“Avengers: Age of Ultron” Review

Ever since The Avengers, Marvel movies have let me down. This isn’t to say that they were horrible–none of them were–or that some of them weren’t good. But again and again, I let the hype get to me, get too excited, am let down. Except for Guardians of the Galaxy, of course. I had no idea what to expect from Guardians, and I now own it and know it by heart.

I was careful not to let that happen with Age of Ultron. I stomped my expectations down mercilessly. This can’t be as good as I want it to be, I told myself. Just be happy if it’s a good movie. Don’t hold out for great. And don’t, I was adamant, expect it to be as good as the first Avengers.

So, let’s get that out of the way first. Is it as good as the first Avengers movie? No. No, it’s not.

Of course it’s not. Most people agree that the first Avengers was a landmark of a movie. It changed the landscape of comic book movies like Donner’s Superman, like the first X-Men. I consider The Avengers maybe two lines shy of being an absolutely perfect film, in a world where perfect things don’t exist.

But Ultron deserves to be in that conversation, which is a great compliment. It deserves to be the second highest-grossing opening weekend of all time, trailing only its elder sibling. If anything, the quality gap between the two movies serves to remind me of just how good the first movie is.

I only have one other stick to measure Ultron’s quality by: Did it meet my expectations? And, not only did it meet my expectations, but it exceeded them so much that I’m sure I could have let my expectations run crazy and would still have walked away satisfied. As it was, I spent two and a half hours grinning and laughing.

Laughing? Yes, laughing. The trailers didn’t show it well, but this movie is seriously funny.

Ultron himself is funny. He’s smart and likable, subtle and understated. But that doesn’t undermine his menace. In places he’s downright chilling. He’s my favorite villain since Loki, and it’s a close thing which of the two I really like better. I suppose I’ll have to watch the movie a dozen or two times before deciding. You know, just to be fair. In a movie with many strengths, Ultron was the best part.

The action is spectacular, the characters are awesome, the plot is clever, the music is heroic. Safe to say, I liked this film.

Now, its few shortcomings. In places, it was uneven. Some scenes worked better than others, and some plotlines were given more attention or less attention than I felt they deserved. In particular, a subplot of Thor’s was rushed very badly. Some of the characters could have used a bit more development this time around, and at times the movie did feel a tad overcrowded. I saw some of the plot twists coming from a mile away. The Vision, while executed wonderfully, still distracted. But the thing is, I love the rest of the movie enough that its few flaws don’t bother me. It just makes me eager to see an extended cut, hopefully a good twenty minutes longer than the theatrical release, that smooths out some of the rough edges.

I don’t really have much more to say (without spoilers), except that I’m going to try to sneak in another watch or two before it leaves theaters, to keep myself satisfied until it arrives on DVD. This is an easy 9 ot of 10. Go watch.

SPOILERS

Black Widow. I’ve heard a lot of criticisms of Black Widow’s character throughout the movie. I’ve heard claims that she’s reduced to nothing but a damsel to be rescued, and heard that her having been sterilized is in bad taste. I don’t agree with either of these. Natasha rescues the other members of the team at least as many times as she is rescued–the one time she could be said to be kidnapped, Ultron doesn’t even keep them from saving her. And it’s nothing if not chillingly realistic that the group that she was raised in would sterilize her in order to avoid problems like you see in Kill Bill.

Hawkeye was set up pretty strongly to take a fall, but in the end it was Quicksilver who took the hit. Who saw this coming? Any savvy moviegoer sees the development he gets in the movie and expects him to die; the only thing that saved me from that is that I know how genre savvy Joss Whedon is, and how much he enjoys surprising his audience. But while I called that Hawkeye would likely survive, I didn’t call that the Maximoff would possibly die. Not that I believe he’s actually dead.

Who thinks that Vision’s time is limited? I believe that Thanos will rip the stone out of his head personally at the end of the first Infinity War, the last stone he collects, as the cliffhanger.

Do you think Ultron is gone for good? On one hand, I would love to see more of him. It’s unrealistic to think that Ultron didn’t have the sense to leave some copies of himself in hiding, just in case. He had enough backups and contingencies that you have to believe he’d be prepared for total failure, and would be able to realize that a handful of scattered copies would be more useful as backups than as a few more in the hoard. On the other hand, his story feels complete, and I don’t know where they’d take his character from here.

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