Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is one of the most expected movies of 2015. Fairly simple strategy is hidden behind Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. There are solo movies, and there are team-ups. In the first phase, there were solo movies about Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America after which they all teamed up nicely in the first installment of the “Avengers”. That finished phase 1. Phase two also had solo movies about Thor, Captain America and Iron Man but we’ve been introduced to the “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Also, equally important, Marvel TV universe debuted in the phase 2: “Agents of SHIELD”, “Agent Carter” and “Daredevil” were all part of the same interconnected movieverse in which everything seemed possible. “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron” are the beginning of the final stage of the phase 2 and prequel to the important events of the phase three. The problem is: Joss Whedon and the creators of the movie couldn’t decide which aspect of the movie is more important.
“Avengers 2: AOU” are connected to the “Agents of SHIELD” episode (S02E19) in which the fans have finally found out what the hell is Theta protocol. Hydra in earlier movies infiltrated SHIELD, and the AOS were left to stand for the remnants of the once powerful organization. “Avengers” helped them to clean that mess, but they uncovered something even more powerful. Baron Strucker worked on something new, something more powerful and based on Loki’s scepter at the same time. Avengers couldn’t take any risk. There, after Phil Coulson talks with Maria Hill – the movie begins.
Hydra isn’t the main antagonist of the movie. As I said in the paragraph above, they serve here as a tie in into the TV part of the Marvel’s Universe. In the background of that initial conflict more important stuff is revealed. Ideological conflict between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) is going on, and the fate of the Loki’s scepter is the main issue. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gave Stark and Banner few days to figure out Hydra’s plans from the scepter but Stark’s goal is something else entirely. The product of his ambitions is Ultron, the real main antagonist of the movie brilliantly voiced by James Spader. Spader was for me the best part of the film, since his acting gave the dose of seriousness and gravity to the often egoistic, self-centered and (sometimes) childish Avengers.
It’s always difficult to write about the group protagonists. Everybody must have enough screen-time to connect to the audience, and their separate storylines must function well within the group. In the first film, Joss Whedon managed to find the sweet spot in which everything worked perfectly, but in the second installment he closely missed it. There are rumors that he argued with the chiefs of the Marvel Studio about two particular supporting plot scenes:
- Farm scene, with Hawkeye and his family, regarding his importance within the Avengers.
- Thor’s dream: Scene in which Thor’s finds out about the gravity of the Infinity stones.
The first scene was saved, and we saw it in the film, but the second one will have its debut in some future Director’s cut. Which of these scenes is more important? Well, it’s difficult to tell, but I would say that in the bigger picture of the MCU and the Avengers (the third film will be called “Infinity War”), the Thor’s dream has greater importance. However, we’ve found out that Hawkeye has a family and children (two, third is on the way) and his qualities as family man allowed him to be less selfish and more sympathetic in the main story. Just in the midst of the final conflict, he gives advices about responsibility to the Scarlett Witch. These advices would be totally out of place without the farm scene, so it seems that Whedon knew better what is important for the character. Characters without solo movies are still underrated within the bigger story and in the “Avengers” they ought to have a lot more screen-time than the established ones. I couldn’t swallow romantic relationship between Black Widow and The Hulk. Hulk’s character since the beginning is regarded as the duality of Banner’s genius and Hulk’s destruction. In comics, when he’s in the Hulk mode, he’s pure, primordial instinct. He’s not capable of intelligence or feelings, he is a pure impulse. That rule was broken in the first movie, and here the rift between the original and MCU Hulk is even bigger. His romantic relationship with Black Widow gives him the niche in which his own fears could be hidden away. In the aftermath of the “Age of Ultron” he will again hide, (I doubt that even “the big green monster” can hide himself from the Black Widow) except if Marvel Studios are preparing “Planet Hulk” storyline.
Indecisive as it is about the intention of the plot, “Age of Ultron” lost its potential to the subplots which will be important for the future. The most obvious one: “Civil War.” If you’ve already read that magnificent event, then you know that in the middle of the story there are three important (and different) characters: Iron Man, Captain America and – Spiderman. The disagreement between the first two has begun in the “Age of Ultron”, but their conflict will become deeper in “Captain America 3: The Civil War”. The third character on the line, completely lost between them, is Spiderman. “Bigger picture” is something I had to have in mind during the movie, but in this case I think that connected movieverse came as an obstacle to the potential of the “Age of Ultron”. After the movie Ultron left the impression of the second grade villain. That’s unfortunate and wrong. James Spader is the main antagonist, but at the same time he’s a great strength of the movie. Making him unimportant in the bigger scheme of things is wrong on so many levels. “Avengers 2” seemed as a digression, separate episode inside the MCU, and that’s not expected from the last team-up of the second phase.
Last, but not least, sometimes when you’re making a movie series you have to miss something to gain something. That’s why I’m not entirely disappointed with “Avengers 2: AOU”. I enjoyed it for the most part and I can’t wait for the movies to come. It would be unfair to Joss Whedon and the “Avengers” to cut them off so soon. MCU entered its darkest and most serious phase to date. We will get “the Director’s Cut” sooner or later.
For now, my rating of the movie is the solid: