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Katherine is the Managing Editor at The Hudsucker. She has been working in libraries for the past 10 years and holds a B.A. in American Studies & Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. In her free time, the Seattleite enjoys writing fiction, going to brunch, taking long walks with her roommate, and playing Dungeons & Dragons with her friends. Katherine is a huge fan of the Seattle Mariners and has probably seen every Marvel movie at least five times. She loves classic rock and can quote even the most obscure lines from The Simpsons. Follow Katherine on Twitter: @thethingiskat.

Movie Review: Is ‘Ultron’ One for the Ages?

age of ultron

Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

In the three years since The Avengers first hit theaters, there have been four Marvel movies, one TV show, one TV miniseries, one Netflix series, numerous casting announcements, and an entirely new phase announced. Yet somehow, nothing seemed to generate more excitement and anticipation than Avengers: Age of Ultron. Fans were clearly hoping for something similar to The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight, fantastic sequels that surpassed their predecessors in scope and quality. Unfortunately, Avengers: Age of Ultron somewhat missed the mark. Though it wasn’t an Electric Boogaloo-type disaster by any means, it was missing some of the fun of the first film, and though there were plenty of highlights, there were also a lot of issues that movie couldn’t quite overcome.

One of Age of Ultron’s main issues was that between its release and the release of the first Avengers movie, the novelty had worn off. When The Avengers came out, it was a first of its kind superhero movie, and everyone was excited to see how the dynamic of the team would play out. With Age of Ultron, everyone had expectations of how things would be based on what happened during the first film and hints given during the Phase Two solo films. Though it definitely tried, there was almost no way that Age of Ultron could capture the same feeling and anticipation that the first movie had, making it an uphill battle from the start.

The characterizations didn’t do the movie any favors either. One of the difficulties of Marvel films in general is that they are all essentially written and directed by different people, so characterizations can vary from film to film. Steve Rogers hardly seemed like the man we saw in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The jaded man with a notebook filled with decades of things to catch up on was replaced with Joss Whedon’s version of a man from the 1940s seemingly frustrated by modern decorum. Though the “language” joke garnered a few laughs, it definitely felt tired by the end of the film.

Black Widow, though, suffered the worst mischaracterizations in Age of Ultron. In the three previous Marvel films she’d been in, Natasha Romanoff was consistently portrayed as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent more concerned with her missions than with relationships, famously telling Loki in The Avengers while talking about Hawkeye, “love is for children; I owe him a debt.” Aside from her friendships with Clint Barton and Steve Rogers, she was shown to be mostly a lone wolf. However, in Age of Ultron, she suddenly becomes so smitten with Bruce Banner that she suggests multiple times that they run away together, and though she has always been shown as being capable, near the climax of the film, he has to save her after she gets captured by Ultron. Though the Red Room scenes added interesting background for her character, her forced sterilization mostly served as a particularly icky way for her to bond more with Bruce. As the only female Avenger at the start of the film, it was particularly unfortunate that Natasha’s character was reduced mostly to a series of tropes and stereotypes when she had previously been shown to be much more than that.

Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Though the first Avengers movie suffered from this as well, the villain in Age of Ultron seemed far too easy to defeat. Ultron is supposed to have, essentially, all the knowledge in the world and before the film’s climax, redesigns himself in virtually indestructible vibranium. He and his army outmatched the Avengers in all their mini-battles earlier in the film, yet during the big fight at the end, they are able to defeat him with only one casualty, while also saving all the citizens of Sokovia. The film set up Ultron to be someone that would be nearly impossible to defeat, but instead newcomer Vision was able to easily destroy him.

