2012 was witness to a surprise behemoth named the Avengers. Busting major box office records, crushing all competition, and becoming one of the highest grossing films of all time, the Avengers took the world by storm. It revealed how to have an effective Hulk character (played by Mark Ruffalo), and how to assemble an array of characters by putting the fun in dysfunctional. Three years later, all eyes turn once again to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with great anticipation. Iron Man 3 was amazing, Captain America 2 was fantastic, the superb Guardians of the Galaxy revealed a whole new franchise…all pointing to one of the most anticipated sequels of the decade – Avengers: Age of Ultron.
[Allow me to offer a preface: I saw Ultron in 3D. Big mistake. The 3D was absolutely horrible, distracting, and in some scenes even distorted the quality of the action and effects. After several disappointing 3D ventures, I have decided that unless James Cameron directed it, I will never see a 3D film again. While some IMAX 3D experiences can be decent, it just isn’t worth it. Some of my criticisms of Ultron may exist resulting from the poor 3D format. Therefore, I reserve the right to type this entry in pencil, allowing me to change some of my views after a second viewing of the film in 2D].
Age of Ultron was a good movie, but it was not a great movie. I had a hard time putting my finger on where the problem(s) lie (although it could be the 3D was the culprit). Some of the scenes were director/writer Joss Wheddon at his best (like the Iron Man vs Hulk scene), while other moments felt either out of synch, unevenly paced, or simply lacking creative energy. In one moment Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) opens a door and whimsically says “yay,” a rather funny, unexpected, and enjoyable moment. An hour later Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) drives a motorcycle through a crowd whimsically yelling phrases like "Excuse me" and “Beep Beep,” yet it was neither funny nor enjoyable; in fact, the entire moment felt like an over-used cliché. Such are the scenes in Avengers 2: one moment they are fantastically thriving with exuberant energy; and another moment the movie is tired, not fresh, and lacking the spark Wheddon usually delivers in a film. Thus, I found myself feeling a little restless and bored in one scene, while totally engaged and excited in another. Call it a roller-coaster ride…but not necessarily in a good way.
There are a few new characters this time around. Paul Bettany plays not only the voice of Jarvis, but also the android Vision: a character who just simply exists in this film – perhaps he will be more utilized in parts 3 & 4? Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Quicksilver – a speedy guy who has a quick line or three; and then there’s Elizabeth Olsen playing the Scarlet Witch. Nonverbally, Olsen’s acting is fantastic (body posture, facial expressions, etc.); verbally she reminded me of Joey Tribbiani from NBCs Friends trying to portray Freud (turning every w into a v does not make for a good German accent). While her use of powers and emotional arcs were great, the scenes got awkward every time she spoke. Her best scene is a conversation with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and it’s a scene where she had zero dialogue but her face powerfully spoke everything that needed to be said. Olsen shows she can be a great actress, but struggles with German accents.
Was Avengers 2 better than 1? No, however that is not a bad thing. This sequel does not seem to exist for the purpose of surpassing the original as much as it is trying to set up for the Infinity War to come in parts 3 & 4. That being said, on a technical level, the movie serves as a cash cow, existing mainly to move plot points along for another movie…something which could have been thrust upon any number of the other Marvelettes (Captain America 3, Thor 3, Ant Man, etc.) as either short story tags or brief plot arcs. In a sense, Avengers 2 is unnecessary…yet, it was an enjoyable piece of unnecessary. It is not a bad movie…it is not a disappointing movie…it is not a necessary movie…but it is a rather enjoyable movie…and some of the scenes are fantastic (ever bit as good as the original), while the movie as a whole is not a smooth or as congruent as the original.
I give Avengers: Age of Ultron 3 out of 4 stars, and recommend it (in the 2D format only). One parental warning: the dialogue is more vulgar and contains more innuendos than the first one; this is a film that earns its PG-13 rating with language, not just violence.