[dropcap1]B[/dropcap1]efore you get the wrong idea from this headline, I just want to preface this list by saying that I did wholeheartedly enjoy Avengers: Age of Ultron and would happily watch it again. I mean, I left my apartment to sit in a crowded theater full of crying babies and whiny children and talkative teens to watch this movie. Despite having to face off with the parents of the obnoxious child in the row behind me and having had too much water before stepping in the theater, I did not move an inch until that movie was over (and the credits, because duh, we know the drill with Marvel movies by now). I love the Avengers and think Joss Whedon can do no wrong, but as Keith mentioned in his review, there were a few things off in the film—not enough to ruin the experience by any means, but definitely things that poked at me a bit. So here’s my *spoiler-filled list of some minor—and some not so minor—issues I had with Avengers: Age of Ultron.*
1. References to the rest of the cinematic Marvel universe
First off, you’ve got to know what you’re getting into here. And if you’re one of the people who were lined up outside the theater first thing on Friday, then you know what you’re in for. At this point Marvel‘s an unstoppable money-making machine, and in order to make sure they stay that way, they’ve managed to create a mega-franchise, consisting of smaller, interrelated franchises that weave together into the larger narrative. However, each series is still pretty autonomous, so you can mostly follow along if you’re more interested in Iron Man than Captain America, for example. Still, it’s the little details that clue you into the game. Right away, in Age of Ultron we hear S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra name-dropped, and if you’ve been keeping up with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you know what’s been going on with the organization. Even if you haven’t, and even if you haven’t watched every movie in the series—all the Iron Mans and Thors and Captain Americas—you can still piece together the small missing parts. It’s actually impressive how they manage to balance this and keep the narrative going across all these different films, but unless you put in that time and effort to keep up with every new Marvel project that’s been coming up lately, then this movie feels like you’ve skipped a half-step.
2. The ratio of comedy to action (pacing)
One of the reasons why I’m such a Whedon fan is because I appreciate how he can flawlessly incorporate humor, usually in the form of witty dialogue, with drama and action. And Age of Ultron is hilarious. You really can’t beat the humor in this one. I think it even surpassed its predecessor, which had many great moments on its own. However, some of the humorous moments caused the movie to lag and affected its overall pacing. Take, for example, Stark’s soiree in the beginning of the movie, during which there was a lot of Avengers bro action, jokes, and flirting (see No. 5). I loved seeing the Avengers’ chemistry as they casually socialized, but the scene felt drawn out, especially compared to some of the action scenes we see later with Ultron. And speaking of Ultron …
3. Ultron as the most likeable, somewhat-threatening-but-not-really-that-threatening villain ever
I really liked Ultron. He’s actually quite the charming villain. He’s intelligent and surprisingly polite, and the whole “Look, I took over the Internet and am everywhere” thing is pretty cool. However, I don’t get the big-scary-boss vibe with Ultron. Part of it is the humor and part of it is the lack of action. We don’t actually see him do much but talk. Just a little more edge would’ve gone a long way to present Ultron as a threatening, intimating character.
4. The unnecessarily long Hulk/Iron Man fight
Yes, Hulk smash. Yes, we’ve seen it. We don’t need to see it again, especially for this long. This just feels way too close to the Hulk fights in the first Avengers.
5. Random Black Widow/Hulk romance
This is another instance where I was wondering if I missed a step somewhere along the line of Marvel blockbusters. Doesn’t the Black Widow love Hawkeye? And she had something with Captain America, right? But where did this Hulk romance come from? After the first fight scene, we see her calming the Hulk down in a weirdly intimate way. Sure. But then she’s all over him at the party and they want to run away together like teenage lovers? Hmmm … sorry; you can place that right back on the shelf, because I’m not buying it. (Also, for the record—even though this shouldn’t be something that needs to be clarified—even if I don’t agree with this random romance, no, it’s still neither funny nor appropriate to call Natasha Romanoff a slut. ::ahem:: ::ahem::)
6. ALL of the characters
Ever since it was announced that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch would be making appearances in this film, I was curious about the choice of characters. Sure, they become Avengers, but there’s also the problem of their lineage being linked to the mutant universe. So right off the bat, there’s that awkwardness and confusion. But even if we overlook that, there’s still the problem of the movie becoming too glut with characters. This has always been one of the main challenges of the creation of an Avengers movie—figuring out how to balance all of these substantial characters who are big enough to support their own independent franchises. Too little and the characters become flat, and too much and the movie feels overpacked and unfocused. It’s a delicate balance. The first Avengers managed this perfectly, but its sequel was definitely straddling the line. Using the Scarlet Witch’s powers to illuminate each Avenger’s fears and provide us with some backstory was wise. However, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch still felt like afterthoughts, and other characters—the Falcon, War Machine, and even Nick Fury, who apparently just hangs out in people’s barns for fun—seemed to have just been thrown in for face recognition.
