All things considered, Ultron is a pretty good villain. He’s selfish and childish, with boundless knowledge and delusions of grandeur, having convinced himself that all he does is done in effort to save humanity or the world or something like that. And in saving whatever that is, he must destroy the Avengers. Formerly being Tony Stark’s dormant project, his main rival is Iron Man, and this proves to mainly be their battle: a robot fighting what is seemingly a perfected version of himself. Despite all his villainy, he is a great source of humor throughout the film (in fact, the film was very funny throughout, much funnier than the last!).
And, as everyone has come to expect, the action was great. The action sequences were epic and large-scale, bombastic and high-energy, showing off each member of the team’s talents and new tricks they formed in fighting together, peaking in a cathartic, penultimate moment of epic togetherness. And, of course, the 3D was beautiful and utilized well.
Despite all of this, I have one main takeaway from the film: the story was very clunky. While watching, it was like a snag on your clothing got caught to one of Iron Man's parts as he went up in the air and took you for a wild ride. It had some clunky attempts at depth: tried to address the ideas of God and infinite power and artificial intelligence and creation and boundlessness of man and knowledge, but never really went or got anywhere with it. Essentially, those ideas were just tossed into the dialogue/script to give the film a veneer of depth and intelligence, but the movie never fully addresses them, resulting in the attempts being pointless, schlocky, and unnecessary. They even tried to insert a theme about togetherness, but aside from just being trite, that never went anywhere either, and that would really have been easy to do. I wish they developed more meaning, the film could have benefitted from that. But the themes and attempted depth felt like an afterthought. Whedon revealed that his first cut was over 3 hours long, and that was evident: the plot was chopped and screwed, scenes clearly being cut too much (uh, what happened with that scene of Thor in the magic lake?!), and was held together with a shoestring, barreling from one sequence to the next, leaving clear character motivation and development behind in its wake.
In fact, aside from not having enough time, the numerous characters also seemed to prove a problem for Whedon. There was not much character work in the film at all. The story just mainly focused on the relationship between Romanoff (Black Widow) and Banner (The Hulk), and some invented (i.e. for the purposes of the movie) character flaws within Stark. It did show some background of Hawkeye, but still everything was a bit incomplete, with characters being left in a sort of dramatic limbo. One could argue that a film like this is not the place to continue every character’s individual storyline, that there’s just too much else going on. But the film did take that route and attempted to give each main character some individual trajectory, but failed at doing it effectively or well, ultimately taking away from the movie. Which is really such a shame to do to these great characters.
So, the movie was entertaining enough, though I believe that its predecessors rose above it in that department. Marvel’s cinematic universe is going for more big entertainment, fun based movies, and that's fine. But, I say, if the writers are going to try to tackle such heavy topics as they did in this film, then they should either do it well, or not at all. Because a movie with things blowing up and super action fun is not an excuse for a messy, poorly thrown-together story that's not tightly knit and wrapped up, clear, and concise. Filmmakers are telling a story, first and foremost. Every film starts with a story; that's where it all begins. And if the basis is not strong, then how can the final product ever be as good as it could be? This is a cultural event! It should be on point!
Whedon and his team really could have made a more sophisticated movie. The problem is that they did try to, but failed. They tried to make it more sophisticated, but did it haphazardly and poorly, making all attempts at depth seem like rushed, infant afterthoughts. These guys are definitely making good-looking, thrilling action movies, but hey, let's try to make substantive, well-crafted ones also.
There is a nice cliffhanger, though.