“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a marked improvement over the first instalment. It makes time for more of the team and fleshes out some of the character’s back stories, even though it does so in a slightly contrived and forced way. I enjoyed seeing how Joss Whedon attempted to weave the infinity stones into the story, telling this film’s tale whilst tackling the difficult issue of setting up Marvel’s third phase. Whedon achieved this in a way such that those watching “Age of Ultron” didn’t need to care about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe if they just wanted to see a stand-alone movie, but if they did care then there was enough there to make people very excited. This is a good film, even if it’s brought down (in my opinion) by an excess of comedic one-liners and a couple of needless plot points.
The movie is about The Avengers attempting to take down Ultron (James Spader), an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). However, there’s more to it than that. The film is really about the old guard moving on and letting younger heroes take the lead, and that’s the reason that Stark creates Ultron in the first place. He’s aware of the threat that the world faces following the events of the first Avengers film, and he isn’t sure that he and his team can save the world on their own. He creates Ultron as a precautionary measure against future attack, but things go array and Ultron becomes sentient before he was intended to, which in the end means that he becomes just as dangerous as the creatures he was created to protect the world against. It’s an interesting story because it allows the audience to see Stark in a different light, and it makes sense of the storyline that we can expect in “Captain America: Civil War”.
The film explores the issue of playing God and of artificial intelligence, with each member of the group eventually acting as a mouthpiece for a different viewpoint on the subject. Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Christopher Hemsworth) are initially angry at Stark for making the fate of humanity his play thing, and also for leaving them out of the loop, whereas Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is sympathetic to what Stark wanted from Ultron, having also been party to his creation, because he knows how it feels to want to stop being your alter ego and live a normal life. I enjoyed seeing these debates play out on screen, even if they did end up in melodramatic fist fights and displays of masculinity between the group, and I thought that the subject matter meshed nicely with the darker tone on display throughout the film (a tone which I happen to like).
There are fewer fight scenes in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, as opposed to “The Avengers”, which makes the film feel a bit less like one huge set piece and allows for much needed character development. I really appreciated this more restrained approach, because for me the characters themselves are more interesting than CGI battles. Personally I have very little interest in seeing characters that I know to be computer generated fighting on screen, especially when I don’t believe that they are in any real danger, so I tend to switch off when those scenes are happening.
In my opinion, “The Avengers” gave itself far too little time to flesh out the intentions of its characters, presumably because they had had their own solo films in the past and they are already well-known through the comics. However, I didn’t know all that much about them going into that film, because I wasn’t interested in “Iron Man” when it came out and I don’t really like the “Captain America” solo films, so I would’ve appreciated more time to get to know who these characters were, especially given the fact that they found themselves in a group of people that they barely knew and were expected to save the world almost immediately.
This film isn’t air tight in terms of character reactions or story, and I have to say that I found it slightly frustrating that Captain America was so quick to turn on Tony Stark, given that he basically saved the world in “The Avengers” and clearly has the best of intentions. Still, the film itself addressed this and things worked out in the end, leading me to wonder why things go so wrong in “Civil War”. That’s not a criticism although it may be worded like one; I’m actually very intrigued to see why the characters suddenly become hateful towards one another, and although I have some knowledge of the story, I’m excited to see how Marvel handle it on the big screen.
There were a couple of strange plot points in the film, particularly the love story that ‘blossomed’ between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk, which came a bit out of left field and seemed incredibly pointless. It felt as though that story was only there to make the audience feel for two characters that have been painfully underdeveloped in previous films, and I hated every minute devoted to their relationship.
I also found the Maximoff twins’ backstory a bit frustrating, because I thought it had promise when it was initially revealed, yet in the end the twins barely said a word to Stark and didn’t seem all that hateful. However, that could’ve been left untouched for a later film, because it would probably fit quite nicely in “Civil War”.
The comedy hits a lot of the time, with Thor being my favourite comic relief character in the film, because I think Hemsworth’s delivery and facial expressions are actually really good when the writers give him something other than being masculine to do. There are times when the jokes are excessive and it takes you out of the film, particularly in the moments where things seem really bleak and joking around isn’t exactly called for, but that’s the tone that Marvel have gone for with most of their recent films, so it’s silly to go into this movie expecting something completely different.
Ultron (James Spader) was an awesome villain, having enough intelligence to seem like he might be onto something, until suddenly moving into mad-scientist-tyrant territory and becoming downright evil. I don’t mean to say that this is an evolution throughout the film, rather, every time he starts talking he seems rational, until he ultimately concedes that he’s going to basically kill everyone for the sake of… everyone. He wants the human race to evolve, and he thinks that the only way to achieve this is through an extinction level event, whereby the next civilisation will rebuild and the world will become better. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that the world will evolve on its own, and all that he’s doing is accelerating the process in a brutal and unnecessary way.
The acting for the most part was pretty good for what it was; it seems like Ruffalo, Johansson and Hemsworth have evolved as actors since the first Avengers film and have a greater understanding of both their roles and what is required of them as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although we still know very little about Black Widow, Johansson succeeds in making the character likeable and her performance makes me want to see her character being developed in the future.
My favourite new character was probably Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson), because I think that she feels like a hero and could be an interesting character moving forward, especially because her power is cool and she has a dark past. I also think that Olson is a good young actress and she’s really likeable, so I’m excited to see what she has to offer moving forward.
Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), on the other hand, felt more like a side-attraction than a character, and although his power made for a visual spectacle at certain points, Taylor-Johnson isn’t a good enough actor to give the character any gravitas. His Russian accent was woeful, and at the end of the day his version of the character felt like a shadow of Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in “X-Men : Days of Future Past”.
The Vision (Paul Bettany) was visually impressive and I liked Bettany’s delivery. An AI has to come across as intelligent (it’s in the name after all), and he certainly achieves that, as well as portraying the confidence and composure that such a smart and powerful being would possess. I’m sure that a lot of people will be pleased by the way that the character has been designed, and he’ll be a fan favourite in films to come.
The film ends having satisfied its audience, whilst also giving us a taste of what’s to come. A new set of Avengers are ready to be assembled, and the post-credit scene revealed that Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his gauntlet will soon come into contact with the Avengers. I feel that I’m beginning to understand what will go on in “Civil War”, at least at the base level, and I can see why certain characters would side with Stark and others with Captain America, given the way that their goals have been fleshed out in this film. “Age of Ultron” feels like a step in the right direction for Marvel, and I’m looking forward to seeing how new characters fit into this already developed team. I liked it a lot and had a good time watching it, which was a pleasant surprise because Marvel films are hit and miss for me, and they often don’t suit my tastes.