Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

My husband and I agreed that this movie was okay but not… spectacular. Which is ironic, because of course the whole thing is nothing but spectacle. It’s an amazing, long, fancy, expensive spectacle, and my reaction to it was more or less a shrug.

See below for why. Beware SPOILERS.

Why did I not like Age of Ultron?

Poor Ensemble Cast Management
There’s no protagonist. There’s a lot of jumping around. We don’t identify with anyone in particular. Or we start to and then we’re yanked away to pay attention to someone else, and then it’s like, okay, never mind then. I liked the Stark plotline (I must act, because if not, I’ll wish I had) better than the Hawkeye plot (I’m secretly a regular guy with a farm and a family that loves me) or the Hulk one (I am inherently evil and don’t deserve to live on a planet with other people) which is similar to the Black Widow plot, or the Captain America one (I’m a soldier and it is my duty to serve honorably) or the Thor one (apparently, I know things that I don’t know that I know).

Poor Visual Design of the Villain
Ultron looked physically silly. He had mouth parts that were too moveable and ear/cheek horns that kept reminding me that it’s the year of the sheep. He looked cartoony and animated, not real. He looked liquid and soft, not hard and metal.

Poor Character Design of the Villain
Personality-wise, I expected Ultron to sound more flatly artificial. He sounded like a sarcastic human. The whole point is that he’s not a human and has no respect for life because he’s too logical. So he shouldn’t sound human, in his voice or his words.

Poor Management of Plot Holes
Why, after Ultron disappears into the Internet, do they try to physically chase him or track him down? The Internet is all over. He could go anywhere. He is everywhere at the same time. Either it should be clarified that somehow he’s only able to be in one place (network speeds, blah blah blah), or the team should have more explicitly tracked his agents or his goals rather than some embodiment. It’s not actually obvious that he would need to build one, frankly, or obvious why he wouldn’t build an army that were all equally him, rather than an army of less-smart drones.

Deus Ex Machina Ending
Good job confusing me about whether Vision was going to be good or evil. I really didn’t know. I thought Stark was repeating a mistake, not redeeming himself, by plugging the thing in and trying to take it over, but it turned out okay because luckily for everyone, the newest member of an already huge ensemble cast walks on at the end and saves the day with a magic jewel. Thanks, Marvel. Great ending.

Save the children. Uh, child.
One of the henchmen sacrifices himself for a random small boy who was in just the right place to play the role of the anonymous helpless innocent citizen about whom we have no particular reason to care. It’s not clear to me why the life of one person would matter to us viewers or the protagonists, since obviously dozens and dozens of innocent citizens must have died when buildings started collapsing from the city being lifted up into the air. Yeah, the good guys explicitly do the math and consider letting the whole city die to save the world, but they don’t want the people to die, so they keep fighting. That much I understand. The inability to admit or show that people still died, probably by the dozens if not by the hundreds, I do not understand. There’s no way the whole city got out alive. Especially since parts of the city got rocks dumped on them.

Pragmatic Characterization of The Hulk
In this movie, much was made of Hulk’s inability to calm down. Sometimes he seems to want to hurt his teammates as much as anyone else, and sometimes he seems downright cooperative. Which is it? Whichever is convenient for any particular scene, apparently.

Lack of Comic Relief
There were jokes, but there was no comic relief. The Age of Ultron Quicksilver scene doesn’t hold a candle to the Days of Future Past Quicksilver scene. Not only was the crowning achievement of the super-fast avenger the opposite of funny (and arguably the opposite of successful, since he died), there was nothing in Age of Ultron that got more than a single chuckle out of me. There was too much serious stuff happening (in 140 minutes) to squeeze in any kind of really relaxed scene at all. There was a lot of stuff getting smashed up, but the kind of action I prefer is the kind on the clever/silly Jackie Chan end of the spectrum. I’ve gotten so I just close my eyes when characters start smashing each other and the furniture. It’s boring and loud. The only thing that matters is whether a secret is revealed or a key object changes hands; the protagonists usually aren’t even in danger in those fights. Those fights are all just one-up contests—and business for people who make glass. Actually, the best joke was also a one-up contest: Captain America and Stark chopping wood, competing for manliness. That was the funniest thing in the whole movie.