This is a weird movie. Not that the narrative is odd, or that the characters are out of character, or anything like that. No; it just feels… like a bridge.
It’s a far-too-long prologue for everything else that’s to come.
It took me a while to figure that out, and now I’ve got it in words it makes complete sense of my feelings.
I’m not saying it’s all bad. Not at all. The good things:
- I love James Spader. Have done ever since Stargate. No, I haven’t seen Boston Legal, but I have seen The Blacklist. I think he was a great choice for Ultron: he doesn’t have a booming megalomaniac voice (well, not naturally) – which is kind of the point.
- Hawkeye has been a bit of weird character for several movies and we finally get some context for him and some nice character moments, especially with Wanda.
- I like Paul Bettany, although I’m kinda unconvinced by Vision at this early stage.
- In the context of the later films, the fact that pre-existing rifts just get worse here is interesting – and also shows that they are fundamental issues which apparently none of them were adult enough to have a proper discussion about?
- Every moment involving Thor’s hammer.
- The Hulk / Iron Man fight is Just. Too. Long. Get on with it already. We get the idea! Move the narrative along!
- I understand the point in the narrative but I find Wanda’s manipulation of people’s minds deeply, deeply unsettling. This isn’t a negative of the narrative, but it’s not something I enjoy watching.
- Thor’s whole dip in the pond thing. It seems so completely outside of the narrative. Its sole purpose is to set up Thanos, and have Thor be the catalyst of Vision’s creation. But it really doesn’t fit.
- I hate, I hate, everything about Natasha’s discussion with Banner about whether they can run away together. I hate it. I hate Banner’s assumption that Nat’s only reason to run away with him is to have a cosy house with kids. I hate the suggestion that not being able to bear children somehow makes Natasha monstrous. This scene infuriates me.
- And finally, I am unconvinced by Ultron himself, which is completely devastating for the film. The idea that someone moves from ‘save the world’ to ‘destroying the world is the only way to save it’ isn’t a new one, and thorough villains can even make a pseudo-logical explanation for why that’s true. But Ultron’s leap from saviour to destroyer is too fast, largely unexplained, and… just frustrating. It’s relying on the notion that AI must automatically be evil (otherwise why destroy Jarvis at the outset?) rather than properly demonstrating how a baby AI gets to that point (because let’s be honest, if you were an AI, wouldn’t you be tempted to destroy humanity and start over?).
So the film creates Vision, shows us Thanos, properly flags “infinity stones”, solidifies serious rifts within the Avengers, and gets Wanda on their side.
Like I said. It’s a 2.5-hour prologue.