7. The Vision shows up, and he’s just … meh.
Finally! The Vision! The one who can defeat Ultron! Who used to be the super awesome J.A.R.V.I.S. And he’s got one of the all-powerful Infinity Stones implanted IN HIS FACE. He’s going to do all kinds of cool, magical things! He’s going to have the most exciting fight against Ultron! We’re going to find out all kinds of things about him and what his presence means in the universe and in the Avengers! … Oh, he’s just going to show up and zap a beam from his forehead once or twice? Oh, ok. I guess that’s cool too.
8. The Hawkeye bait-and-switch
You know what’s totally unnecessary, especially while you’re in the middle of a war against a genius machine for the fate of mankind? A trip to Hawkeye’s quaint, little home in the countryside. As soon as we get introduced to Hawkeye’s secret wife and kids in their secret home, I know we’re getting set up for an emotional moment. Why else would we get introduced to these characters who have no significance whatsoever to the story? Why else would we take a break from saving the world to go chop some wood in the country? I knew either Hawkeye was going to die or Whedon was doing a bait-and-switch. He was telegraphing Hawkeye’s impending death way too much; that didn’t seem like Whedon’s style. Nope, he threw in Quicksilver instead, and we just kind of have to shrug about that. Yeah, Quicksilver gets a few cute lines, but he’s not fully developed, so the most I can muster at his death is, “Oh, Kick-Ass died.” In general, obviously Age of Ultron is much darker than its predecessor, but between the weird Black Widow/Hulk romance and this bait-and-switch, it frequently felt like it was trying to emotionally manipulate its audience. However, it didn’t work, because the seams kept showing.
9. The group dynamic of the Avengers
Here’s an issue we saw in the last movie: the Avengers are supposed to be a team, but they have egos and keep secrets from each other, so that causes problems. And of course Tony Stark is frequently at the nexus of the problems, as the egomaniacal mad scientist. It wouldn’t be quite realistic for the group’s dynamic to change so drastically since they last fought to save the earth, but the nature of their interactions with each other made it feel as though we were treading the same ground as before. If we see this again in the next film, it’s going to get really old really quickly.
(9a. I know Bruce Banner isn’t always his angry, green counterpart, and that he’s a really cautious, meek science nerd, but really, bro? Are you just going to spend all your time getting bullied into doing whatever Tony Stark says? You’re better than that, man.)
10. Post-credits preview of the next Avengers movie (Thanos)
As I said, despite its problems, I really enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron and was legitimately hyped at the sneak preview at the next Avengers movie, when it looks like Thanos will finally step up to the plate himself. However, I have to say that Thanos looks so underwhelming. They’ve got all these fancy effects and costuming, and yet Thanos still looks like the bad guy in a Disney movie? But I could be wrong, and I’ll happily bow down to the Marvel gods for a badass Thanos in the next Avengers movie—because I’ll definitely be watching opening day.
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Re: Point 5. Widow loves Hawkeye like a brother. Non romantic. Always has. Widow/Hulk was weird because where the hell is Betty Ross?
re: point 9. I feel like the group disagreements are there to set up a future civil war movie which is currently filming and is due May 2016, and will finally give us a Black Panther
As depicted in this film, Ultron was not the best MCU villain. Personally, I think the Destroyer in Thor 1 was more intimidating (though not as smart). Ultron looked like he had two can openers on the side of his face! At best, he looks like a Terminator from the 80’s. And his master plan? Throw a giant rock at the Earth and hope it triggers an extinction event. That plan isn’t visually interesting and let’s face it, I never for a moment believed he had any chance of making it work. Besides the villain, I disliked the romance between Black Widow and Hulk, and based on the ending I don’t think that storyline is going to payoff in the future, so…big waste of time really. I also think Hawkeye should have been the one to die at the end of the film. It would have set up Civil War nicely, giving Captain America another good reason to be at odds with Iron Man. Besides the creation of Ultron, being responsible for the death of a fellow Avenger would certainly split the team and lead to an epic confrontation.