Tony Stark and Bruce Banner attempt to create the ultimate peacekeeping artificial intelligence and neglect to tell the rest of the Avengers about it. Everything goes horribly wrong, there's an army of evil robots, and Earth's Mightiest Heroes have to quit bickering and work together to save the world. It's the first movie, but with James Spader and those 2 people who weren't Godzilla but were in 90% of the movie.
*Note: there will be some spoilers for previous Marvel movies but not this one
I've come at this movie from several angles: the climax of a years-long phase of movies, a direct sequel to one of the most successful movies ever, summer popcorn entertainment, a thesis on the dangers of artificial intelligence, another stepping stone to the spectacular 2 part finale, how a Whedon film rates on the Bechdel test, and balancing an ever-growing cast with a movie that attempts to appeal to every age, race, and gender. No matter which way I think about it, my final thought always begins with the same phrase: It's fun, but...
The movie has its share of problems, but that doesn't mean it's not an entertaining way to spend an afternoon. The biggest issue is through no fault of their own: expectation. I try to keep my expectations tempered for all things because my dumpster life finds way to squander even the smallest amount of hope. Remember how batshit insane the world went when The Avengers came out 3 short years ago? Five movies had carefully built up to it, introducing characters and their origins and you watched them grow as people and embrace their powers to protect the world. After all that careful world building they teamed up and holy shit. I've got a half chub just thinking about it.
So it's time for Avengers 2 and...we've seen it. Not only have we seen them all come together as a team before, but we've seen 3 Iron Mans, 2 Thors, 2 Captain Americas, and a talking raccoon. The movie feels rushed at times, but to be crammed full of characters and action and to be under 5 hours long is a miracle in itself. The film had an aura about it of "holy shit, they really pulled it off. They actually did it." We get here and it's like not only have they done it, but everyone thought Guardians of the Galaxy was gonna tank and it made almost 800 million dollars so it's not as impressive. There's no novelty to it, and as much as I know it’s not fair to judge it like that, I can’t help it. Whedon doesn't owe it to me to make the most amazing fucking thing ever put to film just because it’s a sequel to The Avengers, but that doesn’t stop me from crossing my arms like a big pouty baby and demanding bigger and better and more explosions and Spider-Man and then all the X-Men show up and then Deadpool comes in the post credits and
What sets this apart from the first one? They're robots instead of aliens. Ah I'm just being a dick. It's a team up of the biggest super heroes in the world, what are they gonna do, hunt down Jeff Bridges in a robot suit? it has to be an army because we know they're saving Thanos. Yes it's similar, but it's fine. The big bad is Ultron, who to my surprise was not a dark, brooding robot who droned on and on about human extinction and a bunch of tripe. He, being Stark's creation, had a bunch of Stark mannerisms. Long story short, a lot of his scenes were James Spader reading RDJ dialogue, and if the concept of Marvel’s biggest names (that aren’t Spider-Man or any X-Men) joining forces again doesn’t sell you on the movie, that should. It's magical. Everything else about Ultron? It all seems, in a word, rushed. The movie never stops moving and never drags, but I was absolutely not surprised when Whedon said his first cut was over 3 hours long.
One minute all of the Avengers are hanging out at Stark's Tower drinking and joking around, then Ultron magically exists, and after about 20 seconds of scouring through the Internet he decides his mission is to murder every single one of them. It feels like there's a couple of Ultron-specific scenes that got scrapped for time, but even with his shallow motivation he’s still easily a top 3 Marvel Cinematic Universe villain (the other two of course being Loki and that one bad guy who wanted revenge for something and was going to kill a lot of people unless insert Marvel character stopped him). He may be quick to jump to conclusions about genocide, but he's not a space elf who wants to make the world dark or Mickey Rourke with a Russian accent and electric whips. Ultron is a hollow character who would be utterly forgettable without Spader's performance. Fortunately, regardless of the quality of writing in any given movie, Marvel's casting seems to always be absolutley perfect. It's just a bummer that Whedon had 3 years to plan out this entire phase of films and it all built to a robot waking up and wanting to kill everyone. To be fair to the movie though, after 2 minutes of reading about GamerGate I was fully in support of wiping out the human race and starting over.
