Let’s be real: we are all going to see Avengers: Age of Ultron no matter what anyone has to say about it. This is the biggest movie event of the year, second only to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not seeing it was never an option.
So being the superhero loving trash I am, I went to see the movie opening night …
And well …
Let’s start with the synopsis. Marvel’s synopsis of Age of Ultron (AoU) goes:
“When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to the Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.”
Sounds like a pretty standard superhero movie, doesn’t it? But by now we all know never to judge a movie by its boring summary and expect more than what is presented to us by the production company
However, having seen AoU, I can say the movie never moves past this bland framework.
The biggest problem with AoU was that it was just a superhero movie. Nothing more, nothing less. When there are over 11 completed entries and nearly a dozen more on the way in your superhero franchise, you don’t have the option of making them lackluster.
AoU had no idea what it was trying to be. Was it a superhero movie that touched upon what it truly means to be human? Or was it a cautionary tale on human arrogance portrayed by actors in colorful suspenders?
The best example of the movie’s indecisive nature is the title character himself. Ultron is an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark using the power of Loki’s scepter. His original purpose was to protect humanity, but, in true movie robot fashion, he goes against his programming and decides he needs to destroy the human race.
Ultron’s motivations are never quite explained. At one point it’s implied he truly believes destroying humanity is the only way to save it, but at another he clearly knows what he’s doing is wrong.
He believes himself to be better than humans, yet he spends the majority of the movie trying to download himself into an artificial body made of human flesh. Ultron would have made a more compelling villain had the writers chosen to explore any one of these avenues individually, but by trying to cram all these motivations into one plot, they diluted the strength of all of them.
Sadly, even AoU’s jumbled plot is more coherent than what the actual main character’s get. Thor and Captain America are essentially non-entities; in fact, Thor was gone for nearly two-thirds of the film and nobody questioned it because he held little narrative value. Black Widow was saddled with a romance subplot and a sudden desire for a nuclear family despite showing no such inclination in the past.
As a viewer, I got the feeling none of the heroes were truly invested in the conflict. Sure, it would be a bad thing if Ultron destroyed the world, but because none of them were a personally invested Ultron’s actions, I had no investment in it either.
Aside from a scene in the Avengers Tower, our heroes showed a startling lack of regard for how bringing mass fighting to Wakanda, Africa or South Korea would affect the inhabitants of those places.
The message I took away from that is when destruction happens on our home turf, it’s bad, but violence is just something that can’t be helped in these foreign countries.
Also, there is a very uncomfortable moment where Black Widow reveals she was forcibly sterilized in her youth as part of her “graduation ceremony” from the Red Room, the organization who trained her to be an assassin. Part of this graduation also required murdering another person. Natasha calls herself a monster for being unable to bear children, while Bruce Banner, also known as the Hulk says they’re both monsters.
Forced sterilization is a traumatic experience, which I could never begin to claim I understand, but her problem was not the experience itself seems to trouble her less than her inability to have children. Does anyone else see the problem with a male writer uncritically having a female character compare herself to a raging uncontrollable creature of mass destruction solely because she can’t have kids, which is already something millions of women can’t do?
In fact, the portrayal of female characters in this movie was atrociously weak. Of the five women with major speaking roles, we have Black Widow, who considers herself a monster and has a random romantic plot thrown at her, and Maria Hill, who only exists to be Captain America’s and later, Nick Fury’s subordinate.
The audience also meets Hawkeye’s never-before-seen wife, who was unmentioned in prior films and never steps outside of the role of “loving wife who the sad hero must protect.”
Scarlet Witch, one of the most powerful Marvel characters of all time, is reduced to a quivering waif who needs Hawkeye to remind her why she fought to begin with, something she has never struggled with in other incarnations, and Dr. Helen Cho basically serves as Ultron’s midwife during the second half of the film.
I understand that in a movie with a large cast, all the characters can’t get the screen time they deserve. However three out of five of those women’s arcs revolved around motherhood and all five revolved around a man. By comparison, Hawkeye was the only male character whose arc revolved around a woman, and his arc dealt more with protecting his entire family than with only his wife.
My problems with the plot aside, I may have still enjoyed AoU had it not been so extremely bland. Unlike the vibrant colors of the first movie, everything in AoU looks muted, like someone ran the movie one too many times through the washing machine. This movie’s score had a different composer than the first one, and it definitely shows during the heavy action scenes.
The triumphant Avengers theme from the first movie clashes with the dull beats of the rest of the film. The fight scenes are beautifully staged, but one can only watch a city being destroyed on a mass scale so many times before it becomes old. We’re long past the era where a keen eye for angles and a huge budget makes up for having no narrative substance.
I wanted to love Age of Ultron. I really did. Whedon’s dialogue was as snappy and fast-paced as usual, and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. Perhaps, Whedon could have made this film more like the beloved cult classic The Avengers turned out being, had he not be working with as large a cast. However, I can’t know for certain.
Let me sum it up like this: I saw The Avengers three times in theaters. I won’t be going back to Age of Ultron anytime soon.
Final Verdict: Age of Ultron provides a solid enough stepping stone to the next stage of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but on its own is a lackluster affair that brings absolutely nothing new to the genre of superhero films. C+
Rosie Brown is a sophomore prospective journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.