What happens when cinematic storytelling becomes compromised by fan service? Avengers: Age of Ultron, of course. Despite it’s enormous success, I honestly believe that this is an underrated film. I also believe that this is a very flawed film. Age of Ultron is a very complicated picture because it needed an excuse for a big team up while telling a large scale story, honoring the characters, but still needing to remain an accessible blockbuster. In the restrictive confines of the silver screen, where do you take Earth’s mightiest heroes and keep the audience engaged the entire time?
Marvel is a cinematic Goliath and with such a title comes many Davids. One thing I pride myself on are my blunt and honest opinions, and I think those Davids struggle with that concept. We have ourselves an epic 2 hour, 11 minute blockbuster that contains a beginning, a middle, and an end, complete with characters with motivations that are clear, who do the thing, in addition to the film sets being dressed, and complete with state of the art visual effects. What’s the problem? The reason I bring up the honesty, or lack thereof, is because in these post modern times, so many people want to be the contrarian from Little Big Man. Many struggle to find their own unique identity, and some of those do so by being, what the kids would refer to as, a “hater”. One cannot be faulted for their convictions, so haters are going to hate. There is something of an instinct to rebel against the big guy, and Marvel is certainly that, but when fun is to be had, whether it be through dynamite action, a diabolical villain, hilarious dialogue/scenarios, why kick the hornets nest?
Just to get this out of the way, I love this film. I love it from the bottom of its lack of cohesion to the top of its Robert California. So every character, at this point, has been more than adequately fleshed out, so finding space for them to all grow is the real task. The first Avengers put them together, so that story is out the window, which leaves us with an obvious tale of them falling apart. The most glaring problem is that the story, clearly, revolves around Tony, and the other characters are just forced in. You could almost cut the other Avengers out and have this be an Iron Man movie. The plot revolves around Tony and his desire to let go of Iron Man, so he creates a monster which is based on Tony’s brain algorithms, and then Tony utilizes a monster, created by his creation, to beat the original monster. It’s a superhero Frankenstein tale, but then, oh yea, the other Avengers are featured. It’s not that the other characters have no role to play, it’s just that they are crammed into a Tony Stark story under the guise of an Avengers story. A lot of scenes, especially the solo Thor scenes, feel like the characters were just given something to do, so they don’t look like background dressing. Despite that, the characters all have cool action scenes, and funny dialogue. Don’t be hatin’.
The only way to move the Avengers forward is with a magnetic villain who is more formidable than everything they have faced. That seems like a problem, considering the last time they fought together, it was against the God of Mischief and an alien army. Spoiler alert, they won. I know a lot of people didn’t like that Ultron California was cracking weird jokes and saying silly things, but that was because he was based, partially, off of Tony Stark. Sure he had his own unique personality, but most of his points of view and perspectives seem to come from Tony. So, in an essence, the antagonist is the hubris of Tony Stark. It’s a bit too clever for it’s own good. It’s very admirable but off putting because if you blink you’ll miss the big picture.
While the Avengers is cinematic perfection, Age of Ultron is the fan service crammed into 2 hours which ultimately detracts from the big picture. Even though its reach exceeds its grasp, it is still a super fun, hilarious, and exciting action film with one of the best on screen baddies in the library. Because so much is going on, it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia, and sometimes the story moves too fast and not always in the right direction. Granted it is another Tony Stark story, but you have to look below the surface to really understand that, otherwise it’s a big action film with a silly robot. As far as being a movie, Age of Ultron is inferior to it’s predecessor, but in terms of fun and just watching Tony continue to grow, it ranks near the top.