It was early evening on a Saturday and the multiplex we chose to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron wore a mildly under-inhabited look but maybe that’s just because it is in a mall that no one really goes to. When we found our seats they didn’t look too badly situated but by the time (the forced) intermission had come and gone we discovered that these were our neighbours:

  1. At 2 o’clock, the wife a fairly successful TV actor–so I was told later–who was accompanying two very young kids whose voices would make nails on a chalkboard sound like a soothing lullaby. First of all she moved them from seats higher up in the room to that spot right in front of us, and then they talked for as long as the rest of the movie lasted. And Mama-san’s giant phone screen was illuminated as she checked Whatsapp right until the moment she rounded up her wards and herded them towards the exit as the end credits rolled.
  2. At 5 o’clock were two corporate types, one of whom confessed to taking the day off from work so that he could watch the movie. These gents were discussing the chronology of events in the Marvel Universe and while Kevin Feige and Marvel shareholders might have been thrilled by the common Indian man’s deep understanding of their universe, we most certainly were not.
  3. At 7 o’clock were two kids who talked through the first half and spent a portion of the second half shining a bright phone light on their tub of popcorn so that they could keep count of who was eating how much of the snack they were sharing. Problem was that they weren’t shining the light just on their tub, it was powerful enough to play on the movie screen 30 feet away.

And this is in addition to assorted rug rats having full-fledged discussions all over the room throughout this movie’s run-time. Do you feel my pain?

So how was the movie? Short answer: Not as bad as the first one.

Long answer: Not as bad as the first one because they don’t spend excessive amounts of time on secondary characters *cough* Maria Hill! *cough* while waiting for the supergroup to get together.

But I gotta say it wasn’t the greatest movie watching experience either.

Maybe it is because it is difficult to give all these characters something to do so that the filmmakers don’t feel like the actors are getting truckloads of money for no reason at all. Maybe it is because these movies are becoming increasingly about getting to the next thing rather than focusing on the current thing. Or maybe–blasphemy alert–it is because writer-director Joss Whedon just isn’t up to the challenge of creating an original-feeling visual spectacle.

Let’s consider the evidence:

The battle in the wooded forest that opens this movie is overly reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, yet it compares unfavourably with Guy Ritchie’s super slow motion explosion fest, and it probably gave star Robert Downey Jr. a terrible sense of déjà vu.

Ultron’s lips move in a non-metallic form like latter day Transformers — very distracting, and not intimidating at all.

The action sequences are cut like something out of a Christopher Nolan movie, so everything moves super-fast — except when they are showing us how adept Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is at moving quickly through a space full of humans or killer robots, in ultra slow motion.

Scarlet Witch’s (Elizabeth Olsen) energy emissions look a lot like those gorgeous red streaky effects that populated Night Watch and its sequel — not a sin, just a personal grievance.

And finally, all the talking is such a TV thing to do. Look I get it, you are the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes or whatever, and you are not always in synch with each other. Tony Stark must have his quips and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must have his fridge-magnets-from-Asgard quotations and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) must spout some garbage about right and good and whatever else you can think of to make him look and feel like the moral centre of this rag-tag bunch of super-powered beings but it is all just very very tedious.

And Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Banner’s (Mark Ruffalo) flirting was just icky, and neither of them seemed really into it.

So What’s Good?

“Go to sleep,” Iron Man, with the Hulkbuster armour on, to The Hulk, is fun.

The Maximoff Twins i.e., Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver exonerate themselves very well. Nice chemistry, solid performances, they do the connected-while-still-remaining-individual thing very well. Paul Bettany, as The Vision, is also cool.

The saga of Thor’s hammer, and who can lift it, which goes way beyond the scene the following clip begins with, is rounded off very nicely later in the movie.

Like I said earlier on, Avengers: Age of Ultron is an improvement on The Avengers and it also feels like a yin-and-yang companion piece to the earlier movie. There are mirror scenes, and even the structure seems to form two parts of a double page spread where each half mirrors the other — but maybe I’m seeing too much into this stuff.

Did I get the feeling that I had just watched an awesome superhero force in action? Not so much, neither on screen, or behind its scenes.