It’s a whole lot of movie. So the Avengers are still a justice-seeking group that sticks together, but Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) secretly collaborate together to fuse state-of-the-art artificial intelligence with robotics to create Ultron (James Spader), with the intention of using it to keep the peace. In typical Terminator fashion, Ultron immediately wants to destroy the world in the name of evolution, and the Avengers must assemble once again to save the day. I have been very busy these past few weeks, so the opportunity to check out what is likely the biggest movie of the summer didn’t present itself until quite recently. I went out of my way to hear as little as possible about it; I couldn’t help but see friend’s mixed reception on social media, but I did manage to avoid all specifics. Upon finally watching it, I can say that I ended up having a good time and liking it… although if I’m being honest with myself, I found myself wishing that I liked it more.
The first movie was such a sparkling success that delighted both audiences and critics alike, and what made it even better is the fact that something of this magnitude had never really been attempted before. Only one question remained: where do we go from here? The answer to this question boils down to one thing: more. This movie is a constant juggling act, and it really has no choice but to be so; if I were to use one word to describe Avengers: Age of Ultron, that word would be crowded. On top of the original 6 members, you have S.H.I.E.L.D. agents returning (Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders), supporting side characters from individual movies (Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie and more), as well as brand new characters with large roles (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany). Even with an extensive 141 minute runtime, it is damn near impossible to give anybody here a satisfying character arc, because everybody is in a gigantic competition for screen time. That’s not to say that characters don’t have their moments, and if I there’s one person that really stands out here, it’s James Spader, playing one of the best villains in this universe along with Loki. He chews scenery left and right as the antagonist robot, and whenever he’s speaking, you get excited because you know it’s going to be gold.
I don’t know what’s up with films this year, but they REALLY don’t want you to trust the machines.
I’m not about to jump off the Marvel bandwagon here, and I don’t even want to say that this is a misstep. They’re still doing a great job at crafting this universe of popcorn entertainment. It’s not as lacking as Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World, but it is just not one of the stronger Marvel movies, and it does suffer from sequelitis. When you try to cram so much into one film, it is going to approach a saturation point where it’s hard to be able to appreciate all that is taking place in front of you. This movie has that problem, and it starts to wear you down with fatigue, despite the good time that you have while watching it.
I know it must seem like I’ve got a lot of complaints here, but that is only because I do hold these films to a higher standard. You’re here for the quips and the cool action, and Age of Ultron does deliver on exactly what it promises, and there is a very satisfying fight sequence here between Iron Man and the Hulk right at the midpoint. Unless you’re in denial, you have to admit that this movie is just bursting at the seams, trying to fit in as much as possible. Going forward, I think they need to pull back and focus on less characters, and I think their stories will benefit for it, which seems to be what they’re hinting at taking this next, given how the final scene to this plays out. What they’ve made here is fun, but it’s nowhere near as a tight of a package as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man 1 & 3, or even the first Avengers, for that matter.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) ***1/2
– Critic for Hire