Monday, July 13, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (A Second Take on the Film)

I’ve never been compelled to write something like this before, but after seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron again I felt I needed to update my thoughts on this film and post a revisionist review. 

So, when I first saw Avengers: Age of Ultron back when it was released in May of 2015 I was blown away by the multiple story threads, spectacle and diverse characters that were on display. I also think that I bought into it a little too much. Marvel’s last two films, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, were in my top 5 list of films from 2014 with the former being my top pick. Needless to say I was totally aboard the Marvel train at this point and was in a weird headspace upon witnessing all the bluster and bombast as Age of Ultron flashed across my retinas.

But sometimes wanting to relive the experience sours it. This was the case with Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Warning: There will be spoilers ahead.

When I saw it a second time (in IMAX 3D no less) I was completely taken aback by all that was wrong with it. And there was a whole lot of wrong. So much that I was surprised that I hadn’t thought the same when I first saw it, but like I said I was in a weird headspace in regards to these films.

Firstly there is the issue of Ultron himself. I commented in my previous review that his origin was glossed over in order to quickly move on to the next act. I thought that I had missed some crucial piece of information that would explain away what he was and how he came into being. Nope. It’s vague and doesn’t make a lick of sense. He was an A.I. trapped inside the Mind Gem that was already a surly mirror of Tony Stark’s personality complete with pop culture references at the ready as well as some commonly used slang too. When a giant robot says “I just threw up in my mouth a little” you know something’s up. His need to eradicate the inhabitants of the Earth also makes little sense. It boils down to “because I can” and not much else.

Upon a second viewing I also realized that my previous assessment of the film being packed with characters yet never felt too busy was also a mistake. This film has so much going on that it made my head hurt. I think I was just so thrilled to see some of my favorite characters on screen that I let the geekiness wash over me with little thought of if it made sense within the story or not. Well, a lot of it doesn’t. Scarlet  Witch and Quicksilver are fine additions to the cast. Trying to shoehorn in characters from other films in the MCU were not. War Machine and Falcon had no business being here and serve to set up films down the line. And as much as I love seeing the Vision brought to life, he is introduced way too late in the story to really give his character much room to develop. Plus his origin makes about as much sense as Ultron’s. It feels like Joss Whedon wanted Vision to be a part of the team and force fed us a bunch of gobbledygook to make it happen.

Relying on information only divulged if you watch the weekly adventures of the Agents of SHIELD is kind of cool… if you watch the show. Everyone else is S.O.L. The opening action scene was set up in the previous week’s episode, but no information is given within the movie to get those not in the know up to speed. It’s kind of crappy to punish those who don’t tune in to the companion show, which is basically a commercial for these films in the first place.

The overdone set-ups for the further adventures within the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets so freaking tiresome after a while that I realized about halfway through that I wasn’t watching a movie. I was watching a 2 and a half-hour long preview reel for Phase 3. Klaue and Wakanda were basically set-ups for Black Panther. Falcon’s appearance is a set-up for Captain America: Civil War. The lame “Thor has visions in a random cave” scene are a set-up for Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2. The talk of Kree DNA is setting up Captain Marvel. There’s a reason this film feels all disjointed and contrived. It’s because all these inclusions were forced upon Joss Whedon in order to tie everything together. A lot of times they are pointless and do nothing to move the story of THIS FILM along, and other times they were concessions forced by Marvel upon Whedon in order for him to include scenes he felt were important to THIS FILM (the farmhouse scenes).

There are gigantic leaps in logic and plot holes that you could drive a truck through. So there just so happens to be a factory that can manufacture Ultron drones that the heroes discover in the opening of the film. But how did Ultron know about it? And why did he need drones outside of passing his consciousness in between them? If his ultimate plan was to drop that chunk of rock to create an extinction level event there was no need for an army. He needed them so there could be a huge and flashy finale. At least in the original film Loki had a motivation, the means to carry out his mission and it all made sense. Well, a comic booky sort of sense. The Chitauri were waiting for him to open a wormhole so they could invade. That was the plan. Here it feels like the writers said “If Loki had an army in the first one for the epic final battle why shouldn’t Ultron?” How did Ultron know about the twins and how did they know about him? That scene where they meet for the first time is nonsensical. The whole Vision birthing scene makes no sense and is awkward as all hell. Was Thor trying to destroy Vision with the lightning attack or give him the spark of life? Everything is so rushed and truncated to make room for another Phase 3 ad that I’m surprised anything in this flick makes a lick of sense.

And of course there is the issue of Quicksilver dying. For me it kind of worked ant it kind of didn’t. I like that he sacrificed himself to save Hawkeye and a child from a hail of bullets, but at the same time I also said to myself “Of course he died. Whedon always has to kill off a major character in all his films or final episodes of his television shows”. It’s a Whedon cliché at this point and I’m getting sick of it.

What does work in this mess? The character moments definitely get a thumbs up from me. I love the relationship between Black Widow and Bruce Banner. The controversial scene where she compares herself to a monster for what the Russians did to her for her assassin training was totally taken out of context by most people and I found it to be a touching and tragic scene. Also, when she is kidnapped by Ultron she is hardly a damsel in distress. She’s not a whimpering, scared or helpless woman. She stays true to her character and immediately gets to work on finding a means to escape and really didn’t need Bruce’s help when he finds her as she was pretty close to getting out on her own at that point. The twin’s change of heart worked for me on multiple levels. The Hulkbuster Iron Man vs. Hulk was probably the greatest action scene in the entire film because it served a purpose within the story. The farmhouse scenes are fantastic and make Hawkeye out to be one of the more interesting and likable characters within the group. He needs his own fucking movie. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron is more of an ad for what is to come than a movie. It has a “too many cooks in the kitchen” slapped together feeling that really got on my nerves during my second viewing. There’s way too much going on for a film of this length and it becomes a confusing mess after the halfway point. It sort of implodes under its own weight. I can now fully understand why Joss Whedon left the MCU after this film was completed. Half of it was of his design, the other half was forced upon him by a committee in order to get the fans to salivate at what is to come and not produce the best movie that they possibly could. I hope that this trend does not pass over to Captain America: Civil War, which will feature even more characters and plot threads than this film.

My final assessment… The original The Avengers might have been awkward in certain areas and boring in others, but at least it was a whole movie. I can’t say the same about its sequel.

1.5 out of 5

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