by Sherry Lipp
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently in theaters and already breaking records. The anticipation for this film has been at a fever pitch pretty much since the first Avengers film hit theaters in 2012. It goes without saying that Age of Ultron has a lot to live up to. Does it? The short answer is, “No it doesn’t,” but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Avengers: Age of Ultron has some interesting concepts and a lot of fun moments, but it fails to bring it all together in a fully satisfying way.
The film opens with what looks like a video game sequence (due to unconvincing visual effects; I kinda hoped it was actually someone playing a game or watching some sort of computerized simulation) with all of the Avengers, fully assembled, looking for Loki’s missing scepter. They wage a rather organized battle against a Hydra base where they take the scepter fairly easily. I point out that the battle is organized because it left me wondering when exactly they’ve been planning their strategy. The scene gives the impression that Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) have been waging these attacks against Hydra all along.
Of course we know from Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show that’s not the case. Personally I would have rather had a lower key opening where the characters and new story get a solid setup. Instead this film feels a bit jumbled, especially after several new characters are introduced – Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Ultron (voiced by James Spader), and Vision (Paul Bettany).
What I do like is the expansion of the character of Hawkeye. It turns out Hawkeye is not the loner he seemed to be in the first Avengers film. In fact he has a wife (Linda Cardellini) and a couple kids. They all live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, where he likes to work on home improvement projects. Hawkeye’s personal life adds a nice touch of humanity to this film, which otherwise lacks hardly any glimpse at what’s going on in the real world.
Hawkeye’s family also raises the stakes as the heroes battle their new foe, Ultron. We know what Hawkeye, and by extension everyone else, is fighting for. Ultron is the inadvertent creation of Tony Stark, who inexplicably has his sights set on creating a super-android that can replace the Avengers. He thinks he will create an army that will keep global peace so all the superheroes can settle down with their families and not have to worry about saving the planet. What he doesn’t anticipate is exactly how artificial intelligence will interpret the task of “bringing peace in our time.”
What’s the biggest threat to all of humanity? Of course it’s humanity itself. We’re hell-bent on destroying ourselves and Ultron sees the only way of stopping that is to do it for us. And then he will create his own race of super-androids. It’s not the most original idea in the world, but it’s got potential, especially when you think of Ultron as the embodiment of Tony Stark’s dark side. So why doesn’t it work as well as it should?
I think it’s because it’s been taken for granted that we already know these characters so well that we don’t need to spend time with them on a personal level. That’s why we’re spending time with the previously underutilized Hawkeye. But we still do need that emotional connection to everyone and we don’t really get it. I also found the storyline involving Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (who was introduced much more effectively in X-Men: Days of Future Past) to be underdeveloped. They go from Ultron’s side to the Avengers’ in the blink of an eye with only a cursory explanation. It’s unsatisfying.
What is good is the rapport between the heroes. In fact some of the best moments of the film were when the characters were simply talking to each other. There’s also plenty of humor. Running gags involving Steve Rogers’ prudishness and Thor’s hammer are particularly effective. The battle scenes are big and extravagant, and while bordering on total bombast they are pretty fun to watch. Despite some disappointments in the overall story I still recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of the Marvel movies. No, it wasn’t as compelling and fully realized as it could have been. On the other hand, it’s far from a total failure and I do plan on giving it another go.
P.S. – Joss Whedon wasn’t kidding when he said there is no post-credit sequence in Avengers Age of Ultron. Just make sure you stick around for the mid-credit bit.