As one of the very few people who actually hated Whedon’s first Avengers film, I went into Age of Ultron with low expectations. It didn’t help that I had thoroughly spoiled myself on the plot before I saw it, so I knew I wasn’t going to be blown away.
Guess what? I wasn’t!
(Spoilers from here on out!)
Whedon’s biggest issues from the first Avengers film are worse in Age of Ultron. His characterization is terrible; there were points I didn’t recognize the characters on the screen. Natasha comes off the worse in this film. I was never a fan of how he handled her in Avengers, but that was a feminist’s dream compared to what he did to her in this film. She’s reduced to the damsel in distress and, worse, in one scene she’s made to seem like a monster for the graduation ceremony from the Red Room — where she’s sterilized, forcibly by the implication of the scenes. Whedon may have meant for it to come off as her calling herself a monster for being an assassin, but that is not how the scene came out.
As for her romance with Bruce, I cringed through all their scenes. I simply didn’t buy it. There was very little chemistry between the actors; they almost seemed embarrassed to be involved in the scenes. And, of course, Bruce has to rescue her near the end of the movie, instead of Natasha getting out her damn self.
Other characters who fared poorly were Steve. Whedon wants you to believe he’s this good old boy from the golden age of America who never so much as farts. He forgets that Steve was in the army for at least a year, if not more. Why would Steve have anything against, to use Whedon’s example, cursing? The man was in the army. He and Bucky cursed up a storm in the barracks and you can’t convince me otherwise. This was the man who fought guys in the alleys behind movie theaters, who ALWAYS got into fights with others. He was, put bluntly, a 40s version of a punk. If Whedon understands that, he chooses to ignore it. And that’s his main problem: He’s stated bluntly before that he writes what he wants to see, and what he wants to see are the Avengers reduced to one dimensional caricatures of what they were.
The villain was wasted. I am TERRIFIED of robots, to the point of being phobic. You can blame it on the first Terminator film. I should have been cowering in my seat from Ultron. Instead, while James Spader should be commended on doing a good job with the flimsy material Whedon gave him, I felt bored. Ultron was, simply put, too human. Maybe this is a stylistic nitpick, but his facial expressions were simply too emotional. I felt it would have been a better choice to have him be less animated, so that when the Vision comes on the screen and his facial expressions are more human, it contrasts nicely with Ultron. I also found Ultron’s many references to God to be stupid. He’s a computer. Why would he believe in any God, much less make references to Him?
The twins, Pietro and Wanda, I felt were similarly wasted, and I was beyond offended by their new backstory. I understand Whedon couldn’t use the original backstory due to Marvel not having the rights. My issue isn’t with that. My issue, as many Romani have said better than I, is that he chose two white people to replace the Romani Jews that were in the comics, who were the children of Holocaust survivors, and he had those two white people volunteer to be a part of a Neo-Nazi organization. There were so many better ways he could have incorporated them.
Was there anything I liked? Well, as in the first movie, the fight scenes continue to be the best I’ve seen put on screen. There’s obviously very careful planning going into how the battlegrounds are laid out, where everyone is, and how they all interact with each other. It’s more planning than goes into the characterization, that’s for sure. Whedon’s humor, while still annoyingly out of place, wasn’t as egregious this time around. There were actually a few lines I laughed at, and some cute moments I appreciated it. The bare bones of the movie are good, but it’s everything else I take issue with.
In the end, Avengers: Age of Ultron did not impress me. Did I hate it as much as the first? No, but that’s because I had such high hopes for the first one. I adjusted my hopes accordingly for this one, and as such, I came out not in love with the movie, but not in fiery hate with it, either.
Go for the pretty scenes and CGI, but ignore the fact that these characters are calling themselves the Avengers, because they bear no resemblance to the characters that were established decades ago.