Anghus Houvouras shares his disappointment over Avengers: Age of Ultron…
Even the thought of this column feels like a slaughter waiting to happen. I feel like Sonny Corleone in The Godfather as he exits the car at the toll booth…
I get it. People love movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron. Any negative sentiments are generally greeted with a thousand blasts from every corner of the internet. You’re branded as a hater or a troll. You’re a joyless cynic who couldn’t manage to find an ounce of fun in a pool full of whiskey.
The goal here is to try, in great detail, to explain why Age of Ultron was ultimately disappointing. In fact, one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen so far this year.
1. It’s a Copy/Paste of the original
Avengers: Age of Ultron suffers the same fate as so many other sequels. It’s a movie that seems hellbent on trying outdo the original by cranking everything up a notch. It’s bigger, louder, 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? Do you enjoy watching cities being leveled? Fights that take place on busy using cars as projectiles? The Avengers not trusting one another?
The entire first Avengers was about the characters coming together, looking past their egos and differences, uniting to fight for the common good. In order to make that happen, the Avengers have to be torn apart so that Joss Whedon can rebuild the entire group for the finale where they talk about the importance of ‘togetherness’ which was ultimately forgotten after they saved the world from Loki…
2. Every character sounds the same
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. I found suspension of disbelief suspended by the rapid-fire dialogue coming from every character’s gaping maw. In addition, every scene has the same basic breakdown that goes like this.
A. Introduce Situation
B. Build tension
C. Resolve with joke and/or pun
This is the structure of a television writer. Someone who is crafting 6-8 minute segments broken up by commercial breaks. Age of Ultron has the structure of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. That 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 motormouth with a machine head. But why is Hawkeye cutting it up? Or Quicksilver? Even the robots are hamming it up.
3. The robots are making jokes. Correction: The robots are making bad jokes.
There are a few times during Age of Ultron where I audibly groaned. The first moment was when Ultron uttered something about not being able to throw up. The Vision quips about ‘Not being born yesterday’. Ultron hams it up almost every time he’s on-screen greatly devaluing 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.
4. Create Ultron ??????? Profit
I’ve seen more effort put into ordering dinner at McDonalds than creating the world’s most superior artificial intelligence. Tony Stark decides to create Ultron after seeing a horrific vision of a defeated Avengers. So he goes back to his lab and decides it’s time for a suit of armor around the whole world, which kind of contradicts the end of Iron Man 3. You know, when he blows up the 50 suits of super cool armor he developed. Right before he gets the arc reactor out of his chest and decides 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 at the hands of their enemies might have shaken him to his core and returned him to the work he had been doing. But then, 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 a character but an excuse to push the plot forward.
5. Again with the Mind Control
The cheapest and laziest ways to get your 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 that the only reason that plot is used is so that the Avengers will once again start beating the hell out each other.
Captain America: Civil War will also feature our favorite superheroes fighting one another. Which magical character/artifact/Infinity Stone will they use to make that happen?
6. Wait. Am I watching The Matrix Reloaded or Spider-Man 2?
Up until now, I had been all right with the little nitpicks. The recycled elements. The same sounding characters. The jokey one liners. It wasn’t until the truck chase scene that I totally broke down and started laughing. Ultron is trying to escape a handful of Avengers with an awesome new synthetic body. He loads it into a truck and speeds off down the highway with a couple of drones in tow. Cue the chase scene as Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America chase him down in a sequence reminiscent of The Matrix Reloaded. Captain America fights Ultron on the top of a semi-trailer while Trinity… I mean Black Widow speeds behind on a motorcycle.
At the conclusion of the chase sequence, Ultron’s drones clamp onto the side of the trailer, turn their faces into jets, and propel the trailer into the sky for an escape. Wait? What?
Ultron can fly. The drones can fly. Why are they bothering trying to escape a Quinjet and a Motorcycle in an 18 Wheeler? Oh, I know. Because you needed something for the non-powered Avengers to do that seemed interesting.
What’s worse is the scene jackknife from The Matrix Reloaded to Spider-Man 2 with an out of control train sequence that only Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch can stop. Unfortunately Quicksilver loses his mask, but a nice little boy gives it back to him and says “Don’t worry mister… we won’t say nothin’.”
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 that these movies are giant crowd-pleasing endeavors that have to appeal to a very broad audience. However, it’s disappointing because I’m getting the exact same movie as the first.
For me, the greatest threat Marvel faces is redundancy. Phase Three looks like it’s going to provide us with some new stories. Daredevil on Netflix has been an unmitigated creative success showing how powerful these characters can be when given articulation and the time to develop. It’s these big punch-em-up multi-billion dollar tentpoles that start to feel more like an obligation than a destination.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is an average, occasionally entertaining big budget romp through very familiar territory and, in my opinion, quite the disappointment.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.