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Well, I’ve finally seen Avengers Age of Ultron.
I shuffled out of the packed theater feeling…letdown.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself.
Aside from all the crazy folks who brought their very young, noisy children to a film completely inappropriate for them, I had a darn good time.
But I didn’t have the same sort of good time I had at the first Avengers. Compared to the last big Marvel film I saw – Guardians of the Galaxy – Age of Ultron merely pales.
In fact, I’m enjoying the Netflix Original Marvel TV show, Daredevil, quite a lot more than anything I saw today, though Ultron is a lot funnier. The running “watch your language” gag is fun. I chuckled at times, though not enough to justify the price of admission on comedy alone.
So where did Age of Ultron go wrong? It’s filled with action, wise-cracks, and some great special effects, but something is still missing. It’s the perfect recipe on paper, but the final meal is…underwhelming.
I’ve boiled it down to five huge issues that encompass all the little ways this Avengers movie fell short. Let’s start, shall we?
1. Age of Ultron is too sappy for no reason, and without a payoff.
The movie relentlessly tries to tug at your heart-strings (but there are no strings on me!) and almost constantly fails to land a real emotional punch.
Black Widow and Hulk have a nice moment as she calms the “big guy” down. But that transforms strangely, quickly, into a weirdly forward Natasha Romanoff hitting on a Bruce Banner nearly as confused as me.
By the end of the film, Banner is gone and Natasha is all bummed out, and the audience is pretty much unmoved. It’s a weird little side plot that doesn’t add anything but confusion to the story.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye, now questioning his relevance to the team (much as audiences did back when The first Avengers came out) reveals his wife and family to his more super-heroic pals. This is an attempt to humanize him, one presumes, but it just feels…off.
What’s the point? Why do we need to humanize Hawkeye? Just give him more funny lines and let him shoot things with exploding arrows. All these little touchy-feely distractions are used to slow down what’s an otherwise action-packed adventure.
Which leads us to…
2. Age of Ultron has a serious pacing problem
It’s pretty normal for action films to throw in slower moments, comic relief, and so forth in between the action to give everyone time to catch their breath.
This works okay in Age of Ultron, but for some reason a lot of the slower scenes—not all, but a lot—just don’t work at all, and serve only to muck up the film’s momentum.
The “lift Thor’s hammer” scene is a good example of how to do humor in an action movie (though mostly everyone had already seen it thanks to the over-marketing campaign moviegoers have been subjected to.)
But many other slow scenes felt bogged down, and there was rarely a sense that our heroes were really in enough trouble to need to catch their breath in the first place.
Hiding out at Hawkeye’s farm? Yeah, these guys don’t even look beat up. Why not just turn around and beat up Ultron. He’s not at all scary (like he’s supposed to be.) More on that later.
The wood-chopping was hilarious—there are tons of funny bits scattered throughout the movie—and the dream scenes were interesting, but most of the slower moments were just boring.
Not even Samuel L. Jackson could save the day.
3. Sadly, the action sequences don’t improve matters.
I could make a mini-list about everything wrong with the action sequences in this film. Other than a couple gems, the action in Age of Ultron fell well short of its predecessor.
I rather loved seeing the Hulk duke it out with an over-sized Iron Man, especially with all the macho talk and testosterone-fused posturing (frankly, size really does matter!)
The Hulk/Iron Man fight reminded me of the best fights of the last movie, which often included our super-heroes facing off against one another. And I think one reason I liked these fights so much, is because we didn’t know who would win or what the outcome would be.
But we pretty much do know the outcome of the fights in Age of Ultron. That robot army doesn’t stand a chance. There’s not even a moment in the entire film when it seems like they’re even all that hard-up.
The one possible threat that might put a dent in our Avengers’ plot to save the earth was the creation of an Infinity-stone powered version of Ultron. But, Vision is what we got – a Jarvis-bot reprogrammed with Tony Stark’s Jarvis AI (which is even more bad-ass than Ultron’s AI, I assume) and released by Thor’s Mighty Hammer.
I think Vision is a cool character, and I like how he’s portrayed here, but talk about a serious letdown from a plot perspective. They cut down the big bad’s plans well before the final battle.
The final showdown, meanwhile, is wholly lackluster except for the death of newly-introduced Flash, er, Quicksilver, who has one of the coolest powers and looks pretty dead by the end (but who knows…)
The stakes are barely (if ever) high in these action scenes, or in the whole movie for that matter (we are all quite sure that Ultron will fail and that none of our heroes will fall, nothing horrible will happen, etc.)
Meanwhile, the most bombastic action sequences are simply too messy and chaotic. When you’re trying to witness six or seven different heroes at once doing battle (rather boring) robot attackers, it can be a little hard to catch what’s happening.
While there’s some terrific special effects at play, and some decent fight choreography, there just aren’t all that many “wow” moments, either, to make these fights feel distinct. Maybe that’s just because so much stuff is going on all the time.
Maybe it’s because some of the “so much stuff” involved we’ve kind of seen before, in the last Avengers movie.
Recall the sequence in the first Avengers when they’re attempting to stop the SHIELD hellicarrier from falling down. Iron Man and Captain America and co. are all trying furiously to save the ship from crashing. It’s a great, tense scene. We move back and forth between this battle and other action, but it all flows together really well.
Fast-forward to Age of Ultron and Iron Man attempting to get to “the core” of the huge machine Ultron has built in a gigantic flying city and it not only doesn’t actually make any sense, it’s just hard to follow. The same dynamic is at play, making it less interesting, but it’s much, much messier.