In preparation for Avengers: Infinity War, I’m watching all the Marvel Studios movies leading up to it.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
So, I started keeping track of of all the movies I see (along with spoiler free reviews) via a photo album on Facebook in 2015. Which means I can actually go back and see what I said about a movie the first time around, now. I was mostly positive about AOU. I said it was a lot of fun, praised the Vision, the fact Hawkeye was more like Hawkeye, and James Spader as Ultron. The movies negatives, I said, were mostly in how it kind of mimicked the first one a little TOO much at times, with the Avengers fighting waves of henchmen.
Watching the movie now, and thinking about the criticism that was leveled at it (I always write my own thoughts down before I start reading reviews) is interesting. There were a number of criticisms that seemed to lay the fault with the movie on the shared nature of the MCU films, and basically absolved Joss Whedon (who so ably directed the first Avengers) from blame.
I’m not SURE it’s that easy. The movie does have problems. Even during the theatrical run, where I went a few times, the cracks in AOU started to show. And I don’t think they are really related to the fact that some time is given over to establishing the Infinity Stones (never have understood why they didn’t call them gems in the movies) once again. In fact, those moments that tie in with the larger MCU are pretty much limited to some business with Thor and the vision pool. Other than that, the decisions really SEEM to be Whedon’s.
The things that don’t work for me are the general pacing of the movie. I don’t know that there’s too many characters, but I don’t think there’s REALLY room to develop Scarlet Witch/Quicksilver, AND the Vision AND give Hawkeye his character moments, along with developing a relationship between Hulk and Black Widow AND give the “big 3″ their own character moments. I get that they wanted to give Hawkeye more to work with after he was brainwashed for most of the first movie, but the section on his farm (and his secret family) grinds everything to a halt, and the urgency of the threat is utterly lost. There’s really NOTHING in this section that needs to be in the movie. Even the tension between Cap and Tony, which is great, is covered elsewhere in the film.
If you’d dropped that and shuffled some other elements, you’d have a much tighter movie. That being said, there’s still a lot I like. I do think Spader’s Ultron is a good villain. I wish we’d gotten to understand his fondness for the twins a little more. Him asking Scarlet Witch to not betray him at the end is an interesting bit of character work that doesn’t feel totally earned, for instance. But it’s a cool performance. And the rift between Cap and Tony that starts here makes total sense for both characters. I believe their viewpoints, and love how it dovetails in with Captain America: Civil War, making their respective viewpoints much more realistic than the Civil War comic book really managed.
Finally, the Vision is a fantastic character. So fantastic, really, that it bums me out that we never got ONE “New Avengers” movie between this and Captain America: Civil War. I would have loved to have seen Cap, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, War Machine and Black Widow get a proper adventure before everything goes south in Civil War.