This topic needs no introduction. Avengers: Age of Ultron came out this week, and this is an epic review for it. I mean, it’s the freaking Avengers. What else do you need to know? As always, I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but there definitely will be some. With that said, let’s dive right into it!
Ultron starts off with a bang, reintroducing us to the Avengers by way of an awesome, extended action sequence. The team rushes into a Hydra facility in Sokovia (not a real nation) with a three-fold mission: to take out the team stationed there, to learn about the experiments they’ve been performing on humans in order to give them super powers, and to steal Loki’s scepter so Thor can return it to Asgard. This first action scene is actually probably the best one in the film, as it showcases the abilities of each member of the team in an even, fast paced manner, and doesn’t suffer from having just way too many people to focus on like later scenes (which we will, of course, discuss). The visuals in this scene are as good as they come. The fights are epic, and it wastes no time in showing us that epic comic book-panel-esque shot from the trailers. Plus, any scene that has Captain America whipping a motorbike over his head and smashing it into a bunch of bad guys is a winning scene in my book.
Early on, we also get to witness the powers of the Russian twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Yes it’s the same Quicksilver as Days of Future Past. But no, it’s not the same Quicksilver as Days of Future Past. Don’t even get me started.
Once the action slows down, we’re treated to some great banter and quick-witted dialogue that begins near the start of the film, and doesn’t give up until the very end. I initially thought the friendly arguing might get old, seeing how it was the driving force behind Guardians of the Galaxy. But it actually does something pretty great; it shows us that for the most part, the Avengers have formed a much more cohesive bond than they had in the first movie, and the banter shows us the personality of each of the characters without going overboard.
Now I want to take a second to talk about Tony Stark. Iron Man 3 was, without a doubt, the most disappointing of the Phase 2 films (assuming Ant-Man doesn’t earn that lovely title in July). It was sloppy, poorly written and even more poorly executed, and had terrible characters. But what shocked me was how much I didn’t like Tony Stark in Iron Man 3. I mean, we LOVE Robert Downey Jr, right? He’s a fantastic actor! But he seemed so tired of his role as Stark in 3 that his whole performance, barring a few brief moments, was stale, unbelievable, and, worst of all, not funny. Maybe being among old Avenger friends helped RDJ overcome whatever obstacles he was facing, because he returns to top form in Ultron. He’s a jerk in all the right ways, funny in all the right moments, and childish in all the right situations. RDJ really nails it this time, perhaps more so than any other Marvel film, save the first Iron Man. Welcome back, man.
Unfortunately, after this epic action scene, we see the start of something really uncomfortable and awkward: the Black Widow/Hulk love story. I’d be fine with it, for the most part, if Black Widow hadn’t been the center of love stories before. But, alas, it is not so. In Iron Man 2, she was not romantically involved with Stark, but there was much gawking and flirtation on his part. Then, in Avengers, there seemed to be a thing between her and Hawkeye, but that is apparently quickly dismissed when Widow calls Hawkeye her “best friend” in Ultron. Then, in Winter Soldier, there was maybe some romantic involvement, or at least interest, between Widow and Cap! Seriously, girl! Just take a chill pill. But even if all these other past romances hadn’t have taken place, the Widow/Hulk thing would still seem strange, forced, and very forward. It’s like we’re just supposed to accept the fact Widow is totally in love with the guy, when we haven’t even seen them together since 2012. And this isn’t just like a one shot romance scene. This little tale of forbidden love continues throughout the whole movie until, at the end, Hulk pretty much decides that Black Widow be trippin’, and gets as far away from her as possible. Nice move, big guy.
Enough of that rant. Let’s move on. Hawkeye sustains a minor injury during the Sokovia battle, and due to increased attention on the character, he ends up becoming central to the plot of the film, and perhaps even one of the most main characters. We get to meet his family, he has some great action sequences, and hilarious quips and one liners as well. He gets a great deal of screen time, much to Jeremy Renner’s delight, I’m sure. And he deserves it. He’s the least utilized member of the team up to this point, which also means he’s the member of the team that I’m the least tired of. Putting Renner front and center, despite him not having any “super” powers, is a great call.
