If you had asked most movie fans last year to give you a list of films they were looking forward to this year, one of the most anticipated films of 2015 would have been The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. The first Avengers film was one of the biggest and most well received films of all time. It made sense that anticipation for the new film would be sky high. And this new installment looked to be even bigger, and better than its predecessor. The trailers were dark and menacing, the table set for an epic showdown.
And then the film came out, and it was met with an extremely mixed reaction and what can only be considered a less than expected box office draw. It has now been released on Blu-ray and I’ve had the chance to re-watch it a couple of times… meaning it’s the perfect time for me to defend it.
First off, I just want to say that I really liked the film when I first saw it. (Liked it even more when I saw it a second time in the theatre back in May). I have never been in the negative camp in regards to the film, and I think it’s important that I establish that, and the fact that I’m a self-proclaimed Marvel fan-girl. But, I will tell it like I see it and try not to let others colour my opinion. I do, however, think a lot of the hate for the film came from people just wanting to hate on it, because they could. Some of it has to do with Marvel’s success, some of has to do with people looking for cracks in the machine and jumping on anything they perceived as negative, some of it is just people being jerks, because they can be. I also think that a lot of people spent a lot of time comparing it to the original Avengers film and found it lacking. Which I don’t think is fair, firstly because it’s a completely different entity and secondly, because I think a lot of people are looking at the first film through rose-coloured glasses. Sure, The Avengers is a great film, but it was also an anomaly, the first of its kind. By the time that Age Of Ultron was released, superhero team-ups were old hat and no longer deemed special. I think that Ultron got caught up in all of that, and didn’t get a fair shake right out of the gate.
As to the actual film, there are a couple of main issues (real ones) that seem to arise when people legitimately criticize the film. The first is that overall the film felt rushed and full of exposition setting up the future of the MCU. The second is that Ultron wasn’t the big bad that was initially promised. And, honestly, I can see where people are coming from in regards to these issues. But let’s take a closer look at them and I’ll tell you why I think they’re not the big deal haters make them out to be, shall we?
Yes, the film is setting up Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Anyone who expected it wouldn’t be was deluding themselves. Kevin Feige and his team have carefully crafted an intricate universe, where even the slightest, most innocuous thing can have far reaching implications. Nothing happens in any of the Marvel movies (or TV series) by accident. We, as viewers, are just at a point where we are watching so carefully and closely for any sort of easter eggs that we have a tendency to over-analyze everything we see. And possibly infer things that aren’t even there. Which is what I think happened here.
Age Of Ultron is a completely self-contained film, with a perfectly timed 3 act structure. Set up, conflict and conclusion. I hear a lot of complaints in the interwebz about the fact that all of the Marvel films are “the same”… we meet the good guy. A bad guy wreaks havoc and they face off. Good guy wins. Well, duh, that’s the basis of three act structure and almost everything you read or watch has this model at its core. In fact, it even has its own Wikipedia page:
The three-act structure is a model used in screenwriting that divides a fictional narrative into three parts, often called the Setup, the Confrontation and the Resolution.
I think that people like to pick at it because Marvel is so prolific with its films that it’s easy to compare and contrast the various heroes and their stories. Ultimately, though, there is no difference in the overall structure of the narrative of any of the Marvel films or almost any other films any of the studios are producing. Singling Marvel out for this practice doesn’t make a lot of sense because not only does the model work for the studio, (basically, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?) but it’s also worked for just about every film released in the last 100 years or so.
As to the actual narrative of the film, as I said, it’s a completely contained story. There are aspects that set up future projects, but they don’t truly alter the story being told. At its heart, Age Of Ultron is the story of Tony’s arrogance and his fear, brought to life in glorious technicolor. Both lead him to do something stupid that has huge repercussions. The team must then come together to once again save the world. Which they do, which should be a surprise to no one. (And if it was, well then, I don’t know what to tell you. That kind of thinking is way beyond the scope of this article). In regards to the side stories, the only one that felt a little out of place was the Thor one, and only because in the context of the theatrical release, it didn’t really fit or make sense. If you watch the deleted and extended scenes on the Blu-ray (with director commentary, of course!), you’ll get a better idea of what the scene was supposed to be about and it makes more sense and adds a bit of flow to the whole sequence when you see it in its entirety.
(Honestly, I have no idea what the test audiences were smoking when they decided they didn’t like it. Because it sure as hell made less sense when it had had the crap edited out of it). I loved the Hawkeye surprise and insight into his character and have absolutely no problem with the whole Natasha and Bruce thing. I understand why they would be drawn to one another and like the dynamic they bring. And you can’t deny the chemistry between Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo.
If I had one criticism about the narrative, it’s that the film didn’t set up enough tension between Tony and Steve. While there were moments, overall, by the end I didn’t feel the animosity I was expecting. Loved the scene at the farm, where they’re chopping wood (or in Cap’s case, ripping it in half) and discussing the team dynamics and all. This growing rift was highlighted to perfection during the creation of Vision, where the two characters went toe to toe over what was happening. Shields were thrown, energy beams unleashed, words said and threats, while not uttered, were definitely implied. It’s obvious they each view the world, and their respective places in it, differently. But then in the end, it’s all jokes and pats on the back. While it could be nothing more than show and a grudging respect, I was hoping for something a little more. I mean, the film is setting up arguably the biggest conflict in Marvel history. A little more exposition on that front would have been welcome.
Now, as to Ultron himself, well, I think that this boils down to a marketing issue. In the trailers, Ultron was portrayed as this menacing, dark character. What we got was less so, but all the more intriguing for it. He’s an outside source who takes one look at humanity (through our internet presence, no less!) and decides that we need a do over. And honestly, can you blame him? While his methods may be suspect, it’s not hard to see where he’s coming from. I think what a lot of people seem to forget is that Ultron is a product of his maker and ultimately considers himself the epitome of creation. He’s a petulant child, looking to break away from the stigma of his creator and create his own perfect world. He’s all powerful and thinks he’s the hero. And as they say, the best villains are the ones who think they’re the hero of the story. This becomes even more evident with the creation of Vision, who is what Ultron should have been. It’s that dichotomy that really brings the point home. While he may not be the villain we were expecting, Ultron is definitely a worthy adversary who deserves more respect than he’s gotten. And remember, like Vision, he was also basically born yesterday.
Do I think that The Avengers: Age Of Ultron is a perfect film? No, because honestly, there’s no such thing. I don’t even think that it’s the film that Joss Whedon ultimately wanted to make. That’s the main issue that arises when you’re dealing with a multi-verse. Sometimes you have to play by a different set of rules. That doesn’t mean that it was a failure, because Age Of Ultron definitely was not. What it is, is the perfect follow up to a spectacular first film. One that deserves to be judged on its own merits.
The Avengers: Age Of Ultron is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Make sure to check back for updates – right here on Geek Nation.
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