LOST SOULS… AN AVENGERS: AoU REVIEW

The embargo is over. SPOILER WARNING, here’s my review of #AgeofUltron. And let’s state it: I wasn’t impressed.

I went to see the movie last tuesday. I didn’t have any expectations. But I still got out with a headache. It strikes me that what made Marvel movies work from the beginning can’t work with such an ensemble cast. Somewhere in the universe, superhero movies have lost their souls.Special effects, 3D, technology… Everything is thrown at us to make us go to the movie, spend an expensive moment with our family and have the impression that those 14 dollars/13 euros aren’t spent for nothing.

Apart from giving you the impression that this 2.20hrs movie (rumored to have been an hour longer in the editing room) is an overstuffed, over controlled movie, Avengers 2 looks like the end of something.

How bigger can a movie be? How more cities can you destroy? This cycle has to stop.

I personnally have blockbuster fatigue (I blame Man of Steel for giving me that). And Joss Whedon is tired. He needs to rest.

He’s been very very discreet up to now regarding the movie. Just saying it has been hard. You can tell. He must have struggled. As in any Marvel movie, you can feel the hand of the studio. But Marvel has been very capable of handling its movies up to now, with zero commercial failures (probably the only case in Hollywood history, I don’t know) and very little critical ones (Iron Man 2 and Thor 2 being the flicks usually described as the weakest links).

Let’s tear it down piece by piece, shall we?

Characters:

• Iron Man: He’s still THE Man, but you can feel how he’s distancing himself from the Avengers as the movie goes on. We already know that Tony Stark will be in Captain America: Civil War, but he could’ve stopped his journey in Age of Ultron. Next movie will be an encore, but the Robert Downey Jr days as Iron Man are numbered.

• Captain America: the leader of the pack but more like a robot to me. Due to the nature of that movie, everything that made Steve Rogers a compelling and loving character is gone. He’s just a soldier and a team leader and does that well. Too bad. I really loved Captain America : The Winter Soldier because Cap is way more than that.

• Hulk: probably the character that was the cherished the most by Whedon in Age of Ultron. He gets a great deal of screen time and his role is important. The dynamic duo he makes with Iron Man works well. He’s also the only Avenger who has an emotional journey and sees his relationship with another Avenger, Black Widow, go somewhere. Too bad some useless one liners ruin the party sometimes. And my guts tell me, considering how the character ends, that when he shows up again in Avengers 3, he’ll be the star of the show and fighting in an Alien arena somewhere, just like in the fan-favorite Planet Hulk storyline.

• Ultron: I personnally don’t like the look of the movie Ultron. But it’s just me. No, the biggest problem to me is how openly Shakespearian that robot is. I don’t buy his crusade. He’s not a cruel, ruthless robot. He’s not scary like the T-1000. He’s a very human (and disturbed) character. And things are happening way too fast for him. He’s established very quickly as the main villain, he’s supposed to be unstoppable, being able to be everywhere at the same time, yet, he’s defeated. There’s something wrong in the way Ultron behaves himself and the way he acts. So with such a villain, the movie can’t hit the jackpot.

• Vision: Badass, nuanced, interesting. Obviously gets some of the best moments in the movie. Making J.A.R.V.I.S the Vision was a no-brainer. And as the A.I evolved, and was with Tony Stark from the beginning of the Avengers Initiative, that makes him the perfect team member. He understands the concept better than anyone, and you can tell by how he shapes his own costume that he respects his teammates a lot. Plus : Paul Bettany, ladies! What a great actor.

• Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch: they clearly suffered in this cut. It’s been said that most of their backstory has been left in the editing room. Unfortunately, the characters seem abridged. And the fate of Pietro/Quicksilver looks like a waste of talent. Marvel being Marvel, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the character return in the Inhumans movie. Side note: both characters speak english with a russian accent. Okay. This is the way those characters were introduced in the comics. But why does a whole country, even fictional, speaks english with a russian accent during all the movie? This is über goofy.

• Black Widow/Hawkeye: the “other” duo from the first movie has changed. They were best friends, sometimes flirting. Now, they’re brothers and sisters. I expected Black Widow’s situation to pick up where The Winter Soldier left it, but no mention of that (no time?). Hawkeye is the character that has probably the most non-battle screen time with Banner. He has his own storyline. And Joss Whedon gives a lot of humanity to the character by making him a very different kind of hero. He’s the least powerful character in the team, the most vulnerable. Yet, his role is instrumental here. I don’t necessarily buy his double life and what that other life is. But I guess this gives the movie most of its humanity (or what’s left of it). He gets a happy ending, and, just like with Iron Man, you feel Hawkeye’s tenure as an Avenger could end here.

Plot/dialogues:

It has its moments. Good lines, good acting. But the movie is just too exhausting, too big to let the characters breathe. There’s too much information. Too much everything. And when you see a new fighting sequence happen, you’re just left wondered “Why?”. Again, I think those blockbusters lost their souls in those giant scale CGI battles.

Something else bugged me: there are some repeats. Elements from Avengers 1 were reused in the same fashion in the second opus. Like Loki’s sceptre. How many times can you do that trick?

There’s also something intruiguing. Marvel keeps on telling everyone that “all is connected”. But you never get the impression it is quite the case in Avengers Age of Ultron. The movie exists in its own pocket universe. Okay, the demise of SHIELD is mentioned. But it’s like it was a minor fact. Nick Fury still has access to vast resources (even a hellicarrier!). And you don’t understand quite frankly what happened between Iron Man 3 (where, in the end, Tony Starks destroys all his armors) and Avengers: Age of Ultron where, he’s just back in the suit as usual, funding everything and plotting crazy stuff on the side. It’ll be interesting to see how the event in that movie will play on the Agents of SHIELD series. In the first tier of Age of Ultron, the Avengers beat Hydra. And the evil version of SHIELD has been a constant menace on the fledgling TV series for two seasons.

Conclusion: 

As I wrote this, like a therapy maybe, I thought myself: “after all, that wasn’t that bad”. It wasn’t. Still. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I think Marvel, just like other studios, have to scale down those movies to put more humanity, more emotions in those blockbusters. Television is more relevant today than movies because they have time. A whole season to make you care about characters. It’s hard in a two hour blockbuster. And harder when you have to give your stars screen time. Maybe the whole Avengers movie concept wasn’t the best of things? It works so well with individual characters. Creatively, something’s wrong. And with the growing roster of Marvel characters, the studio has to pay attention: how many characters can you cram into a movie like this? And more important : do you have to? In comics, Avengers change from a mission to another. If the next two movies are just that, missions with a mix of old and new Avengers, it will work. But Age of Ultron is proving that you can’t duplicate a formula. The second Avengers movie is too close to the first one in spirit. When Marvel follows what I’ll call “the Captain America example”, it works. Making very different movies with the same characters : THAT is something I want to see.

So, Marvel, go and make me excited again in the future!

F.

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