The real juicy part of the story is introduced fairly quickly, and the plot moves at a brisk pace. Stark and Banner, upon finding Hydra research regarding artificial intelligence, decide to build Ultron, the perfect AI that can bring peace to earth and destroy alien threats. But upon being ‘born,’ Ultron immediately lashes out and kills JARVIS, then tries to destroy the Avengers. He reads too deeply into his mission of obtaining world peace, and surmises that in order for peace to prevail, mankind must be destroyed. This is a disappointing part of the plot because of how wholly unoriginal it is. A few months ago, All That’s Epic took a look at some of the coolest AI characters in film. On more than one occasion, this exact plot takes place with the characters on that list, most notably, VIKI from I, Robot. It would have been refreshing to see something a little more original as Ultron’s main goal.
Ultron himself, though, is pretty cool. He isn’t just one entity, or one single bad guy. He endlessly self-replicates until there are virtually thousands of him plaguing the Avengers, all having a single, shared consciousness. And James Spader, who provides the voice of the titular baddie, does a bang-up job. One thing that I loved about Ultron is that, despite being AI, he is pretty human. He’s frightening and creepy at.times, but also has a tendency to be insecure, emotional, and, occasionally, even funny. Often. Marvel villains end up as the punch line of a joke, but it’s rare for them be the ones delivering the laughs.
In the second act, after Stark’s Ultron project goes awry, there is dissent between the Avengers once again. These scenes felt tired and overused, since the team spent the majority of the first film bickering and fighting back and forth. Thankfully, the bickering mercifully short. But once the in-fighting starts, the film takes a turn for the worse, and proceeding scenes seem to be a jumbled mess of disconnected ideas and plot points. Thor goes off on his own to who knows where and has a vision in a pool of who knows what. The awkward Hulk romance story continues. Cap is mad at Tony, and Nick Fury shows up to do, well, not much really. The second act is quite weak, with the Hulkbuster scene as its saving grace, but the third and final act certainly does its best to redeem the film.
And the third act was great, and featured the best character reveal in the MCU so far. In order to fight Ultron’s far reaching evil, the Science Bros, Stark and Banner, attempt make yet another AI, with much opposition from the other Avengers. But what they create, mostly thanks to an epic intervention from Thor, is the mysterious and perfectly ethereal Vision. With a newly revealed Infinity Stone in hand, Vision quickly becomes the most powerful character we’ve seen in the MCU. He’s calm, graceful, wise, and brutally strong.Vision is a personal favorite character from the Marvel universe, and Paul Bettany plays the character to perfection. Simply wonderful.
The final battle pits the full Avengers team, new and old members alike, against the full Ultron army. It was initially disappointing that the main Ultron robot wasn’t too involved in the fight, but once I realized that Ultron is not an individual, but an entire army, I was more able to appreciate the villain better.
Paul Bettany’s character is disappointingly mostly absent from the final fight, but when he does show up, it’s fantastic. Each character, once again, is once again showcased in all their glory, and, in the heat of the battle, Hawkeye has one of the funniest scenes in the movie. The problem is that now there are way too many characters. Adding to the original team are Scarlet and Quicksilver, as well as, of course, Vision. What this means is that while each character gets their own time to shine, the time in between seeing each individual Avenger is far too long. The fight is great, but the pacing is poor.
The MCU finally realized that without any Avenger casualties, the film offers no real sense of tension. The best way to solve that problem? Kill a character. This shows that the Avengers are not as invincible as they want us to believe, and although the emotional attachment to the fallen hero is not as high as other characters, the death blow is still an effective and emotional development.
There is surprisingly little setup for the future Phase 3 films. Stark and Cap part on good terms, which they certainly won’t be in the Civil War movie. The greatest setup for the upcoming story arc is, not surprisingly, the mid-credits scene. If you missed it, it shows Thanos putting on the famous gauntlet into which he will embed the Infinity Stones, and stating that he will take on a more hands-on role in his evil scheme.
Ultron may not be an amazing movie, thanks mostly to its middle portion. But it is an amazing visual treat, with all the action, humor, and characters that you’d expect it to have. Some may say that it’s not as good as the first film, but that’s what they always say, right? It progresses the overall MCU story very well, and introduces great new characters. It will certainly take care of any Marvel withdrawals you may be suffering from, and will do so in a fun, epic manner. Excelsior!