Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon
Produced by: Marvel Studios.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Elisabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Linda Cardellini.
Featuring the Voices of: James Spader, Paul Bettany.
Like a sore on your butt that you just can’t get rid of (I really should get that checked) the Avengers are back! You can say a lot of things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but its certainly persistent and its definitely pervasive. I have been vocal about my indifference to Marvel’s experiment, but for AGE OF ULTRON I was so down. This movie’s messy, and there are definitely problems, but I had so much fun with this flick.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), in an effort to achieve total world peace, creates a robot named Ultron (voice of James Spader). Ultron unfortunately becomes violent and now its up to the Avengers to stop him. The plot is thin veil for character strife, big reveals, action scenes, and of course, Marvel’s need to set up for future films. I enjoyed where AGE OF ULTRON took its character, particularly with Stark. These movies have never negated to note that Stark has had a history of blowing things up and orphaning thousands upon thousands of innocent people, but in ULTRON all of that blows up in his face. I really enjoyed his character arc here, I got out of it what I wanted from IRON MAN 3. The arc could have used more development, which leads me to my first problem with the film.
There was an extra hour that Whedon shot for AGE OF ULTRON that was cut, and oh boy can you tell. There are brief scenes that appear with little setup, arcs that could have done with more exploration, and character relationships that weren’t even slightly established in the other movies. Where ULTRON manages to barely save itself is that the actors and the direction carry it. Its enough that I can enjoy this version, while still yearning for a directors cut.
There are some continuity issues. In the first AVENGERS it is established that Bruce Banner (Mark Rufallo) can turn into the Hulk at any time “because he’s always angry”, which was great, it was one of the best scenes in the film. In AGE OF ULTRON we’re back to square one with Hulk, with him seemingly needing to get angry via being thrown into pits and provocation. There is a possibility that I’m reading too deeply into this, but I asked the people I saw the film with if they caught on to that and they all agreed, so then again, maybe not.
There is a lot that works about ULTRON though, like the newest heroes to join the fray, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who can run faster than the speed of light, Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), who controls minds and induces hallucinations, then finally there’s Vision (voice of Paul Bettany), a mythic looking android who can shoot Dragon Ball Z style lasers from his head. They are all a lot of fun, and effectively portrayed, with Elisabeth Olsen being a standout as Scarlet Witch.
Lets take a minute to talk about Spader as Ultron. Spader is remarkable at making creepy characters live and breathe, and in ULTRON he demonstrates that this is something he is so good at that he can do it in his sleep. Even when the script is calling for him to do something ridiculous (like singing “There Are No Strings on Me” from Pinocchio to himself, ooooh, I wonder what that symbolizes! Subtle, Joss) Spader still sells it. He is a remarkable talent, AGE OF ULTRON will hopefully add momentum to his recent career revival.
One thing I loved about AGE OF ULTRON is how it integrated the Avengers desire to keep the civilians out of harms way. That is the core of a superheroes code, with it being done best in the 1978 Superman. AGE OF ULTRON is not overt about it, but you can see subtle choices that reassure the viewer and let them know that the damage is being minimized.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been around almost as long as I’ve been a devoted moviegoer. In that time I’ve went from indifferent about it, to flat out sick of it. A mixture of over-marketing and a lack of memorable scripts. Something like the first THOR sinks like a stone for me. When the MCU is done well though, it can be effective in amazing ways. I re-watched part of the first AVENGERS and found myself compulsively entertained, even while acknowledging problems I had that would come up on occasion.
Some of those same problems I had with AGE OF ULTRON, the jokes in Whedon’s script are overwritten. Some are very funny, but one in particular is used near the end (there was a similar one used in the first movie that also made me groaned) that just didn’t need to be there. Where AGE OF ULTRON becomes something magical is how it carries you despite these apparent problems, how you can examine its strength and its weaknesses and still be compulsively entertained.
Suggestion: See it