Avengers Age of Ultron Review: A Hollow Shell

These Avengers are good not great.

Two years ago, geeks and viewers alike were graced with the biggest superhero/comic book movie of all time. There's no doubt about that. Six big characters along with a dozen other well known comic book figures took the stage in protecting New York City. Now, The Avengers return in Age of Ultron, a follow up to a movie that was once a wet dream for many.

Everyone is back (sans Coulson because he was busy) and, from the get go, the Ultron lets audiences know what to expect. Action takes the forefront as Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor and Hawkeye brave a battle against the established Hydra. There is no waiting to get to the newer characters either; within the first minutes, we are introduced to brother and sister protesters-turned-experiments Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch; Hydra hand Baron von Strucker; and the menacing titular villain Ultron. The story that involves all of these men and two ladies involves Ultron wanting to cleanse the world of humans in order to create peace. Plain and simple. Tony Stark/Iron Man wanted to do kind of the same thing only he would send out sentient Iron Man suits to help police the world.

What comes from the struggle between the good guys (The Avengers) and the bad guys (Ultron, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) is a story about the difficulties of controlling how much evil can be tolerated in the world. For The Avengers, they just want to stop the bad guys, disband, and go home. Really, that's what is stated early on. They like being a team but they all miss doing their own thing. Ultron and his young crew want to help usher in a new way of peace and, like any evil doer, will fight to see their plans to fruition. There are the appropriate twists and turns expected to come with this sort of movie. Hawkeye gets so much characterization it's as if Marvel listened to the backlash of the character and decided to make him cooler. Thor does his own thing for a while as well. Ultron's plan changes kind of suddenly, as if there was a change in the script.

Speaking of which, this is probably one of the most densely written comic book movies ever. Sure, people came for the jokes but the story held up decently. It is well paced; although some would suggest there is a lull after the team goes in hiding but we are able to learn so much from the scenes that it doesn't matter there are no bright lights and explosions to distract from the beauty that is characterization. Iron Man admits his real emotions offering he is afraid of leading the team to victory. Captain America misses home, still, and it's nowhere near annoying. Hulk is trying to find love with Widow who is fighting her own demons. Everyone gets their moment to shine.

Ultron does have its problems. For one, if you know comics, the newly introduced Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are given a plausible yet dumb backstory. As mentioned earlier, they're protesters who volunteered for experiments but, in the X-Men series, they're mutants whose father is Magneto. Sure, Marvel and Disney did what they could with the characters but it doesn't compare to the sheer promise of power that comes from the mutants that Fox and Marvel (weird right?) have with X-Men. It's just a very small detail. To go along with that, Marvel has this affinity to base things in reality and science rather than let things grow with magic and fantasy. Everything magical is given a "it's only a different science" explanation. Now I know how Harry Potter fans feel. Also, the movie is packed --yes-- but, by the end, most of the information is kind of useless. Only a few tidbits of material matter by the end and will subsequently matter in the future. If Marvel is aiming to build the oft lauded "cinematic universe," they could simultaneously introduce future story elements without post credits scenes or sly references.

Should you watch Age of Ultron?

Age of Ultron is a fitting sequel to a movie that introduced the world to a team of heroes. Though, Marvel's second attempt is somewhat lifeless compared to the first. Characterization is welcome but the story felt subdued in many ways. Marvel is setting up something big yet this felt like an extension rather than a new, singular tale. Besides, you're already 11 movies (8 years!) into this series. It's too late to turn back now.