Box Office Democracy: “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
It’s almost impossible for me to be too positive about Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s a movie that would have been the movie of my dreams when I was 10 years old, when I was 20 I would have told you there was no chance it would ever happen, even at 25 I would have thought it was far too optimistic. It is as good as superhero movies get and as a life long fan of superheroes I loved it to pieces. I love how the fight sequences feel like playing with a big box of action figures but with a quarter billion dollar budget. I love Joss Whedon’s banter and the performances he gets from his actors each of whom feels perfectly cast. I even love it for the flaws, that it’s a little too packed with winks and teases, that there’s a pervasive refusal to call people by their code names, the dawning realization that I don’t care about Iron Man at all. I’m overjoyed that I’ve been able to see comic book movies get to where they are right now that when the standard bearer for the genre comes back I can only stand back in awe.
James Spader is so unbelievably good as Ultron. I thought Ultron was a mistake as a villain, I just didn’t believe he was interesting enough to pull an entire movie when I never cared for his comics, but Spader is so good I literally couldn’t remember Tom Hiddleston’s name when it was over. Spader turns a character I frequently thought had no personality (and I’ve read very few Ultron stories so it might not be a fair assessment) and turned him in to a character that had a sense of humor, and more importantly a real point of view. There’s a moment early in the film where Ultron accuses Tony Stark of not wanting peace but quiet and after the events of this week in Baltimore that hit particularly hard. While Spader is the glittering jewel of the new cast Elizabeth Olsen is also a treasure, she provides some human emotion to moments that would otherwise feel too large and fantastical to connect with and I’m quite thrilled to have her in the Don Cheadle level of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I appreciate that they use the big team movies to focus on characters that don’t have the luxury of entire movies dedicated to their adventures. Hawkeye, who had gotten the shortest end of the stick of any Avenger so far is given a significant piece of focus in this film as basically the entire second act pressure release is spent exploring his back story. Through him we’re also given a fantastic look at Black Widow and a more tender side than we’ve been given in her previous turns as the baddest bitch on the planet in her previous movie appearances. I’m less in to her relationship with Bruce Banner turning in to a romantic one because it feels so unearned and there just for the sake of having a love story to be turned in to gif sets on Tumblr. I think it asks too much of me to assume that this whole relationship sprouted up off-camera especially when all I want is more Mark Ruffalo on camera. The interpersonal interplay feels so natural and organic elsewhere in the film that this little bit of awkward forcing it sticks out like a sore thumb.
While I could gush about the things I loved about Avenger: Age of Ultron seemingly forever there is a bit of melancholy that creeps in around the edges. Like the best comic books the new Avengers film has an unmistakable forward momentum to it and I can’t wait to see what happens next, but instead of waiting a month or so to see what happens I’ll be waiting years. Captain America: Civil War will hopefully pick up the most pressing threads next year but I’m not confident I’ll see Thor again until the winter of 2017 and it might be three whole years until I see Hulk again. I don’t want to wait that long, big movies that need this much build time shouldn’t feel this serialized. This is to say nothing of the dull fear that maybe only Joss Whedon has the ability to turn this up to 11. The Russo Brothers are exceptionally talented but Winter Soldier wasn’t as fun as either Avengers film. More than anything what Age of Ultron made me want were more and better comic books… and I’m not sure that was the goal.