For a movie whose main draw is a green rage monster fighting a man in robot armor, Age of Ultron feels oddly personal. That’s all Joss Whedon, who wanted to dig in deep with his Avengers sequel. Our superheroes have hopes and fears and dreams beyond punching evil in the face Monday through Friday.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) wants to make the world safe and keep it safe. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) want a life that doesn’t involve them constantly hitting people in the face. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) would sure love to trust anyone at this point. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) would prefer not to horribly die while fighting amongst this collection of gods. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) wants to finish cleaning up his family’s mess. And Ultron (James Spader)? He just wants to live, man.
Well, no, not really. Ultron serves evolution here and finds mankind fairly detrimental to the progress of the planet Earth. He’s not entirely wrong, we have run around this planet running things like a bunch of assholes for a while now. Wiping out the human race though? That seems a bit extreme.
The Avengers sequel had quite a bit to live up to after assembling to throw back the alien hordes of Loki and Thanos in the first film. Age of Ultron, despite feeling as overstuffed as I typically do with all you can eat pizza, largely does live up to the first Avengers. The action is big and bold. I appreciated that Whedon took things to a global level, especially now that New York is getting a whole bunch of heroes to take care of business at home.
As good as the film is, it would have been even better if things had gotten even more personal. Science Bros Stark and Banner kind of half-assedly make Ultron, leaving poor Jarvis to do all the work. I would have loved to see more of a Dr. Frankenstein “what hath I made?” reaction to this. Ultron clearly has an aversion to his movie father, angered by the mention of his mere name. Joss Whedon is all too aware that this is the Avengers, not Iron Man 4. While focusing more on the Stark-Ultron relationship would have tightened the overall story, it would have taken away from the rest of the cast. What Age of Ultron does very right is give everyone their own moment.
Hawkeye is often cited as the least served member of the main cast in the first Avengers, so he gets special attention here. Renner really gets a chance to shine as Barton this time around, getting a number of key lines and a chance to show off just how charming the heart of the Avengers can be. Mark Ruffalo yet again nails Dr. Bruce Banner and his struggle with the monster within. His new relationship with Black Widow is a highlight of the film, mostly because Ruffalo and Johansson have terrific chemistry together. Captain America and Thor might have been the most underserved. Even then Cap gets the most heartbreaking nightmare sequence of the group and the ongoing bit with Thor’s hammer is great.
As for the newcomers, they’re mostly okay. Ultron is well portrayed by Spader. His snarky voice works really well as the shitty robot son of Downey’s Tony Stark. Wanda (Elizabeth Olson) and Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) Maximoff get some great moments, although their vague eastern European accents are a little goofy. The Scarlet Witch’s powers are as all over the place as they’ve always been in the comics, but they’re a little better defined here. Her nightmare inducing telepathy is key to the plot, however and they don’t feel like baggage.
Even though he’s not technically a newcomer, I really liked Paul Bettany as the Vision. He’s been doing really good supporting work for years now as the voice of Tony Stark’s digital assistant, Jarvis. Now, he finally gets a chance to do something in the physical realm. Bettany captures the dignity of his comics counterpart and brings life to a character that could seem very silly.
Age of Ultron could have benefited from a smaller scope, but this is the Avengers dammit! You don’t call the Avengers in for small problems! The film could have been both longer and shorter (it already clocks in at 2:14). Did I mention it’s really funny? So there’s that! It’s not quite as good as the first Avengers, but it’s a movie where the Hulk fights Iron Man and a guy with super speed punches Captain America in the face. It gives you what you want. Go see it already.
Grade: 4 Pizza Dogs
- Joss Whedon really teased us with offing Hawkeye after giving him some backstory, and then he pulls the old switcheroo with Quicksilver. You got your blood Whedon, are you happy!?
- This was the most super villainy plan since Magneto wanted to turn the UN assembly into mutants. Ultron wanted to use a chunk of Earth to throw a fucking meteor at it! That’s fucking crazy. I love it.
- Hey big guy. I was really sad when the Hulk went on his own with Black Widow urging him to come back. The Lonely Man, indeed.
- Man, how you gonna kill off Baron Strucker before he gets to do anything really evil?
- Ulysses Klaw has to show up in the Black Panther movie at this point.
- Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnorok seem to have been thoroughly set up, between Thor’s visions and Cap’s clashes with Iron Man.
- I think we can all agree that the movie would have been just fine if it was two hours of Tony Stark’s party.
- See, Rhodey’s got a cool story of his own now. I still want to know why he had to throw that tank down in front of the general though.
- Whedon loves picking stuff up from The Ultimates. Hawkeye’s family life and Tony Stark’s armor satellite were straight from Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s take on the Avengers.
- Now that Barton has a whole flock of countryside Bartons, does this mean that we’ll never get to see a movie with Matt Fraction’s Hawkguy in Brooklyn? Maybe it could be a flashback. It would be perfect for a Marvel One-Shot.