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Avengers: Age of Ultron

There was a better movie here.

Not what was there, on that screen. I’m talking about the film on a hard drive somewhere in southern California, with ten more minutes of development and dialogue that made for a stronger, more cohesive summer blockbuster.

You know the story (thanks to all the press, it’s unavoidable): the titular team take down the last cell of the evil terrorist group Hydra and find Loki’s sceptre, the somehow-misplaced-since-the-last-film magic-wand-turned-MacGuffin. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) use the sceptre to build a brand new kind of artificial intelligence called Ultron (the voice of James Spader) to protect the world. While the Avengers celebrate their latest victory, Ultron wakes up and realizes the best way to save the world is to wipe out humanity, and he gets some help at first from two super-powered twins, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, or Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson). It’s then up to the Avengers—also including Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)—to take on a devil of their own making and save the day.

Sounds promising, right?

But that’s not what was there, on that screen.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a competitive bodybuilder dieted down to an unhealthy weight. You get the most muscle in the tightest possible package, but it’s past the point of looking good. Too much activity? Too few breaks? Not enough nourishment? Whatever the case, it misses the mark.

Director Joss Whedon’s cast of so-many stars aren’t the problem. The actors have been around the blockbusters a few times and know their roles. Many story beats are covered, and most characters achieve some competent development. Age of Ultron covers a lot of ground by wrapping up story beats and setting up others for the next four years’ worth of Marvel movies. It’s no easy task, but Whedon gets the job done, even if the final product feels quick and dirty.

Was he hamstrung by a deadline? Fighting too much with Marvel and Disney? Was he forced to cut, cut, cut to reach a runtime prescribed by a corporate spreadsheet to maximize the daily number of showings in each theatre? I don’t know, but I know he can do better. Buffy, Serenity, and the first Avengers film stand as testament to that.

Too much, too fast, in too short a time.

Ten minutes. To better develop the villain, to strengthen the heroes’ conflicts, to let the damn film breathe. All it needed was ten more minutes to be the sequel everyone expected.

But that’s not what was there, on that screen.

Rating: 3/5


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