Rating: 3 of 5
I happened to watch Agents of SHIELD, the Dirty Half Dozen before I went to see Age of Ultron and it was pretty impressive how one picked up right where the other left off. It felt like one universe. It was one of the few things Agents of SHIELD did right.
One of the things Age of Ultron managed is that despite all the previews and hype everywhere, I still went in not knowing what to expect. And I was surprised. I liked that the pacing of the third act wasn’t typical. I liked that it did the unexpected. I liked that it had as much depth as a superhero movie is kind of capable of.
I didn’t like the directing so much. One of the criticisms of the first Avengers was that Joss directed it like a tv show more than a movie with his shot composition and how contained the third act fight was contained. I didn’t mind it so much and now having seen Age of Ultron, I actually prefer it. Because this was… I mean it was a typical film with the shots that are too fast and hard to track. I watched something recently that I didn’t review and I was so impressed with how easy it was to track the action. Furious 7! It was like the opposite of the second Bourne movie (which really introduced this too fast to keep up with sort of action). Len Wiseman also does action that does a good job of keeping the camera on the actors so you can really distinguish what is going on. Age of Ultron did not.
And that, to me, makes all the “big, exciting action” not exciting at all. It makes it boring to me if I can’t keep up with what is going on, who is hitting what. And all the cool stunts they think up and awesome things these characters are capable of, they’re just wasted because you can’t really absorb and appreciate them. You can barely tell the difference between Hawkeye and Captain America.
But Joss did more than make up for Hawkeye in the first Avengers. This time around he more than has his moment. Instead of trying to brush off how normal Hawkeye is in the midst of the Avengers, Joss amplifies it and it makes the character so interesting! He’s got this great moment with Scarlet Witch where he tells her that if she wants to stay, it’s ok. She’s good and he’ll send her brother for her. But if she comes out, she fights. It was a great moment.
And every character has their moment in this film. Which is both good and bad. The interplay between Stark and Captain America brings out so much in each character and there’s these turns and these lines that serve the story and the characters well. Natasha has her moment, even though I’m still not a fan of Scarlett Johansson. She didn’t annoy me that much in this one. Banner even has his moment as Hulk but it’s not a good one and it feels pointless. Thor moves the larger story along well and there’s hints into his next film but he, perhaps, has the least to do and some of what he does do feels disconnected from what everyone else is doing.
Joss gets points for the writing and for the depth he manages in these characters with a film this big and a cast so broad. But he can’t quite translate that finesse into the direction and the whole thing feels bloated and very loosely held together.
It’s funny, if not as quippy as the first one. It’s painful in a good, super hero sort of way. It’s a notable counterpoint to Man of Steel, whether intentionally or not, because there’s huge focus on the collateral damage in all of this and a focus on saving people.
It’s also very philosophical, if subtly so, which is another thing Joss does. I’m not entirely sure what I think of that part of it. I know Joss’ philosophy and so I’m not surprised by what it says. Some of it I like, that things aren’t beautiful because they last. And some of it feels so futile. But then he points that out too. It’s never about a message but there is definitely a way in which Joss sees the world and that comes out in his work.
Overall, I liked it. I like these characters too much not to have liked it. The line between like and love is how well I engage with the story and the characters and the action – and my first round through the theater I didn’t connect enough to love it. Just enough to see it again and give it a second chance.
See how Avengers: Age of Ultron ranks with the other Marvel movies.