So, you plunk down your $20 for the new IMAX 3-D Star Wars film. You saw the two previous trilogies, so you think: “This is going to be so cool.”
But then you get a glimpse of Captain Jean Luc Picard and think: “What the feck?”
And then a few minutes later, there is a reference to the smoke monster, and you scratch your head: “How did Lost get in here?”
That’s the way I felt after watching The Avengers: Age of Ultron…or perhaps, more accurately, after sitting in a bar for 4 hours after seeing Ultron with friends who are completely immersed in the Marvel universe.
In fairness, I went into this movie with the attitude that it was a comic book movie and therefore, I had low expectations other than visual stimulation. And for the most part, I was pleased with the result.
The CGI was stunning. The characters were witty in their banter. And nothing in the movie was very surprising…if you didn’t know how this movie was going to end, you really shouldn’t be watching comic book movies.
My challenge with the film—and the subject of beer-laden discussion afterward—was the sheer volume of references to and characters from previous films and television series of the Marvel pantheon.
Marvel universe study aids.
For the record, I saw the first Captain America movie, all of the Iron Man franchise, two Thor movies, the first Avengers movie, all of the Spiderman movies (keep asking myself why, however), and just started watching the Daredevil television series.
And yet for all of that leg work, when the movie started, I had no idea why the Avengers were fighting who they were fighting and who the enemy were. Apparently, if you missed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the Agents of Shield television series, you missed a lot that sets up this movie.
Now, having that background doesn’t necessarily keep you from understanding the main plot of this movie—can James Spader actually outsmarm Robert Downey Jr. (no spoilers)—but I’m the kind of person who likes to understand why things are happening.
They didn’t invent smarm, but they’ve taken it to new heights!
And to writer/director Josh Whedon’s credit (or condemnation), the dialogue throughout the film was one long stream of exposition—I wasn’t expecting character arcs in a comic book film.
Unfortunately, with the exception of a couple of short sequences, all of this exposition comes as things are exploding and/or in the midst of battle scenes, so your eyes and ears are being bombarded at the same time as your brain is trying to puzzle things together.
Thus, I spent a lot of time shrugging my shoulders when things happened without relatable context to me.
A guy with wings shows up…hunh, there’s a guy with wings. Thor slides into a pond in a cave…I guess this is something important.
[A couple of friends in my group were seeing the movie for the second time…apparently, this helps a lot. Nice move, Marvel marketing department!]
Now, I am not the demographic for this film series. I don’t still read the comic books and have not rushed to see ALL of the Marvel films or television series. And more importantly, I don’t want to do the Internet-searching homework necessary to fill in any blanks that arise (which was another activity in that 4-hour bar discussion).
And that’s why I have described this post as a comment rather than a review.
I cannot review this film because I don’t really know enough about the Marvel universe, other than to say “boom”, “ooooh”, “wow” and “okay, sure, whatever”.
You’ll be hard-pressed to be bored by The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but you may not be any further ahead at the end of the movie than you were at the beginning.
And when all is said and done (or blown up), that may ultimately be the reason I step away from the whole damned thing and leave the adulation to my friends.
Other reviews/thoughts on Age of Ultron:
Howard Casner – Rantings & Ravings
Lady Geek Girl
22 questions about Avengers: Age of Ultron answered (Den of Geek; nothing but spoiler so only click if you must have the answers)