After seeing “Avengers: Age Of Ultron”, I totally understand why beloved writer/director Joss Whedon is stepping down from the helm. While the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is entertaining and has it’s high points, it also proves that Marvel may need to slow things down or at least not overwork their brilliant writer/directors.
The opening sequence shows our heroes are used to working as a team as they storm a Hydra base. They fight individually, using their incredible powers, and together with cool moves like Thor (Chris Hemsworth) striking Cap’s (Chris Evans) shield with his hammer to create a wave of energy. It’s the type of beginning that gets fanboys to start clapping and hollering. (It happened in the screening I saw.) Yet, Marvel movies aren’t number one in the super hero film world solely because of CGI awesomeness. They’re number one because of storytelling. That’s what separates them from the rest.
From the opening we’re introduced to a visually and script level busy movie. It’s hard to follow the action on screen, and once the movie gets started, it’s hard to follow the story. After storming the Hydra base to retrieve Loki’s scepter, Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) finds a secret lab housing Hydra experiments. Along the way, he and the team face opposition in the Maximoff Twins, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), two of Hydra’s human experiments bent on destroying Tony.
Always the rebel, Tony sleuths in his own lab and concludes that Hydra has been working on artificial intelligence. With the help of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), aka Hulk, the two are able to unknowingly finish Hydra’s research. In doing so, they create Ultron (voiced by James Spader), an omnipresent digital robot who was supposed to be Stark’s security guard for Earth. Instead, they get a powerful, schizophrenic bot with twisted dreams of a better world.
Ultron eventually breaks captivity and begins to build his own army. We get to see the Hulkbuster suit put into good use in a city demolishing scene after the Avengers try to capture Ultron! With an enemy that’s everywhere, the team retreats to the middle of nowhere and lays low with Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) family. This is also when the team starts to go off separately on mini missions that aren’t quite fully fleshed out. We get our first look at the seeds for “Civil War” as Cap and Iron Man have a discussion while chopping firewood. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) makes all kinds of advances toward Bruce. It’s a lot of bread crumb excitement for future films with minimal direction.
Let’s wrap this up. There is a big fight between the Avengers and Ultron. Heroes do what heroes do, but not without taking an L along the way. We get a glimpse at a new Avenger team, and if you stick around at the end you can see the cliffhanger for what’s coming next in the MCU pipeline! The formula is an amazing business model, but in an effort to churn out films and stay on schedule and budget, I fear we may see more films like “Age of Ultron”. Sure, it’s an entertaining time at the movies, but so is a Michael Bay film. It has too much going on, understanding that it's a movie with plenty stand-alone-movie heroes in it. I'll let it go this time, but let’s not lose what makes Marvel films great Kevin Feige, superb storytelling. We didn’t set the bar, you did.