Saturday, May 2, 2015

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

There are a couple different ways to look at Age of Ultron: as a movie and as an event. As an event, it was absolutely awesome. Dozens of fight sequences as good as anything we've gotten before, interspersed with snappy dialogue and some of the best new characters we've gotten in a while.

All in all, a fun time for everyone.

Things get a little more complicated if we look at it as a movie. It's still a good movie, mind you. In some ways, it's even a great one.

But the first Avengers was more than a great movie. In decade or so, no one's going to understand why it didn't win best picture; why it wasn't even nominated. They won't understand how critics were so fixated on a specific style of a specific kind of movie that they couldn't realize someone had just elevated an action/comedy to near perfection.

Age of Ultron doesn't hit the same levels, at least not across the board. Its main issue is with pace: simply put, the movie feels rushed. Characters are introduced at breakneck speeds, emotional arcs are shoehorned into unrelated plot points, and complex elements go unexplained. The tone is also wildly uneven: the dark middle clashes with the vibrant start and ending.

I loved this movie, but it's abundantly clear it should have been two films, not one. We needed to build up the twins as characters. We needed to delve into the Avengers as a team, both in terms of what worked and where they clashed. Instead, these ideas were pushed together: the team's internal problems were literally manufactured by the Scarlet Witch's magic. That saves time, but doesn't exactly set us up for a satisfying payoff.

Rumor has it there's an extended edition coming to DVD. Maybe that will correct some of the issues.

Fortunately, those issues don't cancel out the movie's many merits. Everyone's back from part one, of course, but the new faces are even better. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are awesome, but even they can't compete with Vision, who in turn is only the movie's second best character. First place, of course, belongs to Ultron.

The studio might have pushed the director into shoehorning in plot points, but Ultron dialogue is Whedon at his best. The character is menacing, but he's also playful, jubilant, and - for an evil robot bent on exterminating the human race - astonishingly likable.

More importantly, while there's a price to be paid by rapidly building up a universe, there's a benefit, as well. All those toys are in play now. We've got new heroes and a much more interesting world.

Ultimately, this one ranks as my fourth or fifth favorite Marvel movie. It's a hell of a lot of fun, but I can't seriously claim it's as good as either Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy, let alone the original Avengers.

But it's definitely worth checking out in the theater. Though that should really go without saying.

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