Not so much a movie as it is an issue of a comic book series drawn by a great artist.
You’ve already decided if you’re seeing Avengers Age of Ultron. You are. Of course you are. Everybody who sees movies on a regular basis is seeing this movie, and you’re not making a bad decision. You’ll see things on screen that can only exist in the world of modern big budget comic book cinema. This means you’ll get the good with the bad. You’ll get some action scenes that are truly fun to look at, displaying true artistry from the stunt team, choreographers, and effects house. What you won’t get are the stakes that will make you truly feel these scenes.
The opening scenes of Age of Ultron find our heroes, The Avengers, battling their way through a forest to recapture Loki’s scepter and the included Infinity Stone from a German evil dude, who is using the Infinity Stone to … who cares? The good guys are fighting bad guys to get the thing from the head bad guy. They win! Then a worse bad guy shows up and they fight him for the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t want to be this simple, even though the simple stuff is all that works. Instead, we’re treated to a lot of explanation and exposition about scientific gobbledygook that threatens to bring the entire movie to a halt. Only the charisma and chemistry of Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo make these scenes watchable because what they’re saying just doesn’t make sense.
What also makes no sense is the attempted love story in the movie, between Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. While Ruffalo shares a breezy chemistry with Downey Jr, he has none with Johansson, and their scenes together truly do bring the movie to a halt. This entire plot line truly needed to be left on the cutting room floor.
We do get some of the humorous character moments that made the first Avengers movie so enjoyable, but most of them feel forced. There’s a running gag about Captain America’s use of foul language that mostly works, and another one about picking up Thor’s hammer that definitely works. Other than the action scenes, it’s the best part of the entire movie.
As for the action scenes, oh glorious day, they had some fun designing these. Characters team up and square off in fun and creative ways, and you do get the sense that the team is better together than they are separately. Captain America’s shield is one of the lead characters in this movie, as there must be dozens of ways it gets used throughout. The new characters that enter the world — Scarlett Witch, Quicksilver and Vision — all get some nice moments that show off their talents as well. Good or evil, everyone here is a badass.
Knowing what we know about future films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s hard to be surprised or feel any sense of stakes or finality in the movie. Instead, it feels like an episode of a television series. Much of the third act is spent setting up future films, and Age of Ultron comes out the worse for trying to balance its own story with the larger goal of keeping people coming to these movies in the future. There’s a lot of fun to be had in watching this one, but as a movie it’s hardly reviewable. It feels like part of a story that will never actually end. Buy the next issue, true believers.
Avengers Age of Ultron is playing everywhere, now, in 3D and 3D IMAX (dark, blurry, may cause double vision, not at all recommended), and every 20 minutes for the next couple of weeks.