I’m a bit over superhero movies to be honest but I was in a mood for a big blockbuster and they don’t come any bigger than this. Unlike most people it seems I wasn’t a fan of the original Avengers, which, in hindsight, had a lot to do with hype and expectations. It got great reviews, it was written/directed by Joss Whedon, so I was all pumped up to see it expecting something special. Granted, the super team-up concept was special and something we’ve never seen before, but otherwise I thought it was deeply average in all respects and not even particularly fun, with thinly sketched characters, simplistic plot and all the warmth and soul of a business summit. Expectations really make a difference – I went to see Age of Ultron with no expectations whatsoever and ended up enjoying it a great lot more. It had many of the same problems as the first movie, but there was also a whole lot more to like about it.
Ultron is the classic case of technology-gone-wrong, created by Tony Stark in order to keep the entire world safe; needless to say that backfires in a big way as Ultron decides that in order for world peace to happen humanity needs to be wiped out for good. I gotta say, Ultron’s moving mouth was a terrible character design decision. Why on earth would you go to the trouble of creating a big scary robot with the creepy James Spader voice, only to undo it completely with that goofy moving mouth? Same goes for Ultron’s never-ending quips; yes the movie points out that Ultron mirrors his creator which I guess could include Tony’s constant snark, but again, it’s completely at odds with the look of the character which is clearly meant to inspire fear.
Speaking of quips and snark, maybe I’m just a bit over Whedon’s style in general, but they rarely got a chuckle out of me here, and the constant barrage of one-liners and would-be witty responses got well and truly obnoxious in the final battle. Way to undercut tension and pathos; the characters even quip before they die for god’s sake. It reminded me of a Buffy episode in Season 3 (and I’m a big fan of the show) which made me want to scream, could you please cut out the witty crap and just talk like normal people for a bit?
On the plus side, I enjoyed the main characters much more this time around; now that we’re done with introductions and getting-to-know-yous and everybody had settled into the team, it’s fun to watch the Avengers’ interactions and quiet moments. The party scene in which everyone has a go at lifting Thor’s hammer was hilarious. There will probably come a time when Tony Stark feels as stale as Jack Sparrow, but it hasn’t yet and Robert Downey Jr. is still entertaining to watch. Thor is still just kind of there and Captain America doesn’t get that much to do either, but whatever, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans are pretty. Hawkeye was a bit of a nothing character in the first movie, but here he’s given a lot more depth, which was a nice surprise. The Beauty and the Beast romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner sorta comes out of nowhere (and the eventual kiss was rather cheesy), but the actors make it work. As a random aside, somebody please make a 1940-s set noir movie with Scarlett Johansson as the lead.
I loved Paul Bettany’s Vision, an enchantingly strange and angelic creation who is a gamble that initially brings the team to blows. I also liked Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch (despite the rather dodgy Eastern European accent), and while this movie’s Quicksilver is not as much of a showstopper as Evan Peters‘ in Days of Future Past, he worked reasonably well. I was happy not to see Nick Fury as much this time around. Samuel L. Jackson is awesome but I just don’t think he’s a good fit for playing authority figures. He was a bore in Star Wars prequels and I find him bland as Fury as well.
I liked the story much better than in the first Avengers; technology-gone-amok is nothing new but it’s still heaps more interesting than a bunch of boring aliens with vague motivations. There were still heaps of problems though. Everything is way too rushed. The movie throws in some intriguing strands and ideas that are covered with a couple of lines of dialogue and never get explored any further, because the plot has to plot. Also, I am getting tired of the whole franchiseatis and movies setting up things for other future movies. I don’t even get why they bother – am I really going to remember a couple of brief scenes three years later when the next movie comes out? It’s just all unnecessary flab. Still, I look forward to the final two-parter in this series a lot more than I thought I would.