After having watched Avengers: Age of Ultron twice and having some time to gather my thoughts on the film, I feel I can say with complete confidence, the critics who panned this movie are clueless snobs who think the only good cinema that exists is the artsy-fartsy crap that rolls out of the slightly deluded brains of indie-hipster directors.
Don't get me wrong. There are lots of great -- and extremely talented -- indie filmmakers who have created some stellar films that have deeply impacted and influenced this art form we all love so much, but just because something is gritty, "realistic," or completely confused and disjointed doesn't mean it's superb art.
Now that I've ticked off every film student on the planet, let's get into my thoughts about the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One of the things I loved about the original Avengers was the "money shot" featuring the team gathering for the first time right after Hulk did what he does best and completely annihilated one of those ginormous alien bio-ships.
You know the one I'm talking about, right? Where they're all standing in a circle and the camera pans 360 degrees and we see Earth's mightiest heroes assembling, ready to take down Loki and his "army?"
Well, Age of Ultron wastes absolutely no time in giving us that same money shot in the opening scene of the movie, which if you're a Marvel fanatic like me, gave you goosebumps.
The first five minutes of the movie set the tone for the film and let's the audience know right away, they're in for a very wild, action-packed ride, and boy does Joss Whedon's sequel deliver on what it promises.
The pace of the film is faster than lighting off Thor's hammer, even in the moments between battles things are constantly moving.
Some are boohooing that Age of Ultron is overstuffed and doesn't have enough heart or doesn't do enough with the characters to flesh them out. Apparently we weren't watching the same movie, because I think there was tons of development.
Not for every character, but for the ones who don't get much play -- as in they don't have their own MCU stand alone movies -- such as Black Widow, the Hulk, and Hawkeye.
Director Joss Whedon gives us a surprising glimpse at a whole different side of Clint "Hawkeye" Barton that many moviegoers probably didn't see coming at all, in the form of his wife Laura -- played by Linda Cardellini -- and his two children.
We see Hawkeye as a normal family man, a character who has a lot to lose each and every time he suits up and heads out to do a little avenging.
As if those scenes -- and the brilliant part they play in tricking audiences to believe Barton was going to bite the bullet at the end of the film, which totally turns out to be bogus -- wasn't enough to tweak your feels, we find out Natasha "Black Widow " Romanoff has a pretty big secret of her own.
In a rather touching scene with Bruce Banner -- who Widow has a budding romance with -- we catch a glimpse of the steely spy vulnerable with tears in her eyes, as she recounts a gut-wrenching story about the "Red Room," which takes young girls and turns them into assassins.
The sickos who run this joint have a "graduation ceremony" for the girls, which consists of a medical procedure to sterilize them so they won't jeopardize missions for the sake of family.
The whole relationship angle between Banner and Romanoff draws emotions from both -- something besides anger -- and pushes the Hulk into new territory as we see several scenes where it seems the Jade Giant consciously tries to do the right thing and play "hero."
No character development? Really? Were you watching the movie with your eyes closed and your earbuds in?
Much was also made about how much time was cut from the film, with some saying the story suffered as a result, but I don't think that's true at all. The final cut flowed logically and moved along nicely, peppered with some pretty spectacular action scenes, which featured a lot of interplay between the Avengers.
As we've all come to expect from Marvel movies, there were plenty of jokes, some of which were absolutely hilarious, some were good for a chuckle, and others clearly missed the mark -- like Cap's "What do you think I've been doing?" bit, which was extremely cringe-worthy.
I was super impressed with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen's performances as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch respectively, which in my opinion, stole the show a bit, especially the shocker that comes in the final act of the film. I won't spoil it for you here.
Much of Age of Ultron is set up for future Marvel projects, with several key interactions between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers sowing the seeds for next year's Captain America: Civil War.
Even the seemingly sweet "gazing into each other's eyes" exchange between the two legends near the end of the movie has a sad hint of destiny to it.
Then there's the fantastic way the infinity stones were revealed and worked in, clearly demonstrating that all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been telling one giant, cohesive narrative.
In other words, #ItsAllConnected.
Critics have continually blasted Marvel movies for not having villains that pose a serious threat, or for there not being any real "stakes" involved in the battles our heroes face time in and time out.
I'd say Ultron -- as a villain -- is a good departure from that and is a fitting foe for Earth's mightiest heroes, as he poses both a significant threat to the world and is clearly an ego maniac with a seriously wicked God-complex.
In between charming, slightly psychotic and poetic diatribes, it becomes clear Ultron thinks humanity needs a makeover in "his image."
James Spader does a great job of giving Ultron a unique personality that almost makes you want to be friends with the guy. Until you discover he's secretly planning to wipe humankind off the map that is.
All in all, this is a pretty solid film sequel that is on par with it's predecessor, even excelling beyond it in terms of action and team dynamics.
It does a fantastic job of pushing the overall narrative of the MCU forward, setting the stage for an epic throw down of biblical proportions where the stakes are not the survival of a city or of the world, but of the entire universe.
Overall, I give it a 9.5 out of 10.
I plan on doing some videos for the MetaComix YouTube channel diving in more deeply into the themes of the film, plus a podcast coming later this week, so stay tuned!