan worked, or whether all those people died (and I imagine the body count would have been high), or whether the Wonder Twins did anything (at least Hawkeye had the excuse he was under mind control). 

For me, Age of Ultron felt cold and calculated, an exercise in marketing action figures and pretty much nothing more.

Again, I didn't hate it, but I do wonder whether with as low a grade as I can give without counting it as a negative review, I might be overrating it already.

I remember nothing in regards to Age of Ultron.  Worse, I don't care to remember.

The thrill is gone...

Next Marvel Cinematic Universe Film: Ant-Man



  1. While I agree it has a few problems and that it is weaker than Guardians, Avengers, Winter Soldier, and Iron Man, we definitely disagree on the film as a whole With that said, I had a feeling that this is not the movie for you. This one is much more fan focused than the first film, and that's why I had such a blast watching it.


    1. I think that's a terrible shame, if a film was directed not at me, but at a niche audience that almost deliberately left others out.

      I will say that I still think Black Widow was underused and kind of shafted. I hope in future films, she gets to be more than a sterilized love interest who needs rescuing every so often.


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