There was so much hype surrounding the release of this one. It was going to be bigger than the first Avengers, and was going to deepen the characters’ stories…and then a great many fans were disappointed, so let’s see how it stacks up.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Overview: In an effort to create a world that doesn’t need The Avengers, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner use Loki’s scepter to create a peacekeeping artificial intelligence, unaware that the power source for the scepter is an Infinity Stone which corrupts their AI into a malevolent artificial intelligence whose only goal is the extinction of all human life.
Now, in terms of the character scenes, this movie succeeds brilliantly. The dialogue is snappy, the script is filled with little character moments that work really well at deepening our connection to these people, and the villain is really well-written. But all these individual parts just don’t come together very well. The script sort of wanders all over the place and takes a fairly straightforward plot and adds a bunch of weird side quests that end up distracting from the main idea. The end result just isn’t super cohesive. It’s like, if we’d gotten a series of vignettes about daily life as an Avenger with all these wonderful character moments, it would have been great, but when they tried to shove all that into a plot, it just didn’t stay together as well as it did in the first Avengers film.
I like the look of Ultron and I love the huge, earth-shaking reality of the big final confrontation, but I gotta say, the CGI isn’t really up to snuff in a few places. There are times (especially in that first scene) where characters defy the laws of physics in ways that not even digital animators can disguise. You get moments where characters become OBVIOUS digital stand-ins and it just feels sloppy, especially for a huge budget film like this.
The Villain: 10/10
Ultron is fantastic. I love James Spader a lot, and I think he gives us one of the first really iconic villains (after Loki) of the franchise. After a duo of blaaaand villains (Malekith and Ronan), we get a villain who genuinely feels like a threat. Not only that, but he’s likable in a dark way. He’s sarcastic and self-aware and ironic and he is constantly subverting villain cliches, which I love. It’s a shame he was the villain of such an unfocused film because I think he’s one of the best villains of the franchise.
Count: like 10?
There’s not many explosions (real explosions, that is) in this one. Lots of smashing and crumbling and toppling and ripping apart, but the explosions are kept to a minimum, which makes the big final explosion seem that much boom-ier. Since this is more of a character-focused outing, this makes sense.
Favorite explosion: the big one.
The Hero’s Journey: 8/10
We’ve got a looooot of them.
Captain America: Steve is pretty consistent here. He’s a good leader and everyone (including Tony) has accepted him as the leader. He’s also like the teacher everybody likes because they all follow his lead, but they’re not above teasing him relentlessly.
Black Widow: It’s sad that she’s so often defined by the men she associates with. Up until now, we’ve seen two of her friendships (her established one with Hawkeye and the one she develops with Cap) and how she keeps them at a distance while still demonstrating her loyalty to said friendship. But in this one, we get to see her try her hands at actual intimacy, and I LOVE her and Bruce together. Both are dangerous, but while she is all control and discipline, Bruce us still fighting his control. I don’t know how they’ll develop this in the future, but I really like it. Because she’s the strong one in this duo and he’s the insecure one, and I think the two of them just fit so well together. It would be nice to learn about her backstory in ways that DON’T concern the men in her life, but I guess we’ll have to wait for that.
Hulk: I like how Bruce is finally starting to get a handle on his control over the Hulk, but then Scarlet Witch causes him to lose control and that just shatters his self-confidence. It feels like a step back, but in reality it’s a step forward because he’s finally able to admit (more to Natasha than anyone else) how he’s NEVER really felt like he was making progress. This allows him to come out stronger in the end. I’m REALLY looking forward to see how he’s developed in his team-up with Thor.
Iron Man: After Tony’s growth in Iron Man 3, it’s nice to see him get his mojo back and take a stab at something bold that DOESN’T feed his ego. He destroyed his suits, but obviously the world still needs Iron Man, so he built another, all he while working to create a system that would allow him to retire for good and be with Pepper. He’s a much more stable character, but he hasn’t lost that Iron Man brashness, and that gets them into trouble. This also informs his extreme reactionism (is that a word?) in Civil War. In trying not to be a super hero, he ends up creating most of his problems and the character continues back down a dark spiral that will put him in conflict with everyone else.
Thor: Thor is Thor. He’s dependable and loyal. He’s basically the Avenger’s golden retriever. He doesn’t have a lot of growth, but that’s also the result of the plot snatching him and using him to set up all kinds of future stuff. He’s not really even a huge part of the story because he’s too busy connecting the dots to Infinity War and Ragnarok. This is definitely a character that’s sacrificed by the script. We get that great running gag about his hammer, but he’s not really IN this movie.
Hawkeye: He has a family?!!?!?!?!?! That’s basically it. I guess it’s implied that he’s going to retire after this one, but we’ll see. The big reveal doesn’t really deepen his character much, though. It just feels like the writers going, “We’re juggling a lot of plates here, so let’s give one of our plates a way out!”
Scarlet Witch: I love her. We get to see Wanda’s transition from villain’s henchman to hero when she decides to betray Ultron. At this point she’s very much a raw nerve, so there’s not much growth, but the potential is there!
Quicksilver: Well…he had potential and I loved him and he could have been great, but… he didn’t survive the film… *shakes fist at X-Men and Fox* It’s sad because hes adorable…
Let’s see, who else do we have? Oh!
Vision: I love this character and can’t wait to see how he’s developed. He’s the most powerful character, by far, but he’s tempered by a computer’s logic and restraint. His birth was a HUGE surprise when I first saw the film, and ends up being one of the film’s best scenes. Plus, I LOVE Paul Bettany, and he’s just perfect. In terms of growth, there’s not a lot yet apart from the brief, “Is he a villain or ally?” scene.
Falcon and War Machine also make cameos, but they don’t get many substantial scenes, which is sad because the main cast is SOOOOOO WHITE. But Falcon and War Machine play heavily in Civil War, so that’s good. Still…
That was a long one.
Score and Rank
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (46/50)
2. The Avengers (45/50)
3. Iron Man (43/50)
4. Iron Man 3 (42/50)
5. Guardians of the Galaxy (41/50)
6. Captain America: The First Avenger (40/50)
7. Thor (39/50)
8. Avengers: Age of Ultron (39/50) Tied with Thor, but according to RT, Thor beat Ultron by two points, so unfortunately Ultron falls pretty low, missing the top 50%
9. Thor: The Dark World (36/50)
10. The Incredible Hulk (34/50)
11. Iron Man 2 (33/50)