When the Avengers retrieve Loki’s scepter from Hydra, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) use the artificial intelligence inside to jumpstart Tony’s global peacekeeping program, called the Ultron Program. The experiment works, creating a being calling itself Ultron. When Ultron decides the only way to complete his programming to protect the Earth is the eradication of the human race, Tony, Bruce and the rest of the Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), must stop Ultron.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron had some big shoes to fill. The Avengers was a cinematic marvel, doing the unthinkable. Bringing heroes from previous movies together for a new adventure. Could Marvel catch lightning in a bottle twice? I’m pleased to say: Yea, they kinda did.
I thought The Avengers started big but Age of Ultron came out the gate swinging! Immediately, it starts with a brawl in the fictional country of Sokovia that was larger than almost every action scene in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to date. The banter between each of the characters was fun and comical, showcasing that they are a group of friends now, unlike in the last movie. It did a good job to show how the team has come together since the Battle of New York.
Since this is the second Avengers’ outing as a team and because most of these characters have their own solo films, there is no need to develop the characters individually. We already saw Tony Stark deal with his PTSD from fighting an alien force, we already saw Steve Rogers deal with a world different than the one he left behind in the 1940s, so there is no need to waste time on that here. Instead, the focus is more on the characters coming together as a team. This lead to some great moments demonstrating their camaraderie, especially the heavily advertised scene with the team trying to lift Thor’s hammer and the opening sequence I talked about a moment ago. This enabled the movie to move quickly as well. Without the need to spend time on bringing the team together, the story breezed through, which was probably a good thing considering there was a lot to get through.
Hawkeye, one character who hasn’t been in a movie since The Avengers, finally gets his character fleshed out. One of the more disappointing things about the first Avengers movie was Hawkeye wasn’t really Hawkeye until the last act of the film. This time around, he is the character who gets the most development. However, part of that is because all the other characters had their development in their own movies as mentioned previously. It was also to set him up for what happens later in the film.
I really liked how some characters were close their comic book counterparts. One of which is Ultron. He has an Oedipus complex towards his creator, in this case Tony Stark (Hank Pym in the comics). Every time he was compared to Stark he got upset and said he was better than him. Then with Vision, he was created by Ultron. Throughout the film, he calls himself “Son of Ultron’ which is said frequently in the comics.
Age of Ultron acted as a crossroads of sorts for previous and future MCU stories. There were many references to Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. At the same time, there was plenty of set up for several movies in Phase 3, such as Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. At first it may seem like all these extra scenes bloat the movie, which it does, but it ends up working in the film because they are one-and-done. They go to Wakanda, then leave. Boom, done. Thor goes to some magical watering hole. Boom, done. The Avengers storm a Hydra base. Boom, done. A lot is introduced, but it moves quickly and never lingers so it never becomes too much. It also made it feel like an event series that happens in comic books (or at least the more recent ones that tend to set up future stories).
Ever since James Spader was announced as the voice of Ultron, I was on board. He is absolutely perfect as the criminal Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington in The Blacklist (which I highly recommend you checkout if you’re not watching it already), and truly brought Ultron to life. He even brought some of the same mannerisms as when he plays Red. I only had one problem with him: he was almost too humorous. As a killer robot, I think he should have been a little more serious. Much like the rest of the cast, he had many one liners. He still could have a few zingers but not as many as he did. In any case, Spader was a great fit.
One of the things I was looking forward to most was seeing how Scarlet Witch’s powers were implemented. In the comics, she has a magical power set, called Chaos Magic. It has nearly endless and limitless possibilities which probably wouldn’t have translated well into the world created in the MCU. I like the way they were portrayed, kind of like telekinesis and telepathy but not too crazy. It was weird seeing Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play siblings after playing husband and wife in Godzilla. They did well but the highlight of the three new heroes is definitely Vision. Paul Bettany finally got to physically appear in the MCU and knocks it out of the park. I’m looking forward to seeing him most in the future.
Vision’s introduction was hilariously done and it he was a perfect complement to Ultron. Although, his introduction was rushed and his powers weren’t explained very well. He has the ability to change his density and “phase” through objects. Unless you knew that, it may not have been clear. Even I had a hard time catching at first that when he was fighting the Ultron robots he was phasing and not simply punching through them. I was thinking about how they could have demonstrated his powers without a long explanation and I think I got it: have him phase through a wall. It would have been simple and less ambiguous as to what he can do.
This paragraph contains major spoilers. Highlight to read.
Still here? Ok. So I will admit I was taken by surprise by Quicksilver’s death. The whole movie seemed like it was setting up for Hawkeye to get axed, some rumors before the movie was released seemed like that would happen and in an interview, Joss Whedon admitted that was his plan. It was both good and bad. The good is that it was a surprise. If Hawkeye had gotten killed, it would have been seen from a mile away. The bad is that it was Quicksilver. Had it been Hawekeye, or at least some established character, it would have been more impactful and heartbreaking. It would have been nice to get more Quicksilver in the future, too. However, it was a good was to show the character’s transformation and to establish him as a hero.
One of the best things about the previous Avengers film was it was genuinely funny. Every Marvel film since has done the same thing and was successful to varying degress. However, here it felt forced. Don’t get me wrong, I still laughed my ass off, but it just didn’t feel the same, like they were trying too hard.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron had a lot going on and could have easily imploded on itself. But only as Whedon could, it manages not to and juggles everything perfectly. It may not be perfect, but Age of Ultron is fun and an example of how to do a sequel right. Now my excitement for the future of the MCU has only grown.
Cast & Crew
Joss Whedon – Director / Writer
Danny Elfman – Composer
Brian Tyler – Composer
Robert Downey Jr. – Tony Stark / Iron Man
Chris Evans – Steve Rogers / Captain America
Chris Hemsworth – Thor
Mark Ruffalo – Bruce Banner / Hulk
Scarlett Johansson – Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Jeremy Renner – Clint Barton / Hawkeye
James Spader – Ultron (voice)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Pietro Maximoff / Quicksilver
Elizabeth Olsen – Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
Paul Bettany – JARVIS (voice) / Vision
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury
Cobie Smulders – Maria Hill
Claudia Kim – Dr. Helen Cho
Don Cheadle – James Rhodes / War Machine
Anthony Mackie – Sam Wilson / The Falcon
Hayley Atwell – Peggy Carter
Idris Elba – Heimdall
Stellen Skarsgard – Erik Selvig
Linda Cardellini – Laura Barton
Thomas Kretschmann – Strucker
Andy Serkis – Ulysses Klaue
Julie Delpy – Madame B
Henry Goodman – Dr. List
This review was a long time coming. I saw Age of Ulron on Thursday 4/30! But between my procrastination (which often includes video games or more movies) and my last few weekends filled with visiting family, yard work and a lot (a LOT) of gardening, I didn’t have much time to focus on this. It didn’t help either that this is my longest review to date. Up next is finally accepting the award given to me from Justine from over a month ago! And Mark and Tom, my review of Tommy Boy is very high on my list of things to do for your Decades Blogathon. Then probably a review of Tangled and I’ll look at reviewing a few films on my “recommended to me” list. Anyway, I hope my review for The Avengers: Age of Ultron was worth the wait. 🙂