He’s fast. She’s weird.
The quotation, from Maria Hill—Cobie Smulders, Robin on “How I Met Your Mother”—demonstrates the level of simplification this movie has. Still, Age of Ultron was almost as fun as it was expensive. As with the first Avengers movie, this one tried to be everything in one. Yet while the first one was the culmination of years of planning, this feels like a stop gap measure. See the below picture for an example. This is a cute scene where the rest of the Avengers fail to lift Thor’s mighty mjolnir, as none are worthy! At least Captain America was able to make it budge a little! It’s amusing to watch, but upon closer scrutiny has glaring flaws. Two lifting should be better than one, but what possible good is wearing a glove and gauntlet? They’re not trying to crush the hammer or shoot the hammer, so just wearing it does nothing but add the weight of what those two mortals had to lift.
Tony Stark (Iron Man) and James Rhodes (War Machine), trying to lift Thor’s hammer, mjolnir. Robert Downey, Jr. and Don Cheadle in Avengers: Age of Ultron, © 2015 Marvel.
The villain, Ultron, seems like an immortal since he was an artificial life form, but the voice and digital actor was James Spader—Stargate. He was Lore. We all know Lore, right? Lt. (Cmdr.) Data’s twin brother. Lore has emotions and all the failings that human beings with them have. Brent Spiner played both of them and while his Data was excellent, his Lore tended to be a bit over the top. And Ultron was over the top and inconsistent. Sometimes he was fun, or moving, but most of the time his actions and speeches seemed simply arbitrary. Perhaps if there had been some indication that Iron Man had been working on creating Ultron, this would have felt more important, but him telling Bruce Banner—The Kids Are All Right‘s Mark Ruffalo—that he has been working on this for years feels untrue as he never mentioned it in the prior four movies.
The raison d’être¹ of Avengers 2 is clearly money. But excluding the financial motivation behind the creation of any movie, the motivating factor is a metric shit ton of money. Yet if we can truly look past that, then it serves the purpose of setting up more Marvel movies. For those who were not aware of the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as revealed to comic book nerds in the mid credits scene from The Avengers, it is to have Thanos attempt to create the Infinity Gauntlet with ultra powerful objects, known collectively as the infinity gems.² If successful Thanos could make or even unmake the universe as he saw fit. In the comics this happens and when the Avengers times ten show up they are hopelessly outmatched. So this film helps move closer to that point, as much as the last season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” helped Avengers 2—by about 30-45 seconds of screen time. There is one other reveal, just a reference really, to set up the introduction of the Black Panther, which was nice, but similarly worthless beyond the intrinsic pleasure of its recognition.
Infinity Gauntlet #1, cover art by George Pérez, © Marvel.
The two of the new characters I was most excited for were Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver—Elizabeth Olsen and Kick Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Still, Paul Bettany is my favorite actor of the new four, but his performance as the CGI character the Vision had less potential than Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver. If Quicksilver sounds familiar then you probably watched X-Men: Days of Future Past. He is the fastest man alive in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Marvel Universe, and the X-Men franchise. That particular power creates major cinematic challenges, similar to Superman’s. In X-Men DoFP, Evan Peters’s Quicksilver gets two scenes, both in the 1970’s. One of them stole the show. I used a screen grab of it as the first image in my review thereof. Eschewing ultra slow motion, director Joss Whedon–”Firefly”–opts for “zoom-zooming” shots where a blur represents Quicksilver and then a reveal shot to show the result of his zooming. At the time I was not impressed, but thinking over the whole film Whedon actually varied it up more than I thought. For instance, sometimes the reaction shot would be the same frame, like Captain America getting punched or something. Yet for all the difficulty that speed presents, Scarlet Witch presents even more. Avengers 2 describes her powers as similar to the X-Men’s Jean “Phoenix” Grey’s telekinesis, but truly, her powers fluctuate. In the comics they are called “hex powers” and they basically can increase or decrease the probability of something happening. Or she can shoot red beams from her hands. Also, she once took away 99% of the world’s mutants powers by merely saying “No more mutants.” Got it?
And that sums up the 141 minute movie. It is fine for what it is, but it is also a step back for Marvel. Or at least not the step forward that Cap 2, Thor 2, Guardians and the first Avengers made.
¹ I could not figure out how to say this in English, but we use raison d’être in English too, so, well, here we are.
² I am fact checking none of this. So please leave corrections in the comments so that I may correct this review and give you credit in this space here. Also, from the cover here are some of the characters you might recognize: Thanos in the middle, then upper right is Mephisto, then Silver Surfer, Gamora, Adam Warlock, Firelord, Hawkeye, Sersi, Hulk, Captain America, Nick Fury, Spider-man, and Dr. Strange.