Avengers: Age of Ultron

Movie Information

The Story: The latest entry in the Marvel Comics series. The Lowdown: It's too big. It's too frenzied. It's too full of characters it can't contain. Mostly, it's just too much everything. It's not bad — it will please a lot of people — but it provides a lot less fun than The Avengers did.
Genre: Comic Book Sci-Fi Action
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen
Rated: PG-13



Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron was everything I expected — and less. Oh, sure, it delivers the requisite number of explosions (and then some), lots of footage of folks (both real and in their CGI incarnations) in often goofy costumes punching the crap out of bad guys various and sundry, massive property damage and effects upon effects upon effects. And it’s never less than decently acted — at least in those moments where its pricey cast actually get to act. However, it’s also lacking most of the fleet-footed fun of its predecessor — despite the presence of the same writer-director and most of the same cast. As I said in 2012, The Avengers wasn’t one of the Great Movies or anything of the sort, but it was mostly — until the inevitable big smackdown at the end — a lot of fun, not in the least because it was allowed to just be a comic book movie without any pretense of profundity. The sequel doesn’t make any great claims to depth either — which is in its favor — but something was lost between the first movie and this one. What once was a fun jaunt here feels more like a forced march — and one with too damned many characters.




The problem starts early on — in fact, with the very first sequence. For no very good reason, the movie starts in the middle of a barely comprehensible battle. I realize that Whedon comes from TV, where it’s a logical practice to start a program with some kind of “grabber” scene to keep the viewer from changing the channel. This is presold product on the big screen, and the money was collected before the viewer sat down — the option of changing the channel doesn’t exist. But the film is treated like it is, so we’re subjected to all this sound and fury (and I don’t mean Nick) for no very good reason — except “stuff blows up real neat.” And that’s not even quite true, since the effects work here is quite the worst — read: most cartoonish — in the movie.




In fact, the whole first hour of the film strikes me as a pretty tough slog. After that first hour, the movie improves considerably, even if, for me, it never reaches the enjoyment level of the first film — except in one notable capacity where it’s better than the first film. The central problem with the film (even at its best) is that its fairly simple story is overloaded with pointless convolutions and an overcrowded roster of characters — so cramped for space that few, if any, of them are given much to do, despite its 141-minute running time. (That’s actually a couple minutes shorter than The Avengers, but it feels longer.) In the bargain, much of Whedon’s sense of humor seems to have suffered. OK, I was amused by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) remarking that something was “Eugene O’Neill long,” but I was probably more amused by how incomprehensible that’s likely to be to a large portion of the audience than anything. I thought there was possibly a nice dose of amusing self-critique in having Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) sum up the situation for Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and cap it with, “None of this makes any sense.” And I’d like to believe that Vision (Paul Bettany) magically “growing” a cape was a gag, but I’m pretty sure Thor (Chris Hemsworth) vanishing part way through just to (conveniently) return to straighten out the plot because of a vision he had when he was offscreen wasn’t meant to be funny.




However, one area where Age of Ultron really does score is in its climactic smackdown battle — even if seeing superheroes battle endless streams of robots looks like something out of the pages of an old Magnus: Robot Fighter comic — regrettably without the “squeeeee” sound whenever a robot gets beheaded. (Then again I’m not at all certain that Ultron (voiced by James Spader) isn’t a riff on Magnus’ archenemy, the rogue robot H8.) For once, this isn’t just a free-for-all of battling and wanton destruction, but something that actually makes sense and evidences a good bit of concern over the destruction. If the whole movie had been this good … but it isn’t. And, yes, I realize nothing I say about Age of Ultron will have any impact — apart from getting a few angry responses because I don’t love it. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction and for some suggestive comments.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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50 thoughts on “Avengers: Age of Ultron

  1. trexguy .

    SPOILERS HERE………………………I totally agree with you about the opening, the whole time I was thinking “slow down, please let me see what’s going on”. How better it would have been if they could have built some tension and or atmosphere, imagine if the opening credits were a tracking shot of Cap riding his bike into the woods and as the music rises…BAM he throws the bike into the tank then and then the others join in. C’est la vie.

