I genuinely wanted to love Age of Ultron.
The first Avengers was downright incredible, and I was sure Ultron would blow that blockbuster out of the water. Unfortunately I’m sad to report that while the follow-up is extremely entertaining, it’s from the jawdropping spectacle I was hoping it would be.
The primary reason I’m disappointed in Ultron is this: there’s absolutely no tension. I never once feared for the lives of our heroes, and that robbed the entire film of any sense of urgency. An argument could be made that I never feared for our heroes’ lives in the first Avengers either, but that film had the benefit of being the first time we’d ever seen the characters share the big screen together. Now that the wow factor is gone, the script needed to back up the extravaganza with a whole lot of tension, and it certainly did not.
Another misstep? The villain. James Spader gives it his all, but just like Loki, he’s not the most intimidating big bad. His snarky banter comes off as forced, and his army of minions are far too reminiscent of the Chatauri from the previous entry. If I could have any wishes for Infinity War (the Avengers’ next outing – a two parter), it would be that the Avengers face off with a team of super villains instead of disposable drones with absolutely no personality. After the zillionth time, watching Iron Man, Thor and the rest tear apart expendable robots gets tiresome and loses its impact.
Speaking of action, I hate to say it, but it was kind of a letdown. Apart from the highly creative bus-chase set piece, the film’s opening sequence and final battle don’t provide anything new. In fact, they feel Transformer like – far too hectic with everything but the kitchen sink being thrown at the screen. And what of the film’s climax taking place in Sokovia? Am I supposed to be feel bad for a FICTIONAL city? At least Manhattan was a location anyone could relate to. Ultimately, not a single action sequence comes close to the pulse-pounding thrills found in The Winter Solider.
On the bright side, Ultron‘s cast is predictably awesome with Chris Evans stepping up as my favourite member of the team. I was never Jeremy Renner’s biggest fan, but I was pleased to see Hawkeye receive some much-needed focus. Interestingly enough, I found myself growing tired of Robert Downey Jr’s shtick after watching him play the same beats for several movies; he was always the standout character, but I think it’s time for some fresh development!
Of the new additions to the cast, Elizabeth Olson is shockingly good as Scarlet Witch, and I look forward to seeing more of her (and her nifty abilities) in future instalments. Less impressive are Aaron Taylor-Johnson (as Quicksilver) and Paul Bethany (as Vision), but that’s only because they doesn’t receive nearly as much attention. Ultron is simply overstuffed with characters and subplots, and director Joss Whedon struggles to make it all come together.
Finally, I’d like to point out that while Whedon has created some iconic female characters (ahem Buffy), he gives Scarlett’s Black Widow the short end of the stick in Ultron. Not only is she saddled with a really random romantic subplot, but she’s relegated to damsel in distress – a very bizarre choice from Whedon, a self-proclaimed feminist. It’s a terrible and immensely insulting turn for the character (made even worse thanks to the recent controversy). At least Scarlett’s pregnancy is effectively hidden by the film’s eye-popping and reliably astounding CGI.
An entertaining but unspectacular follow-up to 2012’s blockbuster. Here’s hoping Anthony and Jo Russo manage to knock our socks off with Infinity Wars (much like they did with Captain America’s second outing). Ultron is of course recommended, but try to keep your expectations in line.