The Great Marvel Cinematic Universe lumbers on (previous posts here) with one movie that didn’t live up to expectations, and one that blew expectations out of the water. Not going to lie, this post is just treading water as I wanted to say too much about Civil War to include it in this post. These are the movies that wrapped up Phase 2 of the MCU, and Phase 3 has been so kickass that the excitement for what is next makes have little to say about what I’ve got here. But either way I’ll try to waste some space.
I don’t know if that old adage that the sequel is never as good as the original is true or not, but for Avengers: Age of Ultron that is definitely true. Now, my lovely fiancée and I watched this months ago to prepare for Infinity War, so technically this wasn’t part of our current Great Marvel Cinematic Universe Rewatch of 2018 (other posts here, here, here and here). But still, I watched it in 2018 so I’m counting it. I enjoyed Ultron, but compared to other MCU movies it just falls short.
Where Joss Whedon was a house of fire on Avengers, he clearly was not at his best the second time around. There were things to like – great opening raid sequence, Thor’s report on the Hulk, the party scene, Cap trying to lift Thor’s hammer, “Go to sleep,” Hulk peacing out. We even get my boy Erik Selvig in there again, and Captain America rips that chunk of wood in half with his bare hands, and the seeds are planted for the eventual Civil War. It was already clear you should be on Cap’s side no matter what, but by the end of this movie it is also pretty clear you need to be suspicious as all hell of Iron Man. Stark’s trauma from Avengers continues to drive him down a reckless path, and his stupid ass is to blame for Ultron.
Worth noting that Hawkeye comes out of nowhere to become capable, likeable, important, amusing and generally just a highlight of the movie. How is this possible? Either that speaks to what Joss Whedon did right, or to how messed up this movie is.
Also, I’ll never forget seeing this movie in theaters and my friend Harold going absolutely insane when Wakanda was name dropped. The entire theater was staring at him as he giggled like a child and started shaking me. It was a nice moment.
Age of Ultron was solid, entertaining, amusing, but it just didn’t hit the highs of the first Avengers. It starts really strong, but by the end too many things didn’t work. The totally random love story between Black Widow and Hulk stands out as it makes no sense (and is kind of offensive) and Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo have no chemistry whatsoever. The introduction of Vision is also super lame because Vision is super lame. Thor just leaves and does some random stuff. The Maximoff kids are interesting but it’s all way too much happening in one movie, and Quicksilver being the character death feels like a cheap cop out lacking any real emotional weight.
Importantly, it isn’t really an “Age of Ultron” considering Ultron lives for like a week and doesn’t accomplish much of anything. Ultron never struck me as an essential Marvel villain in these movies. He’s just got a cool voice thanks to James Spader. Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue is more memorable in his lone scene. If anything, Ultron is significant just for developing the Tony Stark-Captain America rift, nothing else. He never lives up to the hype, and that’s the story of the movie overall. Just way too much going on, and it doesn’t have that same mindblowing weight of the first one.
Final verdict – Age of Ultron is good, not great.
Phase 2 of the MCU ended with a movie I was adamant would suck – Ant-Man. Sure, after Guardians of the Galaxy I said I was done doubting Marvel. But this shit looked idiotic. One of my least favorite superheroes. Lame. Even the wonderful Paul Rudd wouldn’t be enough to make the affair worthwhile. Michael Douglas is a great actor, but I’m mostly just a fan out of irony because I cannot fathom what was going through his mind when he said how he got cancer, and how he cured it (“It giveth and it taketh.”) I went to see Ant-Man in theaters because it is a Marvel movie so I felt like I had to, but I was not looking forward to it at all.
Once again, Marvel made me eat my words. Ant-Man gets better with repeated viewings – more so than any of the other Marvel movies. Two excellent leads in Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Douglas is Michael Douglas. Gotta love it. Ant-Man feels kind of similar to Iron Man but less. The first time I saw it, I spent the first half sort of not into it, but walked out pretty satisfied in the end. When rewatching it recently, I just felt mad more people don’t realize how underrated Ant-Man truly is. Cory Stoll’s Darren Cross/Yellowjacket is, as is the Marvel way, killed off in the end – and that is very unfortunate. He shows promise in his limited screen time.
I had called The Incredible Hulk the least essential Marvel movie. Ant-Man seemed like it was destined to be nearly as inessential, but it planted seeds for the character to become extremely important. And the Falcon cameo is nicely done. This is a damn fun movie.
During this rewatch I like it a lot more than Age of Ultron. Comic book movies are inherently stupid and ridiculous, but Ant-Man takes a ridiculous premise, throws a strong cast with great chemistry together, and somehow comes out really cool.
And remember – Baskin Robbins always finds out.
After 12 movies, the definitive Marvel moving ranking is:
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Iron Man
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Iron Man 3
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- The Incredible Hulk
- Iron Man 2
- Thor: The Dark World
Next time, shit gets real.