As the 2015 summer movie season kicks off, there are indications that some films will drift off into obscurity immediately following their opening weekend with nothing more than a whimper (Pixels). Luckily, Avengers: Age of Ultron starts things off with not just one bang, but hundreds of them.
Age of Ultron opens with us finding our heroes already in a battle as they search for Loki’s staff, which has somehow fallen into the hands of HYDRA. The staff is retrieved, but then Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) unwittingly releases an evil computer program (Ultron) set on destroying the Avengers. The gang again comes together to battle Ultron and his robotic minions in fight scenes that are often a bit too similar in those from the first Avengers film.
Writer-director Joss Whedon gave us exactly what we wanted in the first Avengers movie with a single villain who had a simple plan with lots of muscle behind it for the Avengers to kick the crap out of. In Age of Ultron, Whedon simply tries to give us too much and ends up getting in the Avengers way. Though there is far more humor in this film, which allows us to see more of the human side of our characters, there are also far too many distractions. The biggest distraction is the introduction of the Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olson) whose powers are never clearly defined in the film, and her ability to sneak up on the Avengers and mess with their brains serves to be nothing more than an annoying example of an overwritten script.
Though the entire cast of characters is back for a second go-round of saving the world from a maniacal evil villain, this film belongs to Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) as we see her ascension within the ranks of the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D., and get insight into her skills and personal life. Johansson gives an energetic performance, as does Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) who shows a previously unseen vulnerability. Unfortunately, though the audience may appreciate the performances, one can’t help but notice the focus being taken off the primary characters in favor of those who don’t have franchises of their own.
Recommendation: Let’s be honest; what I write here is not going to change the mind of those who are about to make Avengers; Age of Ultron one of the highest-grossing films of all time, and it shouldn’t. This film needs to be seen on the big screen to really appreciate it, and there lies the problem. Yes, there is more humor, but in the long run (and the run is long at 141 minutes), there is less fun.
Sadly the appreciation has to come from the effects experienced on a big screen. The characters of Thor, Ironman, and Captain America, and the performances of Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr, and Chris Evans, ultimately seem tired here. It’s the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow, and Hawkeye that are worth watching.
We know there will be more, and the success of future Avenger films will ultimately be found in the ability to find the middle ground between the first two films.