Age of Ultron, Guaranteed Spoiler-Free Review

We saw it. We reviewed it. No spoilers. No nonsense.

Age of Ultron is what it is. Don't go in expecting to be blown away or to see anything very unique anymore. If you came to see the Avengers blow up more stuff, save more people, and punch more robot things, then this is the movie for you. While it doesn't do a whole lot to move the overall Avengers' story forward, it's a brainlessly fun bridge to cross on our way to the potentially more engaging Civil War or Infinity War.

The opening scene does very little to get the ball rolling and serves as an excuse to get all of the members together for sweet comic book poses and ham handed one-liners that have become redundant and tiresome. See, everyone! We're super heroes who are quite the quirky bunch, in case you forgot the last dozen or more Marvel movies. Sure, Age of Ultron is mostly effective in its comic timing, but sometimes the studio seems to be trying too hard to lighten up every possible scene, potentially robbing the tone of having much weight or gravitas. With Ultron it was tough to see or feel Whedon's mark, and I think that could be the studio's doing. Of course, his humor is still there, but what little heart was in the film, namely Bruce Banner's story, is too often quickly bookended with more excuses to sell toys and smash things. That's all fine and fun, but again, Age of Ultron is what it is.

"Hi, my name is Ultron and I came to punch things."
It seems that Whedon's so-called final Marvel film serves only to introduce us to some new characters with little back story getting in the way of the action. Granted, we don't need an origin for everything and everyone, and I agree with that, but besides Scarlet Witch's somewhat plot-driving use of her powers, her brother, Quicksilver, though cool as hell, isn't given much time to be cool as hell. Needless to say, with a cast of this size, you simply can't expect everyone to shine—and Whedon, I believe, did the very best he could do with such a cramped ensemble. We finally get to see some light shed on Hawkeye and it was refreshing. He felt more part of the team this round and didn't just hang out on top of a building firing arrows.

It's unfortunate that with Hulk's story being the most compelling character to follow in each Avenger's film so far, that it remains up in the air when or if we'll get a stand-alone and well-deserved Hulk movie. Universal Pictures still holds the reins on a solo Hulk epic. So, this is what we have to settle for, for now. Whedon has done a wonderful job continuing to develop the character around these limitations and trying to squeeze as much as he can within the confines of two huge spectacle films where the Hulk isn't even the central component. In a way, this just depresses me more. It's bittersweet having to stay uncertain where this is going if at all.

In a bold, probably unforeseen move, Marvel decided to forego the Hank Pym creation of Ultron and place that in Stark's hands. I was worried that it wouldn't work, or that it would feel shoehorned. Whedon handled it pretty damn well, tying in the seeds for rivalry within the Avengers' themselves for the upcoming Civil War film, and balancing that with the introduction of Paul Bettany's Vision. With as much that is happening in Age of Ultron, Whedon balances all these plates as best as one can. Maybe it seems like everything is happening too conveniently or too fast, but given what the film is, I'm not sure it could have been handled much better. 


"Hi, guys, I'm The Vision. Can I do something?"
Ultron himself might be one of the best villains so far in the current Marvel franchise, but it surprised me how silly he could be sometimes. This, I think, was a wrong move. With how jokey and lighthearted the majority of the Avengers are, I believe it would have served the Ultron character to be a much darker contrast to the typical comical mixture of the heroes. The trailers seemed to imply that's what we were getting with the character, and ultimately I think it worked against the film. Though James Spader did a wonderful job with Ultron, down to reflecting Spader's own ticks, the character didn't seem all that scary or threatening. Yes, his actions were oh-so-evil, but the actual character didn't feel that way.

The Vision is a character I was really looking forward to seeing how they brought him into the franchise. No doubt, he looks even better in action than he does in the promo imagery, but opposite Ultron, while his personality felt stronger, his actions weren't. He wasn't given much to do besides just looking incredibly cool. I was hoping to see at least one Vision-centric scene that showcased what he could bring to a battle, but his moment was brief and fell flat. I can't wait to see more from Paul Bettany's perfect casting as the Vision, but it's not here. We're still going to have to wait on that and a great Hulk movie.


"Sorry, V for Violet, but Ultron and I punched everything already."
Once it gets down to what we all came to see, Whedon delivers again. True, the action is everything we've seen before dozens of times in recent blockbusters, but what's special here is seeing the constant dynamic of each character's unique traits literally bouncing off of and complimenting each other in clever ways. Thor's hammer, Cap's shield, Hawkeye's arrows, Hulk's strength, Iron Man's beams, and so on and so forth are utilized in a delightful harmony of action choreography that never ceases to illicit child-like grins from me.
Perhaps, I'm getting numb, however, to the spectacle of it all. Yes, Ultron is a lot of fun, but so many huge, massive, things, robots, explosions, and one-liners begins to dull the senses. I'm thrilled to be a comic book fan at this time in history, don't get me wrong, and Age of Ultron will sit on my blu-ray shelf just like the rest of the Marvel movies. I love them. Who doesn't? They're a blast. There is just so much happening in Age of Ultron that it robs itself of its epic scope, leaving little time to develop much care in anything happening before the next explosion or punch is thrown. There's not much to go on. There's not much fueling the conflicts, and it rarely, if ever feels like our heroes could lose. The stakes, on paper, are high, but it hardly feels like it as fun as the film is.

Pinterest Facebook TwitterAddthis

- J.G. Barnes