Review by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: April 13, 2015
DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Ben Davis
WRITER: Joss Whedon
MUSIC: Brian Tyler, Danny Elfman
Before I go on with the rest of the review, let’s go ahead and state the obvious about “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. It is not as good as 2012’s “The Avengers”. Its story is all over the place a bit, there are storylines that you can tell were cut down, and there is this unexpected love story between two characters that ultimately works but feels a bit forced into the rest of the film.
The Avengers, since the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, is now an independent organization funded by Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and led by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Right at the start of the film, our heroes are together again reaching their way towards a hidden Hydra base in Sokovia. They have learned that the scepter from the first film is there and soon enough, they have retrieved the elusive object.
Tony Stark soon learns that there is a power source in the scepter that could power his Ultron A.I. system. With Bruce Banner’s (Mark Ruffalo) help, Tony works towards activating Ultron (James Spader). Unfortunately, the peacekeeping A.I. does come to live and in order to carry out his own version of peace on Earth, he decides that humans are the biggest threat and sets about bringing down humanity’s destruction.
What follows is a long winding road where the Avengers are trying to track down Ultron. On Ultron’s team are two enhanced humans, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). As his name suggests, Quicksilver can travel faster than anyone else and Scarlet Witch can get into people’s heads and manipulate objects. Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) sums it up better, “He’s fast and she’s weird.”
Out of our two new performers, Olsen shines as Scarlet Witch and if you’ve seen the film, you understand why more attention was given to her over her brother. Olsen is a great performer and brings a genuine vulnerability to this damaged superhero that helps her stand out from the rest of the pack. Taylor-Johnson is not bad as well, but his character is a little short-changed in this film and he is ultimately not as memorable except for one key moment in the movie.
Speaking about our main villain, Ultron is an immature A.I. that thinks he knows how to bring peace on Earth and no one is going to change his mind. I like that writer and director Joss Whedon made him a child-like character that has the snarky attitude of his creator (Iron Man) and the immaturity of a teenager.
It also helped that they got Spader to voice the character. If you ever need a truly menacing voice for your homicidal A.I., then it’s a good idea to cast Spader in the role. Ultron may be a more simplistic bad guy with a one track mind, but that really is the point of the character and he is written well by Whedon, making him one of the more memorable villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Finally, there is the action which is just as high in quality as the sequences found in “The Avengers”. The opening scene is another one-shot take where we follow each Avenger through the woods in Sokovia before one last action shot showing us that the band is indeed back together again. Beyond the opener, there is a fantastic fight in Africa that culminates in a showdown between the Hulk and Iron Man in his Hulkbuster armor and this is still one of the most memorable action sequences in the MCU!
The finale also comes together as we see the Avengers not only trying to take down the bad guys, but they are also trying desperately to protect the citizens of Sokovia. It reminds us that Whedon is an expert at not only action, but also giving each character their role to play. The climax is also the first time we get to see Vision (Paul Bettany) in action, which is also another bonus in the film.
Yes, the movie is flawed a bit due to a messy narrative, especially during the film’s middle act. In the end, though, Whedon is able to pull it all together and “Age of Ultron” becomes another worthy entry into the MCU.