You know, I really pity the people wanting to get into the Marvel Universe at this point in time. It’s easy for me since I’ve been watching these films since Iron Man first came out, but as of this point in time, there are eleven movies with the number approaching double that amount within the next few years and it doesn’t help that they’re all interconnected with very few of them being able to stand on their own. At least the James Bond films take around three years each to make and generally don’t give a f*ck about continuity so you can skip The World Is Not Enough without missing a goddamn thing. Unfortunately, Thor 2 and The Incredible Hulk are required viewing if you want to understand some of the shit going on in the new Avengers movie, and unfortunately I’m not exaggerating when I say those films are really really bad.
In fact, the first Avengers film wasn’t exactly a decent watch either. I guess it was fun for shallow fanboys who don’t care about plot and just want to see Iron Man take on Thor, but the story felt like a Saturday Morning cartoon special, the directing was bland, and the tension was more non-existent than a Baltimore Riot participant’s common sense (apologies if people are offended by that very recent topical joke). Has said problems been fixed with the sequel, you may ask? Well, Whedon is directing so of course the second problem would still persist. That’s like asking if Michael Bay fixed his tendency towards fratboy humor in the newest Transformers. However, thankfully, the other two problems have been fixed and the end result is…watchable. Not good, but I don’t exactly go into these films expecting to love them, so it says a lot that I had some fun with it, even if the negatives still outnumber the positives.
Just like most films that try to focus on too many characters – let alone the first film – everyone has to sacrifice screen time to the point that nobody’s story gets developed properly. There are two new super-powered people introduced in this movie: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (keep in mind, those X-Men films aren’t part of this universe), but their only function is to act as plot devices and said roles could have easily been handled a different way to the point that their introduction in this film felt pointless and fan-servicey. And the actual Avengers themselves don’t fare much better. Aside from Tony Stark, I don’t think the others really contributed all that much to the story.
Black Widow and Bruce Banner have an out-of-nowhere romantic interlude that’s cute, but doesn’t really add to much of anything. Hawkeye gets more screen time here than he did last time, but aside from providing a safe haven for the characters to stay at, he wasn’t really important either. Captain American and Thor might as well be supporting characters, and Thanos is no different here as he was in the first film. There was an attempt to have them explore their deepest fears courtesy of Scarlet Witch, but it was less effective here than when Fire Emblem was hit with a similar spell in the second Tiger and Bunny movie – and I wasn’t a fan of how that story turned out either.
But by far, the biggest disappointment was Ultron. He is both what makes this movie work and yet the biggest waste of potential in a villain I have seen in a long time. I don’t know a thing about the guy since he was never in any of the Marvel games or shows I watched as a kid, but he’s basically Zinyak from Saints Row 4 (I’ve been referencing that game a lot these days, haven’t I?) with lame motives and a huge reduction in fun. Just about the only thing that’s good about his character is that I actually bought him as a credible threat to the heroes – something Loki could never achieve and not just because he was played by a man whose surprising popularity with the female fanbase alludes me – so I actually did believe that these characters were in danger when they fought him throughout the film. And the fact that I’m even counting that as a positive in the first place goes a long way to show just how massively flawed these Marvel movies have been in general.
Sure the scenes when the characters are just goofing are always going to be fun, despite the fact that they’re fluff. And Avengers 2 is no different when it comes to giving us some good character banter with little of the traditional Whedon-isms that annoy me about something like Angel. But there comes a time when you have to have these “superhero” characters deliver on what really matters, the past Marvel movies barely have, and this movie doesn’t either. The fact that a large chunk of the plot, let alone Ultron, exists because of the trauma Tony Stark faced after the events of the first movie isn’t a bad angle – but Iron Man 3 already did that, and did it better to boot with the Mandarin and all. Not only does Stark’s trauma feel kind of redundant and maybe even a little forced, but at the end of the day, nothing really came out of it aside from a new hero with an Infinity Gem on his forehead along with setup for a new Avengers team that we didn’t need to actually see because timeskips exist for a reason. And if that’s the main thrust of your movie, then what does that say about everyone else’s role?
At the end of the day, these Avengers films will never be known for their deep complex stories, but for being well-executed blockbusters in the same vein as the first Matrix movie and such. And that’s fine, but you know what’s missing in order to make that work? The good execution. Now I can’t really spell out for you why this movie lacks that without going into really specific spoiler-territory along with a thousand more words that you probably don’t have the time to read, but I can say that many of the second Tiger and Bunny movie’s failings also makes it way here. Just about the only thing that was in that movie that didn’t make it into Avengers 2 was how the fight weren’t so one-sided, but other than that, it’s just stuff that’s too hard to really put into words beyond how it just did not come together all that well along with everything else I’ve already said. I could join in the “the actor who played Quicksilver was very miscast” bandwagon, but I’m not into complaining about small stuff like that when it’s dwarfed by much larger issues. He did suck though, I agree.
Was there anything I liked on its own, independent of the first film and all? Well, the action wasn’t great or even really that good (shocker), but after the chaotic mess that were the hand-to-hand stuff in the new Fast and Furious movie, it’s fun to see at times. I genuinely cracked a smile at Hawkeye’s stuff despite how little it really meant to everything going on at the end of the day. And like I said, the banter and jokes are nice. Some of the cheese was enjoyable too, although your mileage may really vary on that. But at the end of the day, those are minor compliments compared to the bottom-line that this is a “nerd junk food” movie, and given the existence of quite a number of films in a similar vein that were able to rise beyond that long before The Winter Soldier and such came into existence, there’s no way I’m going to accept that label as an all-purpose defense for Avengers 2’s quality.
However, like I said in the beginning, I wasn’t that bored and I know many of you people do like that sort of stuff a lot more than I do considering the (at the time of this writing) over $600 million this movie earned had to come from somewhere other than my own wallet. Plus, regardless of what I think of the movie on its own, I will stand by my judgment that it is better than the first one. So if you liked that thing, you’ll most likely like this too.