    Over all though I found this one better than the first, mostly due to James Spader (I got so into the character I forgot I was watching a cgi creation) and it’s far more interesting third act. At the end of the prior movie I thought it turned into Transformers especially with those awful bug looking ships. Tom Hidleston is a great actor but I was over Loki by that point.

    Three stars is accurate. Even though I enjoyed it I won’t be singing its praises too much and probably won’t return to the cinema to see it.

  2. Ken Hanke

    But…but it’s the 228th Best Movie of All Time according to the hoi polloi on the IMDb.

    Personally, though, I prefer Loki.

  3. trexguy .

    On the movie’s plus side……….. Didn’t the kid in you love the Hulk- Iron Man fight?

  4. Edwin Arnaudin

    I’m sure all of the individual character storylines are important to die-hards (and in setting up future installments), but this many films in, all I need to know is that there is a threat then have the Avengers battle it. A 45-minute version would be among my favorite films of the year.

    • trexguy .

      A movie could be five hours long and I don’t want to leave and go back to “the real world” as long as the story is good. In terms of this movie, yes, probably too many characters. I would have been fine without the twins subplot.

    • trexguy .

      Edwin…you emphasized a big problem growing at the studios. They “set up future installments” during production instead of making a movie as best as they can. The recent Spider-Man was the biggest culprit so far.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        The recent Spider-Man was the biggest culprit so far.

        What a terrible movie that was!

        • trexguy .

          Aye, it ’twas. At the end I likened it to a Saturday morning cartoon just to find some way to justify watching it. It’s also a crime for beautiful red heads to dye their hair blond.

          • Ken Hanke

            I guess that means you won’t be coming to The Lady from Shanghai on the 20th, huh?

          • trexguy .

            Ha ha! Touché …..I think Orson Welles trumps all my silly film rules. I can’t wait for that one.

          • Ken Hanke

            Aside from which I’m pretty sure that Emma Stone isn’t a natural redhead.

  5. Best review for this movie I’ve read so far.

    I’m not into this comic book movie thing, but the first film surprised me because it was fun and not pretentious. I was pretty bored by this one though, because, to me, it was basically the first movie all over again, playing the same notes. It felt like eating week old leftovers.

    Ultron is annoying and doesn’t shut up for a second, and the GCI looks fake all the time.
    And you’re right, opinions from those who didn’t love it aren’t going to have any impact. It’s just like trying to point out flaws in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. There are many, but this passionate reaction on the part of the fans shields the movie from any criticism.

    Let’s see where the series goes from here, now that we know that Marvel has its cinematic future all mapped out for the next 37 years.

    • Ken Hanke

      37 years, huh? I probably won’t make it to the climactic episodes, which is likely for the best. But I figure that by then they’ll have incorporated characters from Shakespeare (Hey, they wore tights, so why not?), plots from Tolstoy, dancing girls, and the whole run of Universal Monsters — even the much maligned (rightly so) Paula the Ape Woman.

    • Ken Hanke

      It’s funny that when Universal decided to stick Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man, a Mad Doctor, and a Hunchback into one movie and then another (both of which had the decency to run just a little over an hour), it was derided as desperation and having run out of ideas. Now you can stuff 20 superheroes into one obscenely long movie and everyone goes lollipops over it.

      • Nataris

        Thats cause nobody gives a damn about Frankenstein.. People actually like super heroes.

        The more comments I read of yours, it just seems like you are tired of comic movies. Fine. Then walk away and dont watch them.

        But its obvious your lack of patience for comic movies has expired and your review is drenched in that opinion.

        • Ken Hanke

          Frankenstein comes from a book that’s lasted 200 years. Films based on it are still being watched 80-plus years later. How long has The Avengers been around?

          You seem to misunderstand the nature of being a movie reviewer as a job. It doesn’t offer the option of walking away and not watching the movies. My real question — since I am quite open about realizing that my review of this movie will not in any way hurt it — why are so worked up about it? You, after all, are actually in position of walking away and not reading it. But I reckon it’s more satisfying to bitch about my review — from the anonymity of a screen name.

