Back in 2012, Marvel launched a new enterprise that brought all of your favorite Marvel superheroes together to fight some cool-looking aliens and their cool alien leader, and you thought, what could be cooler than this? Well, what if all those superheroes got together and fought some cool-looking robots and their cool robot leader? Yeah, that would be pretty cool.
I may have made it sound as if this film, the heavily-hyped Avengers: Age of Ultron, is formulaic, but trust me, that is not the case. Of course, there are certain predictable components: a threat to the world, a smooth-talking and enigmatic villain, and the use of mind-control on the Avengers. These elements all work well in the flow of the film, though. As the saying goes, a good sequel has to feel old and new at the same time, and this film does precisely that.
The story does rely on you having seen the preceding Marvel films, namely Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World. Which would be a bad thing, if it wasn’t already guaranteed that you had already seen those films. This film has a very different feel from what you would expect from the trailers. The previews outlined the films as a darker Avengers film, and one that would probably create rifts within the Avengers themselves, thus setting up for Captain America: Civil War. What we got, while terrific in its own right, was certainly not that.
I want to dedicate an entire section of this review to the villain of the film, the artificial intelligence Ultron. Now, if you asked me about him, about the voice work, character, look, or anything else, I would tell you that they were all fantastic. Which they were. However, underneath all that, I am of two minds about him. One half of me likes his unique personality – Ultron is funny, yet despicable- and the fact that they didn’t go with the traditional dark, menacing, villain persona. This made him fun to watch and fun to listen to, especially during his banter with Iron Man. However, taking away that menacing villain persona takes away the potential of that persona. Would Ultron have been more menacing or fun to watch as a cold, calculating, and evil villain? I don’t know. He might have been, but at the same time, I think that the route they took with him is fresh and distinct. I don’t know which would have been better, but it would have been interesting to see. Perhaps the filmmakers did try out both personas before making their decision, and went with the one they thought was best.
One thing I do know is that I am tired of the villain that is just ‘misunderstood’- in other words, trying to do good, but in the wrong way. Why can there never be a villain that is pure evil for the sake of evil anymore? I know that intended goodness adds layers to a character, but sometimes a good villain doesn’t need layers. I hesitate to use this example, as it is so over-used, but take Heath Ledger’s Joker, from The Dark Knight. He is, in his own words “a mad dog,” causing chaos for chaos’s sake, and this is what makes him such a mesmerizing and terrifying villain. The fact that there are no misguided attempts to do good and no desire to wipe out people because they are hurting each other/the planet (as the trope goes), takes absolutely nothing away from the character. Don’t get me wrong, the whole ‘want to do good in the wrong way’ can be used to great effect, as with Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) in Marvel’s new series Daredevil. In this show (and in Batman too, now that I think about it), that kind of character is needed because the goal is to make you empathize with him, and also examine the duality of both the villain and the titular Daredevil. The Avengers, however, lacks all of that. There is no duality of characters (except perhaps Hulk), and Ultron is an AI, one of the few times that it is OK to have him be cold, unfeeling, and have a desire to wipe out humanity.
One thing this film did a lot of was delve into its characters’ pasts. We get to know a lot of new things about each character, particularly Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The characters of Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) were also introduced and summarily given back story. One thing that confuses me is how the Marvel cinematic universe will reconcile this Quicksilver with the clearly different Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but that shouldn’t be an issue for most people.
My biggest question is, with all this character exploration and back story, why is there nothing for Hulk? There is nothing but a little romance for one of the most turbulent and potentially interesting characters. When will we get the Mark Ruffalo Hulk film that we so desire? There is just so much to develop with this character that hasn’t been done in the previous Hulk films. The story of Hulk’s origin has already been established in cinema, so filmmakers are free to explore other aspects for his character. A “planet Hulk” story has been discussed, and I think it would be a great idea, especially since the damage he caused in this film would provide the perfect reason for shooting him off into space.
One thing I really wanted in this film, but didn’t get, was a dark tone. There were some serious elements in the film, but in order to appeal to their primarily younger audience, Marvel kept a positive, feel-good happy ending and PG rating. This is one of the reasons that I am looking forward to the Batman V Superman film, because it looks very somber. Some may think that the dark and gritty format is too overused nowadays and has even become a cliche, but when every Marvel movie has a shawarma moment, you crave a little realism.
What is a shawarma moment you ask? I take this phrase from a scene in The Avengers itself, when the heroes sit and eat shawarma after the climactic battle has decimated New York. The expression stands for a moment in a film when the characters crack jokes, or eat, or generally ignore all the people dying and all the buildings being destroyed in the background. While moments like this can lighten the mood and relieve tension, it belies all the destruction going on, and takes emphasis away from what is really happening. Oh my gosh, that city just exploded! It’s OK though, Iron Man’s making jokes about zucchini.
Now, I have gone on far too long about things that bug me about this film, and I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I enjoyed every minute of this film. Every scene, every character, every effect. This film was a fun ride, and any complaints I have with this film are minor, and probably confined to my own opinions anyways. I strongly encourage you to see this film (if you haven’t already at prom) as it would be well worth the small fortune that a movie ticket costs. I can safely say that this film is Marvel-ous!