“The Avengers: Age of Ultron” could just has easily have been called “The Avengers: Everything but the Kitchen Sink.” Not a negative statement about the movie, simply a remark on how overstuffed this addition to the Marvel universe is. A fun and exciting film, AoU doesn’t quite live up to the perfection of 2012’s “Avengers” – but then, few movies could.
The plot is stretched and pulled in all different directions, but to sum up, Earth’s mightiest heroes must assemble again to defeat an evil artificial intelligence unit, Ultron. Throughout it all, the Avengers must find a way to overcome their differences. Do they have allies? Oh yes, they have allies. Here there be cameos, minor characters by the multitudes, and an excess of new players that aren’t given enough screen time to really get invested in (with the exception of Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch). While it’s nice to see familiar faces, none of them are pulled in for reasons that are valid to the plot. In addition, the bad guy, teased in the trailers as a dark, disturbing addition to the film, is very underwhelming. James Spader is a good, albeit trite choice for the role of Ultron, but the character itself is very “villain of the week,” with none of the dimension or magnetic presence of prior Avengers foe, Loki.
Speaking of, out of all the familiar faces and random cameos in AoU, one that is missing is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, one of the most charismatic characters in the entire lineup. Director Joss Whedon semi-trolled fans by admitting that they had filmed a Loki cameo, but ended up pulling it from the finished film because it was “too much” and that the film “had too many characters as is.” While a clever marketing tactic, ensuring that DVD sales with deleted scenes and bonus features will skyrocket, Whedon’s reasoning falls flat. Clearly restraint was never intended to be the order of the day with this film in the first place.
On to the heroes though: Whedon has managed to effectively give valuable screentime to all the Avengers, including a little extra for the previously shortchanged Hawkeye. Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk gets some nice scenes with RDJ’s Iron Man, and Captain America reveals a little more of what makes him tick. The movie is undeniably at its very best when all the Avengers are interacting with each other, whether socially or in the midst of battle. A weird romance between Banner and Black Widow kind of derails things a bit, and ends up ultimately going nowhere. It truly seems like an afterthought, since it wasn’t teased or hinted at in any previous films. If a romantic subplot was necessary (and I would submit that it was not), Natasha/Black Widow had much more chemistry with Captain America, or her battle buddy Hawkeye. Although any involvement with the latter would be kind of…well, see the movie.
Some have found issue with the sheer volume of one-liners and comedy bits in this, a purported action film. However, the sass and sarcasm has been the distinguishing feature of Whedon’s style, and it fits really well with these particular Marvel stories, and especially the story of the Avengers. The hints of darkness in this film tease the final two Avengers films (coming in 2017 and 2019, respectively) well, and the ending is satisfying. Ultimately, “Age of Ultron” is a perfectly good superhero movie, with characters that truly span generations and action sequences that for a little while, lift us out of the everyday. What more can we really ask for, as moviegoers?