Joss Whdeon is back at it again, and this time he comes fully loaded with new characters. It is a fun, quirky, and even weirder than before. Yet even with this new challenge, the film is embedded with an energy equal to that of previous Marvel films.
For a movie that has been criticized for its scope and lack or originality, I believe Joss did a very good job on this film, setting us up subtly for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So let's take a look at some of the things that worked well in the film:
The Composers: Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman
Despite Whedon his losing previous Oscar nominated composer, Alan Silvestri, the music composed in Age of Ultron was eloquent and cinematic. From Brian Tyler's opening credits theme to the prevailing heroic themes mid-way through the film, Tyler provided a more epic and satisfyingly dark theme to compliment the films dark undertones. Just look at how Tyler balances the weird and scientific with his theme here.
Elfman adds more of his classic sweeping themes continuing the heroic vibe heard here.
Cinematography and Production Design: Charles Wood and Ben Davis
Together these two combined for a more balanced film in terms of color and scope. Ben Davis having previously worked on Guardians of the Galaxy really showed his stuff in this sequel. He continued his sweeping shots that was carried over from Guardians of the Galaxy and brought a much less saturated look to the film that plagued the previous Avengers film.
Charles Wood, having also worked on Guardians of the Galaxy, provided more energy in the background and balanced more of the surroundings to fit the superheroes within the film.
I also have to give a huge thumbs up to Alexandra Byrne for upgrading the Captain America suit. Great work.
The Story: Joss Whedon
I rather enjoyed this movie and all its supporting characters along with the villain voiced by James Spader. Some would say Ultron did not seem threatening or malevolent enough to garner the praise that Loki or the Joker had, but for me he worked well. Sure, his plan could have been improved and perhaps Whedon could have given us some more character defining moments, but the moment Spader's Ultron stepped on screen he had a dominant presence with that similar to the Winter Soldier, making us wonder what he would do next.
Did they somewhat nerf Ultron? Sure, but I don't think that makes him a bad villain. They nerfed Bane as well. I think a few more terrifying and character defining moments would have done him some good to really separate himself even more from the rest of the generic bad robot villain pantheon.
How about the rest of the characters?
Well, let us start with the new ones. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver both brought something new to the table. They diversified the team bringing some new energy. Yet, even with their additions, the team did not feel bigger. It's not because they fit seamlessly, but because they did not seem to fit considerably well.
They had their moments, but I found their conversion to the good side a bit to conventional. I did not care enough about Quicksilver's death and Scarlet Witch did not seem that distraught from her loss. We saw no grieving when it could have been made possible to explore its themes.
Whedon had some very nice ideas to bring to the table that concerned the twins; he brought up themes of artificial protection and global security along with acceptance and forgiveness; worthy themes that unfortunately were not completely fleshed out in the entire film.
Fortunately, Whedon was able to compensate with more of the fun quips that make his screenplays shine. Though I do agree that some of the bantering could have been reduced to add more drama, it elevated the movie in some instances to make it considerably more Marvel and less dark and depressing. As Whdeon said himself,
Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.
Perhaps his thinking backfired, but essentially it's what made the film more enjoyable as well.
For everything that Age of Ultron could have been, it became nonetheless another product of Kevin Feige. it was not a bad production, not a letdown, but something that could have been more.