We booked up the tickets, we got a bit drunk beforehand, we piled into the cinema like a family of hamsters, clambering over each other until we were firmly settled for what was one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Not only was it the latest Marvel team-up movie, but it burst forth from the mind of demi-god Joss Whedon. At the very least, I was expecting to be entertained.
And, well, I was. Age of Ultron is certainly pretty far from being a boring movie (apart from the last twenty minutes, but we’ll get to that). It’s straining at the seams as it is with a main cast of five characters, but when you threw in all the set-up for future movies and all the plots and sub-plots (from The Vision to the Maximoff twins to FLASHBACKS) the film honestly felt a bit over-full. It was like Whedon was less writing a script than he was attempting to balance a bunch of plates on a single stick, every movement causing them to wobble precariously and threatening to send the whole thing crashing to the floor. I like that the film’s business meant than it didn’t have a second act lull or a major drop in pace, but the sheer overstuffed nature of the story meant that moments of emotional weight were a little bit lost in the fray. It left me a bit annoyed that we didn’t get to spend more time with some of the new characters because there were so many other things that we had to do first.
The cast themselves were as good as expected; I’ll always make a good case for Chris Hemsworth’s jovial, hilarious Thor as the best, but Captain America was a close second. As hinted at in the trailers, a subplot unfolds involving Black Widow and The Hulk, and it fell pretty flat for me, with a dearth of chemistry that apparently just couldn’t be helped. James Spader as Ultron was as utterly fantastic as I had hoped he would be, engulfing every line with a thick coating of venom and wit. There was far too little Maria Hill for my liking, although it was good to see another female superhero (Scarlet Witch, or Eyeliner Maximoff as I have dubbed her) appear in a Marvel movie because, you know, it’s probably difficult when they all get their periods at the same time. Women, amirite?
There’s not really a place for this comment anywhere else in the article, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quiksilver was on a par with Evan Peters in Days of Future Past, because they were both played in a totally different way. Both were excellent, and standouts in their movies.
I digress. The script was peppy as fuck, full of cheeky jokes and enough quips to overdose on (the finest came with Hawkeye trying to lift Thor’s hammer; “You’ve had a long week, Hawkeye, we understand if you can’t get it up”). In fact, by the third act, it might have been a bit too heavy-handed on the hilarity, pulling focus from the semi-serious shooty-shooty gun-gun bits so the Cap can spit out something else from between those perfect, perfect teeth. It felt at times like Ultron was more of a Joss Whedon film, with the meta-humour and whip-smart jokes, than it was an Avengers movie, which is probably why it felt like it was a little unsure of itself at times. A few sloppy holes in the script left it feeling a little bit like a first draft, which was a shame as it was clear that the script had been worked on and worked on and worked on until all the pieces fit together, but they just wouldn’t go.
And speaking of shooty-shooty gun-gun bits, I always seem to forget that Marvel movies are always building to a climatic frenzy of an action sequence that I always find kind of dull. It’s not that Joss Whedon didn’t direct it well, or that it wasn’t performed convincingly; it was that we’d spent the whole film watching stretched-out action sequence after stretched-out action sequence with some vague bits in between to get the plot moving; the plot was essentially abandoned in the third act in favour of totally forgettable orgies of destruction. Thinking back, most Marvel movies have had at least one really “woah” moment in their big action scenes- whether it’s Nick Fury in his car in The Winter Soldier, or, well, mostly all of any Thor film- but I was struggling to bring to mind any really “fuck me, this is amazing” moments from Ultron.
I knew what I was going in for, and Ultron mostly delivered. But it felt way too much like a step torwards the next sequence of movies as opposed to a movie in it’s own right- a stepping stone instead of a bridge. It was perfectly entertaining and, for that,I can’t fault it. But it was a little bit disappointing, after all the hype, to see a film that topped out at pretty good, not one that sporadically blew my mind like the first Avengers Assemble movie did. A popcorn movie, not a rewatch movie.