Avengers: Age of Ultron

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No matter what I say here, you’ve already made up your mind to go or not, but I still wanted to capture a few thoughts. And it is probably no surprise that I loved this film. After so much anticipation, I was worried I’d be disappointed, but I wasn’t. In fact, it exceeded my hopes.

First, that the story-line and characters have continued to build on their world for 11 films is astounding (OK, 10 if we discard Iron Man 2 as we probably should). Writer/director Whedon (Much Ado About Nothing) is firing on all cylinders with this farewell installment as he departs the helm of the Marvel ship. It is full of action, emotion, and humor. And the plot is tight… way tighter than you realize until you get to the climax.

In truth, for me, the greatest fun of all was watching Downey (The Judge) and Spader (Blacklist) face-off in what has been a dream of mine for years. It’s like the Smartass Olympics with quips and sarcasm flying like the hail of ammo that pervades the film.

Sure, we have two different Quicksilvers to contend with now in the Marvel universe (X-Men: Days of Future Past has a version of the same character). And we’ve new names playing with the gang: Olsen (Godzilla) and Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla as well, amusingly) most notably. But these are minor issues. It is the strength of the franchise that they are willing to evolve to stay fresh.

Ultron is a great way to launch official summer movie season, and it continues to set high expectations for the Marvel collective. This series will continue for another 5 years and at least 10 films. I have no idea if they can maintain the quality, but they sure as heck are building huge arcs and are willing to take chances as they did here and in Guardians of the Galaxy.  They’ve earned my trust and I’m still on the bandwagon and chomping for the arrival of Ant-man in July.

Spoiler-y update

I want to be clear that I still had great fun at this film… and IMAX 3D certainly didn’t hurt it, but I also wanted to add in some thoughts that I didn’t want to include earlier, but have been saying since I left the theater (and yes, I do have witnesses ;-).

Among my first statements when leaving, with a silly smile on my face:  I hope Joss gives us an extended version of this when the blu-ray releases. This second installment felt a lot shorter than the first, though, in fact, it was only 2 minutes shorter. But the balance of the action with the story was off. In the first, it was that balance that made it more than just a blow-em-up pic. However, the focus of the stories were different as well.

The first Avengers was all about the characters; it was a sum-up of Phase One. This installment was a pivot, or a hand-off, depending on how you look at it. It wasn’t an end-point of Phase Two, but more a junction. This left it more unsatisfying and, honestly, short-shrifted some of the plot. I suspect a lot of the action insertion was for the foreign markets, where it is outpacing the previous film. Domestically, though, it is rather further behind, and likely to remain so because it isn’t as good a story, however overall fun it is.

And there are many more things going on in the film than are hammered on. The whole AI story, despite its weak genesis, is really fascinating to consider. The idea of powerful beings (brain or brawn) that can destroy our world by accident or desire. The questions of worthiness. The deeper story of the infinity stones finally being revealed. The question of love, life, and bonds and what is a higher calling. An extra 30 minutes of film to allow everyone’s story to really develop would have made this incredible. Instead, we have a solid, fun flick that I know I will watch several more times, and a springboard for Phase Three. Is all this a bad thing? No, just a little disappointing.

There is a much longer and beautifully detailed discussion of a lot of this by Quint over at Ain’t it Cool. It is nicely thought through, even where I diverge slightly from his thinking.

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