Directed by Joss Whedon
Expectations: Superhero high.
Let’s just get it out of the way: Avengers: Age of Ultron is not as good as the first Avengers film. It simply does not deliver that same sense of fun comic book action, but the good thing to note is that Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn’t really attempt to hit those same notes. It’s fundamentally a different type of film; it’s much darker in tone, and its main purpose seems to be more about setting up future films in the series than telling its own interesting storyline. Part of my problem with Marvel’s Phase 2 films is that they were all fairly unrelated to one another, lacking in even the relatively sparse world-building that existed in the Phase 1 films. Consequently, Avengers: Age of Ultron bears the weight of tying everything together, and this makes it feel like more of a big puzzle piece than a coherent picture all its own.
This isn’t inherently a bad thing — in fact, these threads that lead directly towards Infinity Gauntlet (and less so towards Civil War) were among my favorite scenes in the film. I’ve been a supporter of Marvel’s unprecedented way of bringing comic book storytelling to the big screen, but the main fault in that method is that everything takes so long. The first hints of the Infinity Gems were probably six or seven years ago at this point, and that’s a crushingly long time to wait for something to develop. These are the times I wish I had no knowledge of these things, as then these moments would just be mere hints at something to come instead of ruthless teases. And to think we’re still three years away from actually seeing Thanos bring all the gems together and kick some major ass with them. Sigh.
What I did love was the end battle. Finally it seemed like Whedon and Co. were able to shed the darkness cast over most of the film to deliver pure superhero fun. That’s not to say there weren’t moments of that throughout — like Hulk taking the turbo-punch to the face — but the ending was the first time where there was a thick concentration. It all comes to a head during a short sequence with all the Avengers defending a key point. They are grouped around it in a semi-circle and as the robots attack, the camera moves in slo-mo around the heroes, highlighting each one. It’s like a very confined version of the “Avengers in one shot” thing, but it’s also a lot more than that. It managed to capture the beauty and the thrill of turning the page and coming upon a two-page spread of superhero action, everyone locked in majestic poses of supernatural battle. As the shot continued, it also reminded me of the welcome but elusive big brother of the two-page spread: the fold-out cover. This shot hit me like a ton of Jack Kirby bricks right in the part of my brain that still thinks I’m eight years old. It’s FANTASTIC. Easily my favorite moment of the film.
I’m sure this joke has been made by many before me, but Avengers: Age of Ultron seemed more like the film the MCU needed, instead of the MCU film we necessarily wanted. There was lots to like, but I’m in no hurry to see it again. The bits of setup for Infinity Gauntlet and Civil War were great, and the way this film handled all the secondary heroes really bodes well for the upcoming films which will presumably be more like this than the previous ones. Anyway, it was fun, and that’s all I wanted.