I know this film has been out for a short while now and the fact I’m reviewing now is more of a testament to by procrastination rather than anything else, but nevertheless I shall, finally, be reviewing the hype-tastic Avengers: Age of Ultron! But you guys know what’s coming first, although I don’t see why I’m even bothering since we’ve all seen the trailers and probably the film itself, but here’s the obligatory overview!
So we start off with the Avengers raiding a Hydra outpost on Slovakia in an attempt to retrieve Loki’s sceptre during which we meet the twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen), who turn out to be Quiksilver and Scarlet Witch (not a spoiler, just so you know). While doing their Avengers thing successfully, before getting Loki’s sceptre, Tony Stark is shown a vision of what he most fears by Scarlet Witch, pretty much setting up the film’s plot.
Because of this, he and Bruce Banner try to use Loki’s sceptre and the handy AI stored within it to create the Ulton project in order to bring world peace. And, as you guessed, it doesn’t work out well. Ulton is inavertedly born with a slight penchant for murdering the entirety of humanity and starts by attacking Jarvis and the Avengers with Tony Stark’s own robotic suits. And the film goes on from the tearing the Avengers apart, showing cool action sequences and a lot of Ultron and I’ll stop there to prevent the giving the three people who haven’t seen this film spoilers.
So that sounds like fun doesn’t it!? Doesn’t it? Now before you grabbing your Mjolnir replicas and pseudo-adamantium-vibranium alloy shields, or more realistically attacking me in the comments, or even more realistically closing this tab, let me get the parts of the film that worked out of the way first.
I’ll start with a slightly controversial one: Hawkeye’s expanded role was good. Now I know what you’re all thinking, I know some people have been calling Avengers: Age of Ultron “Hawkeye: The Movie”, and to be honest there is a bit of truth in that, but Hawkeye’s expanded role was actually quite enjoyable and very overdue.
Had I known beforehand that Avengers: Age of Ultron would be held together by Hawkeye, a character who I cared as much about the rules and regulations of cricket, I would have been a trifle nervous. Seriously, he was an Easter egg in Thor and was controlled by Loki and his crew for a damn good slice of the Avengers, so Hawkeye was very low on my “Giving a Damn” meter. But, guess what, they pulled it off. While I do not think Jeremy Renner is going to win a lot of main character roles in the future, this expanded role allows Renner greater deal to show off his acting chops and make me forget that he feels like a rip-off of Green Arrow.
Moving swiftly on, I must say that the whole Banner/Romanoff romance, while a little strange at first, was actually executed rather well. It definitely gave Banner’s character a much needed second dimension instead of us just watching with the vague hope that he’d go Hulk soon. It gives Mark Ruffalo a chance to act more rather than become the CGI monster we all love and, having seen him in Begin Again, I was not disappointed in his effort and am looking forward to both Banner and the Hulk.
Scarlett Johansson also got a fair bit of screen presence and, while she wasn’t in desperate need of it having featured in three Marvel films before this in quite large roles but, seeing as it does not look like we’ll be seeing a Black Widow film any time soon (despite the fact it would be quite cool to see), having her backstory expanded upon was quite refreshing for a character I thought I knew a bit about.
And of course, and I’ll do this quickly because I don’t want to go on about them for too long. Robert Downey Jr. is great as always (baring Iron Man 2), Chris Evans plays the idealistic Captain America well (with a good running joke out getting good use out of him) and Chris Hemsworth as Thor is pretty much the same and that’s never a bad thing. Right, now on to the things that may irritate a few people. And obviously, but without giving away too much, Paul Bettany got some much needed screen time and became a damn fine character in his own in this film. I shall not say more on the subject though.
Also the action sequences are ecstasy for those gifted with the power of sight. The choreography was brilliant and every action sequence was carried off without a hitch. One that sticks out in my mind, for obvious reasons, was Hulk fighting the Hulk buster. I don’t really need to go in depth about the action, but the fact that Tony Stark made the Hulk spit out a tooth and he said sorry was just the pinnacle of everything about this film. But now we have to move on to the less appetising aspects of this film.
Firstly, Ultron. After the immense hype from the trailers, and the incredibly creepy rendition of Pinocchio’s song “I’ve Got No Strings”, the stakes were immensely high for this all-new villain. And then the stakes were taken away and Ultron sank into the ground, disappearing into vacuous nothingness. A bit harsh you may be thinking, but actually no, it’s not. The trailer promised a new villain. An intimidating villain. A villain who would result you in remaining deathly silent when he was in a scene lest you alert him of your presence, resulting in him tearing a hole in the fabric of time, reaching out to you then crushing your head for causing him the mildest irritation. He sees the world the Avengers keep trying to save as the problem which needs eviscerating. That’s the villain that the trailers promised.
Suffice to say this did not happen. What was delivered was an Ultron who tried to be Loki and failed miserably. As a modern Frankenstein, a robot with daddy issues and an instigator of the impressive action sequences, Ulton could be called successful, but that is only half of his character. The other side is his wise-cracking persona and, while I have been told by my comic-savvy brother that this is perfectly in line with the lore, it just felt misplaced.
Credit where credit is due James Spader does a cracking voice-over and his smooth way of speaking certainly makes Ultron sound authoritative. Yet that doesn’t take away from the fact that Ultron was about as intimidating as a pile of soggy leaves. You never felt like he was the true villainous force when he had to rely on the Maximoff twins and especially when his Ultron never seemed like a match for all the Avengers, being beaten repeatedly and reforming elsewhere. I know that can be a scary proposition to have an enemy that keeps coming back like a cancer, but it just never had that nail-biting panic that other villains can bring.
Also the whole plot point of the Avengers being broken up never really felt like it achieved much. It provided Hawkeye with some character building, as well as Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff, but aside from that, there was never any palpable tension about them fracturing. Yeah, Thor left for a time and there were some decent conversations about visions and whatnot, but there was no real discord within the group which just leaves you thinking “This is nothing, they’re obviously going to be fine”.
In the end, while Avengers: Age of Ulton is still a good film, in the end it really amounts to being a highly polished, well-crafted, well-co-ordinated piece of filler with some crinkles in its veneer. It’ll keep you entertained while you are there, and will probably keep you talking in the weeks after its release, but after Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War and all the others, this will be a slightly remembered film that enthusiasts will watch but most of us will forget except when a pub quiz victory depends on it.