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The UnPopular Opinion: Avengers: Age of Ultron

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Three years ago, I debuted my first UnPopular Opinion in which I lambasted Joss Whedon's THE AVENGERS as being overhyped and overrated. Now, I am coming full circle as it is time to offer my perspective on AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Yes, I am the guy who was roasted because I gauged part of my take on the 2012 superhero mega-movie on my then five-year-old son's impressions of the film, but I will once again compare his eight-year-old take on the movie to mine. Guess what? He loved AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Yeah, he took to every aspect of the film, from the relationship between Black Widow and Bruce Banner to the undertones of Tony Stark's decision to craft Ultron in the first place. The movie worked for him the way summer blockbusters are supposed to. But, after each viewing of the film, he asks me multiple questions about the plot, continuity, and logic of the film. Therein lies the problem with AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and why my perspective is that it is the worst film in the entire run of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios has built it's cinematic universe on the concept of individual films that are essentially building blocks towards an event film that culminates each phase. The first phase culminated in THE AVENGERS which did a satisfactory job of combining the core MCU heroes into a single team. Phase Two was more ambitious, giving us GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and ANT-MAN, two films very unlike the rest of the MCU. Even CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER felt like a movie distinct from the more mainstream IRON MAN 3 and THOR: THE DARK WORLD. And yet, when the time came for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON to blow us all out of the water, it instead arrived as a neutered and cookie cutter follow-up. Could it be possible that AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON came from the same Joss Whedon who was proclaimed as a genius after the first film?

Ignoring the behind the scenes sniping that has come to light since the release of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON which has seen Whedon essentially depart his working relationship with Marvel Studios and the reigns handed over to Joe and Anthony Russo for INFINITY WAR, lets just look at the finished product and why it epically fails at equalling or surpassing the first movie. First off, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is a narrative mess. We have all seen and analyzed what is missing from the final cut of the film as compared to the trailers. But, even with that in mind, the movie starts with a bang as we witness the reassembled Avengers attacking Baron Von Strucker's HYDRA base in an effort to recapture Loki's scepter. Clearly since the last film and not in any of the individual MCU films over the last three years, the team has gelled as a unit and know how to get the job done. Forget the mess left by S.H.I.E.L.D.'s dissolution or Stark's run-in with the Mandarin/Extremis soldiers; we just need to accept that The Avengers run the show now for the betterment of humanity.

Once Tony Stark makes the decision to create Ultron, things escalate quickly. The team is able to dispatch the artificial intelligence fairly easily and in the very next scene we see that the James Spader voiced Frankenstein monster has evolved into his final form. There is really no explanation as to why The Avengers left Strucker's castle base intact and full of weaponry or why the Maximoff twins are still hanging around. It almost seems like the entire purpose of Strucker's inclusion was to propel the AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON plot into existence. Sorry, Thomas Kretschmann, your role is basically a glorified cameo. From the point of Ultron's inception on, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON plays like a by committee creation rather than the brainchild of Joss Whedon. I will give credit to Whedon that THE AVENGERS felt like his baby while the sequel exists solely to setup INFINITY WAR.

There were rumors flying when AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON dropped a look at footage at last year's San Diego Comic Con that we could see the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the MCU. What would turn out to be a dream sequence showed Cap's shattered shield and the rest of the Avengers' bodies littered in Ultron's wake. The idea that these superheroes could be bested and would need to find a way to beat an impossible foe sounded exactly like something Joss Whedon would bring to the table. The prospect of Ultron not being defeated at the conclusion of his debut would provide a looming opponent that could return at a future point just like in the pages of Marvel Comics. Instead, Ultron is beaten and the toll on the Avengers is more superficial. Thor, who disappears for what feels like most of the movie to "investigate" the Infinity Stones, is replaced with Vision. Paul Bettany is excellent as the android embodiment of J.A.R.V.I.S., but his screen time comes so late in the movie that you just wish it would have been saved for another movie or rolled out much earlier in the film.

Disney was dissatisfied with AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON because it didn't break the records set by the first movie when they should have been more worried about the movie's quality. People flocked to THE AVENGERS initially because it was the biggest superhero movie ever made but they came back because the movie actually had something to offer. The sequel has improved special effects, but I could not help but feel that they were squandered on the cartoonish Ultron. The score, a strength in the first movie, was fairly rote and generic this time around. The cast, the biggest strength Marvel has, are all good here, but there are just too many characters to make us care, especially when Jeremy Renner's screentime takes over the middle act of the movie in what should have been saved for his solo outing.

Boiling out all of the issues with AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, there are a total of four scenes that make it worth watching: the opening Sokovia forest battle, the Hulkbuster versus Hulk fight, the introduction of Vision,  and the final team battle. Out of a 150 minute movie, that equates to just about half an hour of footage. I could easily find more worth watching in THE AVENGERS than that. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is overlong and tries to cram too much into a single film, especially the pace destroying tangent to visit Hawkeye's family to learn the importance of having a life outside of being a superhero. While I did enjoy the acting during that segment of the film, including the heartfelt admissions from Natasha Romanov's past, the entire section of the film doesn't work in the end. 

Ultimately, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is the equivalent of CARS for Pixar: it is better than a lot of movies out there, but compared to other offerings from the same studio, it falls flat. Marvel Studios seems to have put more confidence into CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, seemingly because The Russos know how to play nicely in the sandbox. If the "failure" of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON has done anything, it has built my respect for Joss Whedon. I am curious to see what this movie could have been because when it is ends up being nothing more than a waste of time and talent.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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