Age of Ultron is a mediocre ad for future Marvel Cinematic Universe adventures. Black Panther nods? Check. Thor: Ragnarok teasing? Literally ten minutes’ worth. Infinity War hints? So many it’s not even enjoyable. And yet, ironically, the movie doesn’t end on a note that even slightly hints at Civil War, the immediate follow-up. Although the real crime in all of this is that I’m left wondering where the FUCK the AGE OF ULTRON WAS. If you want to talk about by the numbers, filler sequels that serve no purpose of their own beyond setting up future expansions, take off your Marvel fanboy cap, apologize to the Amazing Spider-Man 2 and put Age of Ultron in its place as the most contrived, plot thread dangling garbage expansion-bait movie of the decade.
It’s not even that Age of Ultron is BAD, per-say, it’s just so lacking and so decidedly average. Literally 5.5 out of 10 average, .5 better than downright neutral. The first thirty minutes are pretty solid, leading you to believe that Joss Whedon actually knew how to evolve the charm of the first Avengers. The Hydra battle in Sokovia is solid as shit, even if there are some stupid things like Hawkeye not dying from a DIRECT HIT to the chest by a goddamned tesseract laser. But I can let those slide, as Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and the crew throwing down is too much fun. The banter and witty dialogue is better than ever, probably the best out of any Marvel movie yet. Unfortunately, immediately following the celebration party after the big Hydra battle, things dissolve to utter shit. Ultron is rushed into full-on villain by this point, after a brief thirty second segment where he is born into the world. Within ten minutes of having entered the scene, Ultron’s character has evolved to the point where any other movie’s villain would be at after an hour and a half, and not in a good way. He’s already got his whole plan, his motives, his gang, etc. and all of this goes unexplained and unexplored. Same goes for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s history. They get one monologue explaining their past and then BAM, they’re bad guys with Ultron now because of a downright stupid grudge. Joss mentioned in an interview how there was about an hour’s worth of film cut to get the movie from three and a half down to two and a half hours which involved cutting a lot of Ultron’s and the Twins’ story development, but having seen the final product, I wish Whedon had manned up and kept all of it in. Maybe then these new characters would feel fleshed out, rather than generic obstacles for the Avengers to overcome.
Now, even if a plot is rushed as hell there’s still a chance it can be enjoyable and make sense. Unfortunately, this is not one of those cases. Age of Ultron relies on deus ex machinas like Hugh Hefner relies on tits, and I’m not even exaggerating. For the past seven, eight or however many movies there’ve been in the MCU, adamantium has been unbreakable, right? So of course in this movie, the one time a villain gets his hands on it, Iron Man magically finds a way to break it using Vision’s mind gem and Thor’s electricity combo. So stupid. But while we’re making up excuses for plot convenience, how about we analyze the final battle in which EVERYONE repeatedly says “we’re not gonna make it. Either civilians die, or we die, or we all die, but one of those populations is getting the boot”. They say this LITERALLY right up to the final second when inexplicably Iron Man solves everything and stops Ultron’s master plan. They do not explain how an entire city coming down from orbit in the form of thousands of burning comets does no damage at all to the planet, nor do they explain how that was a safe move considering literally every character said that would damn the earth if they did it, hence why they didn’t just start with that. But of course, let’s all turn a blind eye to the blatant disregard for plot coherence. I’m not kidding when I say that Transformers: Age of Extinction had a better plot. We’ve hit rock bottom (or wait no we haven’t because somehow that magically doesn’t do any damage, sorry Ultron).
The kicker of that above paragraph is that at one point the battered, nearly destroyed Ultron openly references how bullshit this all is and how contrived and contradictory the writing is, when Hulk enters his getaway Quinjet and all you hear is James Spader yelling “For God’s sake!”. It’s my favorite quote of the whole movie, because that one line sums it all up. Even Ultron recognizes that there’s no way he shouldn’t have won in some fashion, but because of plotholes, conveniences and the necessity of the heroes needing to win, he had to lose it all.
And even plot elements that aren’t technically “flawed” are shit, like Black Widow’s past being explored. They try to make it super emotional and dark when we find out the KGB had her sterilized, but because of how cheesy her sad face is, how poorly done the flashback implementations were and how irrelevant it was to the bigger picture, while everyone else was busy crying I was just sitting there non-plussed at the fact everyone else gives DC shit for this but in reality they do the dark stuff so much better. This one scene justifies why we need Marvel to stick to light-hearted stupid fun rather than DC’s more realistic take. Same goes for Quicksilver’s death. I mean, who cares? Joss kept teasing one teammate was going to die to fill the quota for “dramatic sacrifices”, and I called Quicksilver as being the sacrificial lamb a month ago in a post on this very blog. I predicted why he would die, how he would die, all of it. Yet given how obvious they made it, they still expected me to care, which was hard with all the moronic sheep sitting next to me blubbering like toddlers at the scene when Quicksilver was the only logical character that Marvel could afford to kill off. And the fact that I could call it so far in advance is a testament to how blase the writing of this movie was.
In terms of other flaws, Brian Tyler’s score is lackluster. He just reuses Alan Silvestri’s far superior Avengers theme a minimum of four times throughout the movie, and then calls it a day. Pathetic. And the special effects continue Iron Man 3‘s trend of deciding to use up the budget on unnecessary advertising rather than CGI work, meaning that it looks like a cartoon at times; another parallel to Transformers: Age of Extinction. Not good. One last thing as far as personal gripes go is that they decided to implement a trailer-effect on one of the in-movie shots, where things are moving at normal speed then turbo boost for a split second for no reason (not related to Quicksilver either). If you want to see what I mean, watch this video at the 1:52 mark to see the effect I’m talking about in action. Again, just a nitpick but it’s such an amateurish move in terms of editing. Ew.
The only three compliments I can really give this movie are for A.) Doing the Vision justice, B.) Giving Rhodey some much needed love and a cool Iron Man 2 throwback scene, and C.) Nailing the humor balance in the dialogue. But those are it. The only benefits this movie has going for it. Given how rushed everything is, the action doesn’t feel rewarding, but rather obligatory and soulless. In fact, those two words pretty much sum up what Age of Ultron was, obligatory and soulless. It is the foundation in a plot-point pyramid that will support and hopefully atone for its sins in Civil War, else this might prove to be the start of a downwards spiral for the MCU.