Avengers: Age of Ultron
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr.; Chris Evans; Scarlett Johansson; Chris Hemsworth; Mark Rufallo; Jeremy Renner; James Spader; Aaron Taylor-Johnson; Elizabeth Olsen.
Plot: When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron is undoubtedly one of the biggest releases of the 2015 calendar year. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and (many) others come together only once every so often, and their collaborative efforts are eagerly anticipated by the masses in such a way that The Avengers is no longer a nerdy comic book venture, but a pop culture phenomenon destined to surpass $1billion at the box office… Again. But was Age Of Ultron actually good?
First of all, the second Avengers movie ticked the vast majority of the boxes that every sequel must tick. It was more action packed with larger set pieces, it utilised the dialogue better than the original, and it was a story that sought even more investment than Avengers 1. No longer was it necessary to build each character’s relationship to one another and this made Avengers 2 feel more refined with every piece of dialogue and a lot of the movie’s scenes becoming necessary to the over-arching plot, leading to a more enjoyable experience in many ways. This refined presentation with regard to character development and so on was emphasised with a huge action sequence at the very beginning of the picture that not only illustrated how sleek the picture was going to be, but also helped to lay down the marker: “We’re turning it up a notch”.
Secondly, with many of the characters’ back stories already being presented to us in the previous installments of The Avengers franchise, Age Of Ultron was able to open up the back stories of characters like Hawkeye, Hulk and Black Widow; something that helped to create a welcomed feeling of freshness and conclusively separated this installment from the rest. In fact, the introduction of new elements to Renner’s character made for one of the more noteworthy story arcs of the movie, with a much needed increased level of investment in Barton/Hawkeye’s safety throughout. This was one of the better intricacies of Joss Whedon’s writing in my opinion, as the increased connection to Hawkeye in the movie’s earlier acts seemed to spell disaster for Renner’s character in one way or another; a tease that worked well for a much more noteworthy death of Quicksilver – the foe turned friend of The Avengers – who sacrificed himself to protect Hawkeye and a young child from a bombardment of gun fire.
It was, however, the presentation of the twins that divided me as a viewer as Quicksilver was in my opinion vastly underutilised, and while I never expected Age Of Ultron to reach the levels that Bryan Singer did in X-Men: Days Of Future’s Past, I did come away from this film thinking that Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character needed a little bit more investment in order for the conclusions to his story to make more of an emotional impact. By no means am I suggesting that his death was badly done, for it was done as well as it could’ve been within the confines of the story, but it certainly needed a little bit more of a reason for us (as viewers) to truly understand the loss to the Avengers and particularly Scarlet Witch. Witch, on the other hand, was brilliantly presented and could well be the shining light of the whole picture as far as I’m concerned. Her development was worthwhile and her difference as a “miracle” was such that she would consistently juxtapose the massive action sequences with her own intricacies and powers. This made her stand out from the rest of the group without needing to do that much talking, something that her on-screen brother Quicksilver was not fortunate enough to be gifted. The problem here was that Quicksilver was in for one movie and was therefore used as a plot device to not only save Hawkeye from certain death, but more usefully to escalate Witch’s powers to a level believable enough to be a part of a new Captain America led squad coming out of this movie. In fact, Witch’s unleashing of such powers per the loss of her brother was probably my favourite moment of the film and was in many ways reminiscent of the awesome opening to X-Men (2000) in which Magneto’s powers came to light because of his permanent removal from his Mother’s life in the Nazi POW camps.
Scarlet Witch can also be held responsible for one of the most moving sequences in the movie, where Captain America, Black Widow and Thor are sent into dream worlds per her psychologically manipulative powers. Seeing Rogers fantasise of post-war USA with Peggy – the love of his life – was nothing short of heartbreaking and made for a really good reason to give Hayley Atwell’s character a cameo. Similarly, Thor’s repressed fears regarding Asgard were brought to life per the cameo of Idris Elba’s Heimdall, and Black Widow was forced to live through her memories of being trained as an assassin at a very young age. Not only was this a break from the action (which was more consistent than in previous movies), but it was an illustration of Witch’s powers and the fragility of the leading men and women of The Avengers who all became seemingly more human, and relatable, as a result.
Despite the obvious positives regarding the writing and presentation of most of the character’s, Age Of Ultron failed to live up to the “event movie” status of its predecessor. This is perhaps a natural conclusion to make given the fact that seeing said characters interact and battle with one another was not totally brand new this time around, but removed a part of the overall spectacle nonetheless. There was not much that Whedon or the Marvel team could’ve done about this, though they did try hard to counteract this problem with appearances from the likes of Falcon and War Machine, something they must take credit for.
Another less than positive outcome from Age Of Ultron was (as always seems to be the case with Avengers movies), the villain. The title “Age Of Ultron” seemed to have everything set up for the ultimate bad guy that would bring about massive levels of investment at seeing his comeuppance, yet the tightly managed run time barely left enough of a reason to truly believe in the legitimacy of his threat. Unlike Loki in Avengers 1, Ultron didn’t turn any of the good guys bad, nor did he have a solid and humane reason for being like he was. He was a robot who wanted to fix the world and then, for no reason at all, wanted to destroy everyone on it. His character, like much of the movie’s secondary characters, was one that had to be taken at face value to enjoy and was very much presented in such a way that you couldn’t question a single one of his actions or statements because of the unrealistic answers you’d likely receive. In much the same way that Quicksilver was used to develop the Scarlett Witch character, I felt like Ultron was ultimately used to develop Paul Bettany’s Vision character, and that’s of real detriment to an otherwise fantastic movie.
As was the case with Avengers Assemble/The Avengers, Joss Whedon directed and co-wrote a movie that more than lived up to the hype and ultimately delivered what was expected of it; one of the best movies in the franchise. Whether it surpassed The Avengers is a debate that can be left for another time, but there’s no doubting that Avengers: Age Of Ultron was a huge success in terms of its value for money. Though much of the trailer/s showed too much of the film to warrant any real investment in particular strands (particularly that of Jarvis/Vision), Age Of Ultron managed to be a feast for the eyes while tugging on the heart strings and being an almost overwhelmingly good representation of its genre.
For all that it was, and all of the hype that it developed for the movies to come, Age Of Ultron gets…