A Fanboy's Review of "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
This is actually my first review of any type of artistic production, so to you seasoned veterans, be gentle with me.
Yes, I freely admit it…in addition to being a social critic and writer, I’m something of a nerd (being African-American, that would actually make me a “blerd”). I love science. I was good in college. I own a telescope. I’m a Trekker (“Trekkies” are those weirdos who “speak” Klingon, wear his and hers Starfleet uniforms to weddings, and know William Shatner’s underwear size). And I have been reading Marvel (and DC) Comics since I was a child. Needless to say, my interests I am familiar with the previous works of fantasy/sci-fi/television/comic book writer-director Joss Whedon. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, you surely know his body of work; “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Firefly,” and the first hugely-successful 2012 “Avengers” film. So all told, fanboys like myself were salivating in anticipation of Friday’s release of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”—the sequel to the first “Avengers” mega-blockbuster.
But after watching the sequel, I can honestly say that anticipatory salivating was barely rewarded; at least Pavlov’s dogs got the benefit of being fed to satisfaction during his experiments related to classical conditioning. This is not to say that the mover wasn’t entertaining. But entertaining was all it was. I found that it lacked the substance of a solid storytelling that could naturally arise from an ensemble production.
With the exception of one of the movie’s leads, the Avenger ‘s resident archer Hawkeye, Whedon seemed to miss the mark (pun intended) as he attempted to explore the psychological motivations and emotional inner workings of the team members after they had been whammied by one of the antagonists, the Scarlet Witch. Granted, I can understand that only so much exploration into the psyches of a hero/heroes can be done within the span of a two hour movie, it’s not an impossible endeavor; George Lucas managed to do this with the ensemble cast of the original “Star Wars.” Other than the Hawkeye character, Whedon marginally manages to touch on the inner motivations of fellow Iron Man (Tony Stark, aka “Robert Downey, Jr.) in his being responsible for the creation for the film’s antagonist Ultron (voiced by James Spader), and to a less degree Captain America (Chris Evans).
Another issue I had with the movie was the thin plot—thin even as far as comic book movies and sci-fi in general goes. Ignoring that I was totally disappointed with the comic book storyline “The Age of Ultron” which the movie was loosely based on, the means by which Ultron sought to eradicate mankind from the face of the Earth—because he sees us as emotional, imperfect, chaos-causing pests compared to the order of a planet run by artificial intelligence—was almost…well, comical.
A final problem I had with Avengers 2 was the continuity-breaking demise of one of the characters (no, I’m not going to reveal who it is). This was something that seems very much out of synch with previous Marvel movies. A good example of this was the death, resurrection, and re-death of the X-Men’s Jean Grey character in the X-2 and X-3 movies…which loosely followed the pattern established by related comic books story cannon. However, this was balanced by something Whedon manages to pull off related to the movie on the smaller screen. During this past week’s episode of Whedon’s Marvel-based television series, “Agents of SHIELD,” the writer manages to synch events on the series with the events corresponding to the week’s opening of the “Age of Ultron” (for those of you who don’t know what I mean, stream this past week’s episode of the series to see what I mean). I thought it a nice touch how two simultaneous on-going Whedon productions played off one another.
To its credit though, the movie had a few positive things going for it. As with many Marvel movies, it was full of “Easter Eggs,” what we comic book fans call hidden objects, words, phrases, or other images with deep significant meaning in the world of comic books (think of them as “inside jokes”). Then there is the omnipresent cameo by Avengers creator, Stan Lee, in what is perhaps one of his funnier and memorable appearances. AOU was also filled with great action sequences, particularly Captain America’s one-on-on fight with Ultron atop of a semi-trailer truck, and then a moving train. And the fight between an out-of-control Hulk (Mark Ruffalo and CGI)and Iron Man in his “Hulkbuster” armor was not a letdown!
All in all, if you are looking for the same high-level of Marvel-movie action, then by all means go see Age of Ultron. If you’re expecting solid continuity, deep plot, solid story-telling, and a narrative that explores existential philosophies and/or relevant social issues—like those in “Captain America, The Winder Soldier”—then you’re going to be disappointed.
On a grading scale, I’m going to give “Avengers: Age of Ultron” a “C+.”