Avengers: Age of Ultron

| May 1, 2015

Earth’s mightiest heroes are back for another round, trying once again to save the Earth from certain destruction.  This time, their adversary is not an alien force from a distant galaxy but instead a disturbingly terrestrial foe: an artificially intelligent robot named Ultron (James Spader; The Black List).

After the events of The Avengers, our heroes went their separate ways, continuing their own journeys and trying to pick up the pieces after the battle of New York.  All hell broke loose a year ago when S.H.I.E.L.D. fell as a result of a cancerous Hydra infestation laying dormant since World War II.  Since then, while the Guardians of the Galaxy stopped a genocide, and Daredevil fought to clean up the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, the Avengers have been wiping Hydra bases off the map searching for the mind-controlling scepter wielded by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the first film.  Unfortunately, finding the scepter creates more problems than it solves, as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) soon discover that the power locked within the scepter is sentient.  By trying to harness the consciousness in order to protect the planet, the duo accidentally create Ultron, who upon becoming self-aware decides that the destruction of the Avengers is the only way to save the Earth.

Ok, that was a long way to go just to set up the premise of the film, and I tried to avoid any major spoilers.  I will say that I need to see this one again before I can say with certainty how I felt about it.  It was fun, and what I expect from a Joss Whedon film, but I can’t be sure that I liked it.  It’s very possible that my expectations were impossibly high and the reality of the film didn’t quite mesh with that.  I’m sure on a second viewing, I’ll have a firmer grasp of the things I like and dislike about it.  I think I can say for certainty right now that it’s not my favorite of the MCU movies.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier still holds the top rung for me in terms of an all around well-made film that furthers the characters and has serious ramifications for the rest of the universe.  The first Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy may even top this as being more fun to watch.  Time will tell.

There were several things I definitely liked about Age of Ultron.  The humor worked really well, with a lot of quips and one-liners that felt true to the characters.  On top of that, Whedon once again demonstrates his fanboy chops by showing how different avengers’ abilities can augment each other in playful ways.  This made the various action sequences dazzling to watch, much like the first film.

While Ultron is not as good a villain as Loki, there were aspects to his personality that I was pleasantly surprised by.  Through his desire to destroy humanity, he learns about humanity, and that in a weird way gives him humanity.  Not to be confused with a conscience.  Ultron’s personality is playful and cunning.  At times he’s downright childish, which is interesting given the fact that all children are psychopaths.  You put that inability to be selfless in a virtually indestructible robot body and give it all of Earth’s collected knowledge and Ultron quickly presents a real threat.  I give a lot of credit for Ultron’s imposing presence to James Spader, who brings the character to life in a way I’ve never seen nor imagined.

As for the rest of our team, it was frustrating to not see them change much over the course of this film.  I guess it’s not surprising given how much is crammed into these two hours.  It’s difficult to continue to build our core group of characters when we’re adding in new avengers, each struggling with their own moralities and issues.  The first Avengers didn’t do much to develop the different characters either, but I didn’t care as much then because the movie had such a fun structure that drew us playfully from one event to the next until we culminated in the epic final battle.  Age of Ultron’s plot is definitely more clunky.  Again, this may be something that grows on me after a couple of viewings, but for now too much of the movie feels like a repeat of the first one (avengers fighting avengers, epic action sequences, mind control) with new elements being forced in uncomfortably.

Another thing I noticed about this as well as Guardians of the Galaxy when I watched that yesterday was that while Marvel is very good at doing special effects, they’re not amazing at it yet.  The Iron Man movies feel pretty smooth in this regard, as well as the first Avengers but maybe they’ve started cutting corners in that area and some of the effects are starting to look lazy.  Maybe this is why I gravitate more towards the Captain America films as the highlight of the franchise – not every shot demands a flobbitygillion digital effects.

That’s about it.  Hopefully I can see the film again soon and form a more concrete opinion about it.  I know for one thing that I’m excited to see how the film affects Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this coming Tuesday.  Age of Ultron is more self-contained that Winter Soldier but I’m sure they’ll have some fun crossing platforms with the story.  Finally, the rumors are true and there is not a post credits bonus scene.  There is a mid-credits scene, but once that’s over, you’re ok to vacate the theater.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is now playing everywhere.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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