A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

April 30, 2015

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Another Marvel movie, another opening night, and at long last another review for my long dormant review blog.  I went in to Age of Ultron fairly confident that it was a good movie because people whose opinions I trust had already seen it and confirmed that it was in the top four or five marvel movies with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and the first Avengers movie.  At the same time, however, there was this nagging worry at the back of my mind that perhaps the weight of the franchise is getting too great for any movie to hold it up.  As is almost the refrain when reviewing a Marvel movie at this point though it was true once more: there inevitably must be a film in this universe that disappoints, but this one is not it.

There is NO WAY that this movie should work.  It is the result of an enormous production machine with so many moving parts that it’s hard to even conceive how vast the enterprise is.  It was in pre-production before Winter Soldier was done filming.  During the closing credits I stopped counting after the 7th or 8th FX production house was listed.  Many of the action beats must have been mapped out and already in production long before the plot was finalized.  The Marvel Cinematic universe as a whole is the filmic equivalent of the pyramids at Giza: an edifice so intimidatingly huge that it’s almost impossible to believe it was crafted by human hands.

Beyond all of that though there’s the scale of this movie alone to consider.  The MCU has reached a scale where its tentpole movies have tentpoles.  This Avenger’s film caps the second wave of films bringing the crew back together for another round of world-saving, sure, but it also has to lay the groundwork for the third wave.  We have plenty of returning heroes.  There’s Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye.  The first Avenger movie established that this team could work in a film, so it’s no surprise that for this movie they are a joy to watch as they battle foes and banter amongst each-other.  But add to all these folks several other bit players from previous films and three new super powered individuals and you have a formula for disaster.  How can you possibly have so many characters in one film, providing each with at least a couple well-timed quips and a chance to show off their powers, and not have it simply collapse under its own weight?

Part of it is that the movie doesn’t give itself time to sag.  From the in-media-rez opening battle (which feels like it contains more action in one scene than the entire first Captain America movie – particularly since it so deliberately echoes the tone of some of Cap’s escapades) to its far larger than life city destroying ending there’s hardly a moment when some kind of adventure isn’t going on.  Even the more quiet moments serve double duty moving the plot forward and giving us some greater insight into the Avengers as a team and as individuals to better set the stakes for the inevitable big showdown.

The one exception is a vital piece of quiet before the storm just before the start of the third act that provides some of the best character development so far for a couple of the least utilized parts of the team.  The surprising heart of the movie is the non-powered Clint Barton/Hawkeye who here shows that he’s perhaps more of a hero than most of his companions because he’s not super at all – just pretty damned good with a bow and arrows.  Black Widow also gets some much needed backstory during this lull and shows herself both to be more human and more frighteningly competent at her particular skillset.

The other thing that saves this film from itself is the titular villain.  Ultron has many of the best moments in the film because he’s such a surprisingly human foe.  He’s such a startlingly honest, simple, and almost literally broken character that it’s hard not to feel some degree of sympathy for him.  All this for a character that is entirely CGI.  Add him to the list with Groot, Rocket, and Golem of startlingly touching characters rendered almost entirely in a computer.

I only just saw the movie a couple hours ago so I’m not going to make any sweeping statements about its lasting merit or how well it will hold up with time, but on that first viewing I was not disappointed.  It has references for Marvel fans that hint at things to come.  It has plenty of amazing action.  It has touching moments of character development.  Ultimately it did its job and left me wanting more.  Oh, and it left me wanting that “hulkbuster” Lego set.  I wish that wasn’t sold out.

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment