Wouldn’t it be great if the movie were as impressive as its box office earnings?
Movie Review #967
Does complaining about special effects make me sound 70 years old? Maybe older is wiser. I am sick and tired of seeing movies that feature computer-generated effects so prominently that they end up, at best, looking like video games, and at worst, losing our interest.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is distracting. It hemorrhages special effects like it’s the newest member of the European royalty, and the results are stultifying. This is Marvel Studios’s costliest film to date, and the seventh most expensive production in history, at $250 million. Of course, Disney is guaranteed to make that sum back four times, but do finances really matter in a movie that overdoses on visual effects like it’s Janis Joplin? I’m wagering that at least 70% of the movie’s cost was spent on visual effects alone.
“Ultron” is a mess of unoriginal folklore from the greater days of science fiction. The main story is referenced in the title. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is running out of good ideas, so all of a sudden he decides to build a machine called Ultron (voiced by James Spader) that he’s sure will save the world, because he’s programmed it through a language called Jarvis. His plan seems misguided from the beginning, and moreso when Ultron proceeds to eat Jarvis. So it appears, at least. I personally don’t blame Ultron, though. If the popcorn line were long enough, I would’ve eaten Jarvis, too. Anyhow, once this happens, Ultron proceeds to defy his master and make enemies with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). He still claims his objective is to save the world, but now it’s looking like he’s going to destroy the world.
Tony Stark might be the only three-dimensional character here–perhaps thanks to Downey’s awesomely natural performance, per his usual–and he therefore is the only character I should really sympathize with. I don’t, though. In “Iron Man 3”, by far my favorite of any Marvel movie, Stark proved himself to be a genius, a billionaire, a playboy, a philanthropist. In “Age of Ultron”, he just strikes me as a freaking idiot. Honestly, has he never read Frankenstein? Seen “Frankenstein”? “Frankenweenie”, maybe? “2001: A Space Odyssey”? “Moon”, maybe? Perhaps he’s read Asimov? It’s pretty much common sense by now that if you’re even in the slightest of science fiction worlds, you don’t build your own robot, because you will only regret it when you become responsible for the world’s impending destruction. James Spader does an awesome job as Ultron, but he’s at a loss because his character’s such a cliché. I have to say, it’s also pretty bad that Tony Stark doesn’t even bother to apologize for nearly killing everybody on Earth.
If there’s anything that feels new here in any way, it’s Joss Whedon’s direction. Yes, he directed the first installment, as well, but his style is far more presenter. I’ve always admired the way he’s developed his characters (and his brand of humor) in a collectivist light and purged his films of any sort of individualism. Whedon generally focuses on a group of friends in his narratives, and the collectivism strengthens that sensation. He’s done it in his independent comedies “The Cabin in the Woods” and “Much Ado about Nothing”. I’d argue that he does it even better in “Age of Ultron”. Just watching the bunch sit around a glass table, each taking turns trying to pick up Thor’s Hammer, can be pretty amusing.
The character development truly makes the movie more enjoyable. Perhaps moreso is seeing Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner all playing larger parts than they did the first time around. Still, “Ultron” seems to overstay its welcome. The last line of the movie is one of the most clever I’ve heard all year, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that some of the last 20 minutes feel like xeroxes of the first movie. You start to feel like you’ve seen every bit of this ordeal before, and by the end, you might start to feel that the most fun you had was watching the trailers.