You will likely be hard pressed to find someone – critic or everyday moviegoer – who does not like Avengers: Age of Ultron, the newest superhero mash-up from Marvel. It has got everything audiences want from a (early) summer blockbuster, including big stars and even bigger explosions.
Now you would think, with an introduction like that, that I might be setting the stage to be at least somewhat contrarian in my review, but I am actually not (for the most part). Of course, I liked the movie. There has not been a Marvel movie I haven’t at least liked. Twice a year, they deliver fun, action-packed thrill rides that you do not have to think too much about and just enjoy. So, just sit back and soak everything in, and with Age of Ultron, there is a lot to soak in – almost too much, in fact.
The film throws the audience right into the action – exactly where we want to be. Opening right smack in the middle of an Avengers-led siege of a Hydra stronghold in Eastern Europe, the team – Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Hulk – is still fighting the Hydra-infected remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. (the aftermath of the latest Captain America standalone film, released just last year) and searching for Loki’s all-powerful scepter.
This, and many other, action sequences in the film are terrific – wonderfully orchestrated and shot with edge-of-your-seat excitement. There are several great big battle sequences in the film, including this pulsating opening and, of course, the epic climactic battle that tests everything our beloved heroes have in them. Some other parts, including the horror-film like hallucinations each hero suffers and the creation montage of the movie’s main villain, Ultron, are really well executed also. But the action has never been the problem in these films, and likewise, it is not here.
And for the most part, the characters and their development have never been a problem either – well, most of them. They still are not really sure what to do with Hawkeye. Though director Joss Whedon and company gave him (and actor, Jeremy Renner) noticeably more to do after shortchanging him last go-round, his new storyline comes across as a bit rushed and hollow feeling.
Unfortunately, this is not the only rushed and somewhat hollow addition to the character arcs of the various Avengers. Tony Stark is still the cocky quipster, Captain America is still the good ol’ boy, etc. as you would expect, but now, there is a romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner, which is fine, in and of itself, if it had not just sprung up completely out of nowhere. Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo still have the charm to make it sort of work, but there is just not enough emotional investment yet. In the end, it feels tacked on, like the need for long-running sitcoms to force characters to hookup.
Throw in three brand new, barely formed characters (Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Vision) and the team and film has suddenly gotten very crowded. There is just not enough screen time to go around for all the characters that we have already grown to love, especially when more time is devoted to these previously mentioned, half-formed storylines.
Despite being a bit overcrowded, the film still makes effective room (appropriately cameo-sized) for a few other Marvel notables, including War Machine, The Falcon, Peggy Carter, Heimdell, and Dr. Erik Selvig – which makes more sense than just ignoring their interconnected existence, like Marvel has done in previous films. The intricate interconnectedness is a major plus for the Marvel Universe, and when executed efficiently, is a big draw for the film franchise (as seen by nearly every studio trying to duplicate this model).
The film does a great job of referencing the old films while still alluding to future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With another major slate of films upcoming in the next few years, there is a lot still left to set up – including another each of Captain America and Thor, plus two more Avengers films and other standalones like Black Panther.
Avengers: Age of Ultron does not break new ground and probably did not need to. The film just doesn’t pull you in fully like you want and expect it to. Ultron is not as good as the first Avengers nor many of the standalone films, but it is still worth the price of admission to hang out with all your favorite superheroes again.
* * * 1/2 out of 5 stars
Avengers: Age of Ultron opens Thursday, April 30 in theaters nationwide.
If you enjoyed this story, please subscribe and read Chris’s other articles: atombash.com/indie-movie-in-new-orleans/chris-henson
Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/thechrishenson
And for all the news & inside scoop on film events happening in & around New Orleans – festivals, screenings, casting, trailers, and much more!
Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/NOLA_FilmEvents and “LIKE” us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/NolaFilmEvents