The lack of a post-credits scene was also particularly disappointing. All Marvel Cinematic Universe films had some kind of post-credits scene up until now, and the Phase Two films had all had both a mid-credits and a post-credits scene. Though there was an interesting, albeit quick, mid-credits scene with Thanos picking up the Infinity Gauntlet, there was absolutely nothing after the credits. It would have been the perfect opportunity to give a nod to a future film, such as Ant Man or Black Panther, or perhaps reveal a casting choice for a character like Captain Marvel or Spider-Man. Even expounding upon an in-film joke, like the Shawarma post-credits scene in The Avengers, would have been great. And there were plenty of possibilities in Age of Ultron, too, such as lifting Thor’s hammer or “you didn’t see that coming?” Even a scene having Steve utter, “Assemble!” would have been great since he was cut off at the end of the movie after saying, “Avengers…” to a potential new team. Though the audience isn’t owed a scene after the credits, it is disappointing given that it has practically become a trademark of Marvel films.

Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Despite its shortcomings, there were also plenty of good things about Age of Ultron. In many ways, the new characters were the highlight of the film. Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, respectively, stole the film, and Paul Bettany making the move from JARVIS to Vision turned out to be one of the best decisions Marvel has made thus far. All three were a breath of fresh air into an already established cast of characters and their addition helped recapture some of the newness and excitement that the first film had. They all had integral roles in the film’s climax, and it will be interesting to see how they all fit in going forward in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Quicksilver, since few people seem to stay dead in superhero films.

As with the first Avengers movie, the team interactions were another highlight. The party scene and its aftermath where everyone was trying to lift Thor’s hammer got some of the biggest laughs and became a running joke throughout the movie. Though Clint’s background story with his family seemingly came out of nowhere, it was great to see the team interact on the peaceful setting of his farm. The scenes also added some nice depth to Clint and Natasha’s friendship, seeing as she was one of the only people who knew his family existed and was even friends with his wife and playful with his children. Their friendship was particularly strong in Age of Ultron, and it was nice to see how much they cared for each other when the other would get hurt, as well as referring to each other as their best friend multiple times. Getting some extra background on Clint in general was nice, after he spent most of The Avengers brainwashed by Loki. His continual need to fix things around his family’s house was a nice touch and added some needed laughs during the film’s climax. Nick Fury’s appearance at Clint’s farm was also a nice touch, showing that he is still very much involved behind the scenes even though S.H.I.E.L.D. is seemingly no more.

The cameos and Easter eggs in Age of Ultron did more than just build excitement for future films. Ulysses Klaw’s appearance was central to Ultron’s storyline and, along with the visit to Wakanda, set up a big future for Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Avengers became aware of the presence of Infinity Stones, with Vision even having one implanted in his head. Though Marvel previously announced that Infinity Wars would be the third (and fourth) Avengers films and the stones have been referenced in other Marvel films, this is the first time this crop of Avengers was fully made aware of them. Thor’s Scarlet Witch-induced vision revealed a lot of potential happenings and destruction for the next Thor film Ragnarok, and Tony Stark’s vision will quite possibly have repercussions for him in future movies as well. Steve Rogers leading a team at the end of the film that includes Tony’s best friend, Col. James Rhodes aka War Machine, could produce further tension between the two. In many ways, Age of Ultron showed the deep ideological differences between Tony and Steve, and the tension that has been building between the two of them since they first met in The Avengers nearly came to a head and surely will spill over into Captain America: Civil War.

Ultimately, where does Age of Ultron rank amongst the rest of Marvel’s Phase Two films? Arguably the highlights of the phase have been Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Age of Ultron definitely ranks higher than Thor: The Dark World and probably will rank higher than the upcoming Ant Man, which comes out in July and closes out Phase Two, putting it solidly in the middle. That’s not saying that Age of Ultron is a bad film, but the more character-based, plot-driven films of Phase Two were generally stronger and more cohesive.

If you’re an Avengers fan or just a fan of superhero movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron is definitely worth seeing. It might not be the best movie Marvel has ever produced, but it is also far from the worst. There are fun moments, good actions sequences, and plenty of Easter eggs and references for comic book fans and Marvel Cinematic Universe devotees. At the very least, with a seemingly new team on the horizon and Steve Rogers nearly uttering the famous call to arms, it will make audiences that much more excited for what Marvel has in store in the future.

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4 Comments on “Movie Review: Is ‘Ultron’ One for the Ages?”

  1. rennydiokno2015 May 12, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    Reblogged this on My Blog News.

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