So, over at Eneition, my youtube channel, we've done a review of Age of Ultron, which you can see below. However, if you're not a fan of video reviews and would prefer a written one (or just don't like my voice, whatever), fear not, for I shall give you a written review anyways, just don't say I'm not good to you.
So... as you may have guessed from the title, I ain't exactly one of the people parading around and singing the movies praises, because it just straight up doesn't deserve that. I'm sorry everyone, but after three viewings, each one has simply cemented that opinion. But here's the thing; I really enjoyed Age of Ultron. I honestly did, but I end up being incredibly negative about it because everywhere I turn there are people trumpeting the fact that it's the best Marvel movie ever when I wouldn't even say it's close to its predecessor.
What the movie does right, is that it hits the ground running. It opens with a spectacular action sequence and never slows up. That's not to say that it's just action from start to finish, there's plenty of character driven scenes as well, but the whole time is spent having fun, as if it were one massive rollercoaster that lasted two and a half hours. The humor is timed to perfection and never falls flat, and the quality of special effects is almost a given at this stage, especially when the movie gets $200 million to spend.
Characters are also all fleshed out and three-dimensional, with the surprising standout being Hawkeye, although to say why would be to delve into spoiler territory. The twins, despite needing to be introduced this film among so much going on, get an interesting backstory and rich personalities. All of this is cemented by the acting. After all, you have an ensemble cast of a dozen or so actors/actresses all of whom can carry a film by themselves. Do I really need to remind you how perfect Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hwmsworth and everyone else are for their roles? No. So let's move on to the new cast, like James Spader, who provides a fantastic voice for Ultron. It ranges from chilling to charming easily, and is complemented by some beautiful motion capture.
This is where I upset most of you. This is what many of you will have been waiting for since my intro so that you can rush into the comments and point out why I'm wrong. So I get one shot at convincing you all... here goes nothing I guess.
*Beware minor spoilers*
I said earlier that all the characters are well fleshed out, and that's true. But Age of Ultron's biggest problem is the gross lack of character development. For example, early on the twins are given a backstory as to why they hate Tony Stark. Then, later on they find out that Ultron plans to destroy the world - because of course he does - so they switch sides. That's it, they don't ever get over their hatred of Stark, they don't mature into different people, they just help the Avengers because they're the lesser of two evils. Sure Wanda (the girl) gets a pep talk from Hawkeye that inspires her to fight, but it's really nothing more in the way of "Hey, I've got a bow and you have almost unlimited power, why are you cowering in a corner? Get up and fight and then everyone will love you". Call it what you will (and it was hilarious) that's not character development. The same goes for Tony Stark. He creates Ultron out of hubris and fear, and when it all goes to pot, his response isn't to learn from that and conquer his inner demons, it's to try the whole thing again. There's no singular story arc that holds the movie together and provides a satisfying pay-off at the end. There's a plot, sure, but no character or thematic arc to hold the film together dramatically.
Then there's Ultron. Yes, James Spader lends him an incredible voice, but the guy is never a real threat. He spends too much time being funny and charismatic to become any kind of thematic antithesis to the Avengers and ends up being the guy who moves us from plot point A to plot point B and then onto C. There is one scene late on where you just realize how much was missed with this character in the sense that he either could have been a logical algorithm that showed the Avengers up as the loose cannons which they are, or he could have been just a straight up menacing and over-bearing villain. But by the end he just doesn't have any presence on screen and is physically defeated so easily that he becomes almost a minor annoyance without his plan.
All in all, there's almost too much going on with the film. Too many characters, too many spin-offs to set up, too many plot threads and not enough of a streamlined narrative which poses as the films central "point". Like Tony's evolution from egotistical philanthropist to hero in the first one and the central question of whether or not all these personalities can gel together.
What's a shame is that the section under bad is about twice as long as the good because like I said, I enjoyed the film. It's just that all the good stuff is almost taken for granted at this stage and when films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are pushing the boundaries of what a superhero movie can be as well as providing satisfying stories by going small scale with character beats, Age of Ultron just doesn't live up to the bar marvel has set for itself.