    • trexguy .

      Sooner or later the comic book movie bubble will burst, sooner I hope.

  6. Dionysis

    After the last Avengers movie, the “comic book bubble” was stretched to a near breaking point for me. This review is just enough to completely burst that bubble. If I find this on DVD in the grocery store’s ex-rental cheapo bin up the road I might watch it in a fit of boredom.

    • Ken Hanke

      By the “last Avengers movie” do you mean the first Avengers movie? This gets so confusing. In any case, if we must have these things, I’ll take Guardians of the Galaxy.

  7. Dionysis

    You’re right…the last comic book superhero-related film I saw was the first Avengers movie. I didn’t catch Guardians… but maybe I should. I’m just tired of these movies in general now. I had most of the Marvel superhero flicks on DVD, and sold the lot of them, keeping only X-Men 2 and the first Iron Man. I’ll watch those again (at least once more), but I’ve almost forgotten the rest (thankfully, in the case of a couple of them).

    • Ken Hanke

      The only comic book movies I deliberately* own are the two Burton Batman pictures, X2, and the much-maligned The Spirit — unless you count From Hell, Cemetery Man, and Sin City as comic book movies.

      *I may have screeners of the Nolan Batman movies, but I didn’t ask for them.

      • trexguy .

        Surprised you don’t have American Splendor. One of the best in the genre.

        • Ken Hanke

          I’m not sure it qualifies as a genre. And, I hate to say it, but I am not all that jazzed over American Splendor.

  8. Dionysis

    Hmm, I didn’t know Cemetary Man originated in the comics. The others I did. I forgot earlier that I also have the 1943 Batman serial collection, the 1948 Superman serial collection (with Kirk Alyn) and the entire television series with George Reeves (with the first season being the best, IMO). I guess they count.

    • Ken Hanke

      Well, graphic novel, which is basically a comic book with a better binding. I don’t consider the Batman serials (I have both) the same thing. They’re barely movies really and don’t have a hell of a lot to do with the comics. I have the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials, too, but those are from comic strips.

  9. Dionysis

    I agree. The only other serial collection I have is Captain Marvel. It’s among the better serials I’ve seen.

    • Ken Hanke

      It’s pretty good…as serials go. I have a soft-spot for Clyde Beatty in Darkest Africa and Bela Lugosi in The Phantom Creeps (at least in a good copy). The former, however, is only on VHS, which I have, but I’m not really set up to play one.

  10. Mauro Rodrigues

    i think the main problem with these movies is the kid friendly nature of them, the heroes seem to be in no danger at all and the story lacks the real drama and complexity of their emotions and aspirations. In the comics this was better developed, it’s a lot more dense, complex, mature and “real”. It’s a shame because these characters are interesting.
    i hope they fine tune these problems on future movies, before saturation really takes place.

    in conclusion, it’s allways the same talk for every film, invest on the characters and story, even if they’re super-heroes.

  11. luluthebeast

    I just have no desire to spend money on this film. Comic book movies seem to have become tiresome.

    However, FURY ROAD does hold some interest.

  12. Big Al

    “…like something out of the pages of an old Magnus: Robot Fighter comic…”

    Now THAT is something I would like to see brought to the big screen. Better a big-screen “Magnus: Robot Fighter” than another pathetic remake of a perfectly good 1980s movie (Footloose, War Games and Dirty Dancing were just fine the first time, thank you!)

    • Ken Hanke

      I doubt it has the name recognition to make it succeed. And your definition of “a perfectly good 1980s movie” and mine are…well, not the same.

      • Big Al

        But does your dislike of these 80s movies mean you would like to see them re-made?

        • Ken Hanke

          Frankly, I’d rather they weren’t, but only because I have no desire to see another version of any he named. But I also am not against the idea of remaking them because they’re “perfectly good.” Why should I be? It won’t alter the originals and it the remake is awful, then it will be quickly forgotten anyway. See the remake of Carrie, for instance. Does anyone even remember the rehash of Bride of Frankenstein (1935) called The Bride (1985)? It certainly didn’t replace the original.

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