The real highlight of the movie is seeing the Avengers together again. The entire returning cast have played their characters multiple times and now completely embody them and have made them their own. In a movie where superheroes fight a robot army to save the world, my favorite parts are the scenes of them interacting with each other. For all the hundreds of hours of rendering action scenes and millions of dollars of CGI, my favorite scene is the aforementioned party scene at Stark Tower. Watching them joke around with each other and try to lift Thor's hammer is more enjoyable to me than your standard Summer Movie CGI Action Finale. I could watch Thor and Stark banter back and forth about who has the better girlfriend all day.
One of the most surprising things is how much time is given to Avengers that don't get their own solo films. Outside of the main plot, there is a lot of emphasis on the unsung heroes in the group. There's barely any Cap or Thor, but they've had plenty of time in the Sun and are each have a third solo movie coming up soon. They'll get their own character arcs, trust me.
Whedon focuses a lot on Hawkeye, and while I appreciated giving him a character besides "that guy with a bow and arrow who is in this movie for some reason," that doesn't mean you can trick me into caring about him. It's nice to have a grounded character as a reminder of what they’re fighting for by establishing a real human relationship instead of relying solely on slow motion shots of random civilians screaming in terror, but I still don’t care. I’m sure Mr. Hawk is a lovely man and caring father, but he doesn’t turn into a giant green freight train of hate.
Speaking of our green friend, he’s the center of a whirlwind of impotent Internet rage. Yes, him and Black Widow have a awkward, clunky, forced relationship, and the less said about it the better. It’s the low point of the movie and sticks out like a sore thumb amidst everything else. I appreciate Whedon giving more time to characters who won't get their own movies (no matter how mad us fat nerds on the Internet whine about it), but it's not what anyone wanted. You can't tell me I'm never getting my Planet Hulk movie and then throw this trash can love story at me. Good effort, good job, but it's a wet fart smack dab in the middle of the movie.
My only other problem with the returning cast is a nitpick, but what is the Internet if not a place for me to push my horn rimmed glasses back on my nose and pick apart things that don't matter in a movie made for children. Age of Ultron opens with the Avengers assembling and all that fun stuff at a HYDRA stronghold. One of the first things you see is Iron Man flying around shooting lasers and it's all fun and we’re all woo-hooing and high fiving. But wait a second here. Remember how Iron Man 3 ended with him destroying all of his suits and no longer being Iron Man? Well tough shit, it's never mentioned again. After All of phase 1 built to Avengers, it really cheeses me that an entire movie that's about Tony Stark as a person giving up the role of Iron Man is completley disregarded. But hey, it's a comic book movie. Should I be surprised that something was retconned to fit the current story?
We get a ton of cameos from minor characters from other movies, which is a very welcome addition. Every movie studio in the world loves to throw around the phrase "cinematic universe” (because Marvel has made approximately 40 trillion dollars off of it), but it's nice to be reminded that this actually is one. Have Falcon show up for 5 minutes just because you can, I'm all for it. I love all the little moments by characters like Falcon, Selvig, War Machine, and Idris Elba because it serves as a nice reminder that people you see in a political thriller like Winter Soldier exist in the same world as a Norse God with a magic hammer and a giant tree.
Is the cast feeling a little crowded? We've got more additions to the movie, because fuck you. Two mutants named Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, except they're not Quicksilver or Scarlet Witch and they're not mutants. They're Pietro and Wanda Maximoff. They're...fine. They don't light the screen on fire at any point, and it's almost like Whedon saw Days of Future Past and just said “Fuck it, we're not topping that and we can't even call him a Mutant or mention his dad is one of the most iconic villains in our universe. Whatever, just have him run fast and crack jokes at Hawkeye in his stupid accent." The movie doesn't even really need them, but I'm always of the "fuck it throw in as many characters as will humanly fit on the screen" mentality. I'm the asshole that gets excited when some company decides they want to have their own expanded universe because I care about continuity. I'm human trash. So fuck it, bring in two mutants who you can't call mutants.
I won't say much about Vision as he's very important to the plot, but I'll say that he looks like he was taken straight out of a panel from a 1960's comic and thrown into this sleek world and I love it. It's almost jarring how comic-y he is even when surrounded by dudes in robot suits and capes, and at the same time just his appearance is a complete juxtaposition of everything DC is trying.
