Age of Ultron was one of those comics that happened while I was having one of my semi-regular fallings out with the medium. Actually, that particular fall out is on-going, but I doubt I would have read it anyway. I really hate massive crossover stories and as much as I love a good marketing manoeuvre, Marvel seem to have restructured the massive crossover paradigm out of pure cynicism.
So when “Age of Ultron” was announced as the title of the new Avengers movie, I can’t say my inner fanboy jumped around with glee. In all honesty, I wasn’t really looking forward to it at all.
At this point, I’d normally turn it round and say something like ‘but you know what, I was amazed at how fantastic is was . . .”
But you know what?
I was stunned at aspects of it. There were bits of it that were truly magnificent. Really. But it was a bit of a mess. The pacing was all over the place for one thing, there were some ill advised ‘relationship’ moments and some baffling guest appearances.
I’m guessing what would fix the pacing issue would be an extended cut because this reads as if it’s been hacked to pieces. Ironically, it still felt overlong and the frankly bizarre Bruce/Natasha coupling just distracted where it should have enhanced. As a romanced designed to be doomed from the outset, it negated its own point. If the movie was going to be trimmed to a more palatable two hours, that’s the stuff that would have been first against the wall..
On the flipside of that coin was the insight into Hawkeye’s character and how he’s married to Velma from the Scooby Doo movie. The relationship there was real and added a very human element to a strangely sterile cast. It occurs to me that ‘sterile’ is probably exactly the right word as well as something of a TMI theme for the movie.
Perhaps the sterility of the cast was the point? There was a lot of ham-fisted conjecture about monsters and who the monsters really were, but on the whole, the moral dilemmas that conjecture threw up were largely ignored.
Andy Serkis turned up for a few scenes, muttered some rubbish about being frightened of cuttlefish then had his arm lopped off accidentally. His piece was over in about four minutes. Okay, his character may well turn up in the Black Panther movie and this might just just have served as a kind of ‘pre-origin’ thing but again, it was pretty ham-fisted. If this section had a point, it was to introduce us to the concept of “Wakanda” and the Vibranium mines, but it’s all pretty inconsequential.
Stellan Skarsgard was wasted, too. I can’t understand why Thor would go to him for help in finding a cave that he knew the location of anyway? For two scenes and no drama, what was the point? Again, this smacks of a clumsy edit and threatens us with a much longer cut later in the year.
The thing is, Joss Wheedon is at master at pace and drama. I cannot believe that this mish mash of hanging plots and dull – vanishing – characters is the whole story.
So what was right with it?
Well, this is where I bow down and say that despite it’s faults, it’s a hell of a ride. Well. Several short rides . . . it’s kind of like Alton Towers. Two hours queueing for a minutes and a halfs excitement but you still believe it’s the most exciting day EVER!
When the good bits came, they were bloody good. I mean seriously, seriously good. The birth of The Vision, and in fact all the scenes with The Vision were just beautiful. I mean, seriously beautiful. But then I’ve always had a bit of a thing for The Vision . . . and Paul Bettany, so it works on many, many levels for me . . . heh. The arrival of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch was a short lived joy and although there was nothing to match the Pentagon Kitchen Scene, Quicksilvers gift was handled very well. Wanda’s powers were too, but I wanted to see some proper ‘hex sphere’ action going on.
The battle sequences were, as to be expected, spectacular, but I can’t help be feel that I’m over disaster porn. There is this weird disparity between reading Avengers comics when I was fifteen where something like a city suspended in mid-air was represented by a shonky sketch and two people pointing and this full on apocalyptic horror. Movies have made the scale of these disasters almost unpalatable and almost certainly unrecoverable from. Witness the destruction of Metropolis in “Man of Steel”. That wasn’t good old fashioned four colour fun, that was something other and verging on the distasteful. The Avengers is going down that road and I’m not sure that’s a good thing – although I have to admit, chucking a city at a planet, on paper at least, is pretty cool.
Despite have a neat line in high functioning mad man, I just didn’t believe him. James Spader’s portrayal was all well and good, but as a character, there was something lacking. The comic Ultron was much more hysterical and prone to dalekesque outbursts. He was not witty, nor was he urbane. He was terrifying and made your skin crawl. The rather beautiful design took away the true horror of him. This measured approach did not really do it for me.
I hope when Thor 3 and Cap 3 arrive, that the characters actually get something to do, because apart from a little exposition and hitting things, they could easily not have been in the movie.
The fleshing out of Hawkeye was odd, too. True, he was the character we knew least about and he needed to be made more human, and Velma and the kids did that nicely, but it didn’t lead to anything. It genuinely looked like an emotional set up for his death scene and however cliched, it would have worked. Instead, we got a sideswipe death that had no emotional resonance at all, even though the music swelled people yelled “noooooo!” and all hell broke loose. A complete emotional misfire.
Oh, and there were two instances of Deus ex Machina that annoyed the living shit out of me. The only plus side to these is the knock on effect they will inevitably have to Agents of Shield. It’s will be interesting to see how the current storyline goes down in the light of Fury’s return and that very handy helicarrier
So. Cool fight scenes, nice bit of characterisation and some good new characters. It’s possible we’ve seen the last of a couple of them, although I doubt it. There seemed to be an ending; a resolution for some of the characters, but you can never tell.
Despite the bitching, it’s still two hours of enjoyable romp, but you can’t help but feel that superheroes are getting a little staid and set in their ways. The movies are becoming as formulaic as the comics did in the 70’s. Lets not have that again, eh?
Of course, Ultron may just have been a distraction in order to set Civil War, Ragnarok and Infinity War up . . . I think we deserved a bit more than that . .