“Avengers: Age of Ultron” suffers the same fate as many other sequels. It’s a movie hellbent on trying to outdo the original, by cranking up everything a notch. It’s bigger, louder and packed to the brim with new characters fighting for screen time. However, when it comes to the plot: The movie is almost a carbon copy of the original. Remember that awesome tracking shot through New York City in the epic third act? It’s recreated in the opening scene. Did you enjoy the Avengers fighting anonymous, personality-free legions? Did you enjoy watching cities being leveled or fights that take place on busy streets that use cars as projectiles? Did you like the Avengers not trusting one another?
The entire first movie was about the characters coming together, looking past their egos and differences, and uniting to fight for the common good. In order to make that happen, the Avengers have to be torn apart so Joss Whedon can rebuild the group for the finale—wherein they talk about the importance of “togetherness.” It’s a concept that ultimately was forgotten after they saved the world from Loki. “Age of Ultron” steers audiences right back into familiar territory. This time the team of heroes is pitted against a super robot out to destroy the world (because…well, because if there wasn’t some menace, there wouldn’t be much of a point to any of this, would there?).
Whedon is a writer known for his distinct type of dialogue. Much like Aaron Sorkin, there’s a cadence and style to his writing that many enjoy. Disbelief was suspended by the rapid-fire dialogue that came from every character’s gaping maw. In addition, every scene has the same basic breakdown, which goes like this: Introduce the situation, build tension, resolve with joke and/or pun.
This is the structure of a television writer. It comes from the clicked keys of someone crafting 6-to-8 minute segments that are broken up by commercial breaks. “Age of Ultron” has the structure of a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode. It might be fine for “The Scoobies,” but it feels a little hackneyed for Earth’s mightiest mortals. I understand why Tony Stark is cracking wise; it’s what he does. It’s his defense mechanism; he’s a motor-mouth with a machine head. But why is Hawkeye cutting it up? Or Quicksilver? Even the robots are hamming it up.
There are a few times during “Age of Ultron” when I audibly groaned. The first moment was when Ultron uttered something about not being able to throw up. The Vision makes a quip about not being born yesterday. Ultron yucks it up almost every time he’s onscreen, which greatly devalues his threatening presence. I try not to geek out when writing about comic-book movies, but why on Earth is Ultron making jokes? Stark and Banner created Ultron in 48 hours. Apparently, at least half of that was spent uploading Russell Brand comedy specials. No, that can’t be right: Russell Brand is occasionally amusing.
I’ve seen more effort put into ordering dinner at McDonalds than creating the world’s most superior in artificial intelligence. Tony Stark decides to create Ultron after seeing a horrific vision of the defeated Avengers. He goes back to his lab and decides it’s time to put a suit of armor around the whole world, which kind of contradicts the end of “Iron Man 3” (You know: when Stark blows up the 50 suits of supercool armor he developed). Right before he gets the arc reactor out of his chest, does he decide he needs to find something new to inspire him?
I could probably get behind the idea that Tony seeing his friends at death’s door might have shaken him to his core and returned him to the work he had been doing. However, even after Ultron comes to life and ruins everything, he doubles down with The Vision and delivers his “we’re mad scientists” speech to Bruce. His motivations change so frequently. He’s barely even a character; instead, an excuse to push the plot forward.
The cheapest and laziest way to get superheroes to fight one another is to introduce a mind-control gimmick. This gimmick came in the form of Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, who only seems to exist to unravel all the goodwill built up after the original “Avengers.” With all the history of the comics and the characters at their disposal, couldn’t they find a plot that didn’t involve enchanted mind control? That’s two movies in a row. I felt the same way in “Iron Man 2” when they rolled out another armored bad guy. Surely, with Marvel’s rich background and decades of great comics they could have gone another way—especially considering the only reason that plot is used is so that the Avengers will once again start beating the hell out each other.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” isn’t a bad movie, but I’m reluctant to call it good. It’s just the same: lots of action, very little character development. I realize these movies are giant crowd-pleasing endeavors that have to appeal to a very broad audience; still, it’s disappointing because I’m getting the exact same movie as the first.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
Directed by Joss Whedon