I loved The Avengers, which I considered to be a near-perfect superhero and ensemble film with clear narrative drive and depth as well as great character interplay, bound together by Joss Whedon’s brand of storytelling magic.
So to say I was excited as the lights went down in the cinema before Age of Ultron was an understatement.
But by the end of the film that enjoyment had not reached anywhere near the same level as after the first film. Here are five reasons why.
It should have been The Empire Strikes Back
To me a good sequel adds to the first film, either by building on what we have seen and taking it somewhere new like Aliens or Toy Story 2, or by breaking it apart like Empire.
By contrast Age Of Ultron felt too much like more of the same.
Avenger members fighting each other? Check. A villain who tries to break up the team from the inside by getting into their minds? Check. The team come together for the climatic battle and then go their separate ways? You see my point.
Given Tony Stark‘s action in first creating Ultron in secret and then doing the same thing again to create The Vision, by the end Captain America and other team members should barely have been able to look at him, rather than sending him on his way with a fond goodbye.
It was too nice, too neat, rather than the team completing the mission despite their very obvious enmities and differences.
His actions in unleashing Ultron onto the world should have had consequences, which I felt they didn’t. The film didn’t carry enough weight.
Cut, cut, cut
I can’t help but wonder if the reason why is the cuts Whedon is said to have made to reduce the running time of the film.
Around 30 minutes was lost and those gaps were clearly visible at times, for instance when Thor has his dream and subsequent vision in the pool. I felt The Vision could also have done with more screen time to show his extreme power levels and character before just picking up Thor’s hammer.
On top of that, some footage of Ultron actually doing bad things and displaying the global threat he carried would have been welcome too.
In films like this it tends to be the character-driven moments which are cut back as they are non-essential to driving the film forward.
However they do add depth which this film lacked, barring one sub-story.
That was the relationship between The Black Widow and the Hulk, aka Romanov and Banner.
Their attraction to each other and tragic separation at the end was a tantalising glimpse at what could have been for the other characters and their development (even given the sterilisation thing, which was bad). That’s especially so for Captain America and Tony Stark, whose relationship will define the Marvel cinematic universe going forward.
It still had its moments
Given the lack of emotion, that’s not to say the film wasn’t enjoyable.
From the point of view of pure spectacle, the interaction between the characters was great as you’d expect with a Whedon film. I liked Cap’s “Language!” warning running joke, as well asThor and Stark’s one-upmanship and the following party scene.
The reveal of Hawkeye’s family was a nice twist.
The Hulkbuster fight was also brilliantly put together, and I cried laughing at Stark’s quiet “I’m sorry” after hammering the Hulk’s face again and again, only for him to spit out a tooth and come back stronger.
They killed the wrong person
Joss Whedon and the Marvel Universe had been getting close to the death of a hero for some time.
When they finally delivered, I feel they missed their target.
Throughout the film it looked like Hawkeye was getting the bullet given the big reveal over his secret family life and lines of dialogue over his plans with them after the Avengers.
There was so much of that it became almost too obvious Whedon was planning a bait and switch and so it proved.
Killing Quicksilver – while a bold decision – again didn’t carry much weight with me as I didn’t know him well enough or care about his character.
I felt a better decision with a far more shocking impact would have been to kill the Black Widow.
Not only is she a character we have grown to love over several films, but it would have added greater emotion to Hulk’s decision to leave – in an ‘all these powers and I still couldn’t save her’ kind of way. A grieving Hulk mourning his true love – especially given Cap’s don’t wait advice – would have been powerful stuff.
The Avengers B team
An Avengers film with the team made up of The Vision, War Machine and the Falcon? That’d be cool, said no-one, ever.
I know the line-up has changed in the comics over the decades, but these blokes feel like second string stand-ins with War Machine the new Iron Man, Vision as Thor’s replacement and Falcon as Hawkeye.