The following contains spoilers for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.
I’ve seen Marvel’s second super-team-up a few times now, and my initial reaction (it’s alright, I guess…) remains much the same. Let’s get into a few more things I picked up on multiple, increasingly grudging, viewings with friends and family.
Though I really enjoyed one of the film’s key action sequences, the Hulkbuster fight, a few tweaks in character and plot would have not only improved the scene but the film as a whole by quite a margin. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) goes on a rampage because Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) has hypnotised him to sew discord amongst his fellow Avengers at the command of her master Ultron (James Spader). This is just fine as reasons for triggering an action sequence go, but I wish Hulk was consciously making a stand against Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and his ideas, that he was fighting him because Ultron, as an idea, is wrong. Stark would still have a reason to use his last resort, and it would solve the problem the final film had of Bruce quite willingly helping Stark to make the same mistake twice in the same film. It would be a neater and more satisfying story overall, the scene would have more emotional and character clout, and it would lead neatly into setting up the CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR storyline to come.
I thought Vision’s (Paul Bettany) portrayal was pretty spot-in, though I still struggle with some of the hows of his making. “The Cradle” seems to work like a 3D-printer for organics, ideal for quick repair to serious injuries. However, its inventor Dr Chou (Claudia Kim) states that it can only recreate tissue, not a full living body, to which Ultron responds that they have merely lacked the right material, and produces his stolen vibranium. So, um, how does a fancy metal help you produce a living body again? If it’s just for the endoskeleton or some inner workings of your cyborg, then where does the organic material come from? Probably not one I should lose sleep over as Vision’s birth is completed with the addition of an all-powerful “Mind Stone” and a blow from Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) hammer.
Speaking of which, what on earth was going in with Thor in this movie? After Scarlet Witch pokes about in his head he hallucinates the destruction of Asgard at his hands, and the end of the wider universe at the hands of Thanos (Josh Brolin), which sets up his own sequel and Avengers 3 & 4. But then he revisits his dream state by wading into a magic puddle and all of a sudden decides Vision will be a force for good. I guess it’s good they’re setting up big things for Vision – he seems almost to be taking on the mantle of the MCU’s Christ substitute from Captain America (Chris Evans) – but it all passes in a blur.
Marvel get past the thorny rights issues relating to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) by relabeling them “enhanced” humans instead of mutants. Quicksilver didn’t make a lot of impact for me, but I liked Witch as a J-Horror tinged power timebomb. I also liked a little beat I didn’t pick up on first, or second, viewing – she lets Stark go in the opening scene because she finds it amusing how inevitable (and stupid) his path is.
Unlike pretty much all of Joss Whedon’s previous efforts, the smaller scenes here tend to be weaker. The absence of Pepper and Jane at Tony’s shindig is explained in a hilariously clunky fashion (Marvel clearly didn’t want to pay for Paltrow and Portman cameos) and as I touched upon in my original review, there’s nothing natural, spontaneous or even very much warm about the intimate scenes. In the hands of less talented actors, Whedon’s over-constructed dialogue might have been more damaging here. The key dramatic scene between Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce worked for me, despite all the flack it’s receiving for reducing her credibility as a truly feminist character (which I don’t agree with).
I can think of a couple of ways Whedon could have made the film’s finale more hard-hitting as well. If you can’t deliver the same delirious joy as the first film’s ending extravaganza, then you have to provide something else, if not something darker then something different. Instead Whedon did much of the same, only not as well. Maybe the Marvel high-ups put a dampener on his bolder decisions, because Whedon isn’t run-of-the-mill by habit. As I said in my initial review, I didn’t, and still don’t, dislike this movie, but I was disappointed. SSP