The action scenes are top notch like you would expect, and the Hulkbuster fight is a clear standout. The Cap vs Ultron fight on a truck is also nice. Other than that? They’re kind of just there. I’m not saying they’re bad, I’m just saying you’ve seen them before. I don’t even need to describe them, if you close your eyes and imagine what the finale of a Marvel movie looks like you'd probably be spot on. It’s the 11th movie, you know exactly how it’s going to end and there aren’t any curveballs. I will say though after everyone sperging about Man of Steel, it's funny to see the entire climax of this movie is centered around trying to save everyone. They know they're not going to, but they're willing to die to save as many civilians as humanly possible. It’s a novel concept, I know. It’s fun to watch super heroes be super heroes instead of leveling an entire city.
It's fun, but...it can't match the hype of the first. It's messier and a bit more jumbled than its predecessor, but it's solid fun. That's what it's all about, right? I don’t know about you but I’ll let a lot of shit slide as long as I’m having fun in the end. The dialogue is still Whedon dialogue, for better or for worse. For me it's for worse, but I seem to be in the minority on that one. I personally find almost every single one liner to be a complete groaner, but I also love Commando so what the fuck do I know?
I briefly mentioned Thor has nothing to do as he’s mostly relegated to a subplot that was obviously trimmed for time. It sticks out like a sore thumb and is more of a preview for Thor: Ragnarok than a means of progressing the story. That bugs the shit out of me because I thought they learned their lesson after Iron Man 2. They flew too close to the sun with Guardians and now are re-living past mistakes. And by past mistakes I mean a 3 minute scene that is quickly forgotten and is largely inconsequential, but dammit I'm mad on the internet about it.
It really grinds my spergy gears (spergears, if you will) that phase 2 didn't build to this at all, and for the most part the movies are fairly inconsequential considering the character arcs that occurred in all of them. Tony gives up the suit, Thor gives up the crown, SHIELD dissolves. But the movie opens with them all together fighting as a unit with no reference to how or why. The Winter Soldier post-credits scene ties into this more than the other 4 movies combined. Like I said earlier though, I’m the guy who wants every moderately successful franchise to have their own universe. I’m the guy who requires you to see 4 other movies just so the next one makes sense. I’m the person eagerly awaiting to see how every insignificant character or loose end pays off down the road, so it doesn't help that we're 11 movies in and I still don't know dick about the infinity stones. Apparently they hold untold power, but I would sure love to be told about them before 2018.
With all that said I still had a great time. I know a lot of this is coming off as negative, but there’s only so many ways to say “it was really cool when my favorite superheroes all beat up robots together.” Even if it doesn't make sense, it's an entertaining movie and never slows down. Things happen nonstop as we go from action piece to character moment and back again. The action is exactly what you're hoping for and they're the perfect CGI mish mash that fill the void in my empty life. As exciting as those scenes are, the scenes between them with characters interacting with one another are even better. There are parts that didn’t do anything for me, but not every single scene is going to resonate with me. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume Disney isn’t putting Avengers merchandise in every aisle of every toy store and supermarket all across the world to cater solely to me, the fat idiot on his keyboard nitpicking the movie about magic stones and robots. I didn’t love it, but I had a good time watching it and my problems didn’t deter me from counting the days until Ant-Man.
|Sorry I can't become invested in your fight because I'm still FURIOUS that Banner and Romanov's relationship wasn't previously established|
If Avengers 1 didn't exist and I sat in a theater for Age of Ultron and I saw the opening scene of them storming a castle I would have ejaculated and died right there on the spot. It would have been the greatest movie going experience of my life. The fact that it's familiar territory doesn't make it a lesser movie. It's a movie about a team starting as a cohesive unit and slowly fracturing, and if Civil War is truly Avengers 2.5 like they're claiming then you can guarantee I'll be there opening weekend. I mean was going to be anyways because my life is a hollow shell, but still.
I'd put it right in the middle of Phase 2: I didn't enjoy it as much as Winter Soldier or Guardians but I will watch it a dozen times before watching Iron Man 3 or Thor: The Dark World again.