I was kind of hoping to write a review of the Avengers: Age of Ultron DVD/Blu-Ray that went something like, “If you were one of the people who didn’t love the Avengers sequel, this new DVD will change your mind.” Alas, I can’t write that, because it’s probably not true.
Avengers: Age of Ultron was a divisive film, even though it made more money than Jesus on a pogo stick. Overall, the consensus seemed to be that it didn’t work as well as the first Avengers, largely due to clutter and a romance subplot that didn’t quite gel.
I actually pretty much loved Age of Ultron, because of all the little character moments that writer/director Joss Whedon worked in there, and because I thought the overstuffed plot actually does sort of work on its own terms.
(Spoilers from here on out.)
In Age of Ultron, Tony Stark sees a dream of the Avengers lying in ruins, thanks to the psychic powers of Scarlet Witch. This leaves him ruled by fear, and causes him to use Loki’s scepter (from the first movie) to create an artificial intelligence called Ultron, to protect everybody from the unknowable threats that are out there. But Ultron rebels as soon as it comes to life, and starts plotting to destroy the Avengers. After Scarlet Witch makes the Hulk go on a rampage, the Avengers go underground. And then they discover that one of their member, Clint Barton, is married, and this makes them think about what they’re fighting for. In the end, Tony Stark takes another chance and creates a second super-intelligence, called the Vision, which saves everybody.
When you sum it up like the above paragraph, it sort of makes sense as a story, and the pieces more or less fit. More or less. I also really liked the action in the film, and the way that other characters wield Captain America’s shield and try to wield Thor’s hammer. And of course, Iron Man’s robotic suits get used by Ultron. I would personally put Age of Ultron at roughly the same level as X-Men: Days of Future Past, another film that’s trying to do too many things but has enough of a solid story to hold water.
And yet, after rewatching the film on its DVD release, which comes out tomorrow, I’m kind of sad, because it doesn’t hold up quite as well as I’d remembered. I still like Age of Ultron a lot, but a second viewing does not cement my love for it.
For example, the sequence where Tony Stark sees the Avengers all laying apparently dead, and Captain America suddenly comes to life and gasps “You — could — have — saved — us!” is not as powerful as I’d remembered it being. The action is still great, but looks a bit too CG at times. There’s a bit of the “lurching from action sequence to action sequence” thing that tentpole movies are prone to. And most of all, the clutter does feel very cluttered—characters like Strucker and Ulysses Klaue are tossed in and not quite given their due, and it feels very much like the Grand Central Station of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Maybe I’ve been influenced by months of hearing people diss this film, but it did not quite live up to my fond memories. I still like it a lot, and still feel comfortable keeping it at #30 in the ranking of all superhero movies ever. But it’s not a classic, like the more streamlined first movie. And I think that rewatching it just made me see the cracks a bit more. The “Vision ex Machina” ending still feels earned, but just barely.
And the other reason why the DVD won’t change any minds is because it’s on the bare-bones side. There are a handful of deleted scenes, but nothing that would have made the film notably better. There’s the “Thor in a hot tub” scene that came out online a while ago, which you can see why Marvel wanted to leave out. There’s a longer version of the conversation between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff where they talk about being monsters, which won’t change your mind about that relationship one way or the other.
Plus there’s a handful of somewhat desultory featurettes, including a very skimpy “making of” documentary that is basically like “this movie was fun to make!” And an explanation of the Infinity Gems. And a gag reel, and Joss Whedon’s commentary track, which wasn’t included on the digital version I was able to watch online. (I’ll update this post when I get a chance to watch the commentary track, if it changes my views at all.)
I was left wondering if there were more Age of Ultron deleted scenes that were kept off this disk — when the first Avengers came out on DVD, it had a similarly bare-bones release, and then a Phase I box set came out with a ton of incredible Avengers deleted scenes that actually did add to my appreciation for some of the film’s subplots. So that could be the case again here, if we get a Phase II box set down the line.
As it is, I still like Age of Ultron a lot, and this DVD reminded me of why I like it. But it didn’t make me love it more than I already did, and I can’t see this disk changing converting any of the haters.