While it’s safe to say Age of Ultron is the least memorable of the Avengers films, that’s not saying much as the original one was an “one of a kind” event and the last two were an even bigger “end of the core story” event, leaving this as the only one that was “just” a film. Age of Ultron does have a lot going for it, a very charismatic central villain for one, but it does also have some slower, uninteresting moments that the other three Avengers films lack… Either way: let’s take a look!
Tony Stark builds an artificial intelligence system named Ultron with the help of Bruce Banner. When the sentient Ultron makes plans to wipe out the human race, the Avengers set out to stop him.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
It’s the Avengers! … Well, minus Hawkeye off to the right. Sorry Hawkeye, I’ll make it up for it later…
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Star / Iron Man, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk are all great in their roles. They’ve all settled into their characters and play off each other really well. Tony and Bruce especially, the two scientists excitedly looking at artificial intelligence as a means to protect the world without putting lives at risk, but one more willing to push the envelope more than the other. Likewise the added relationship between Banner and Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is quite sweet, even if it ends up not actually going anywhere in the grand scheme of things. Lastly Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton / Hawkeye gets some much needed character as we see he secretly has a wife and children in a secluded house in the countryside. So the MCU regulars all get screen time and all perform their roles well, no shocker there!
Thankfully the new cast also shines. Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Wanda and Pietro Maximoff are great as disillusioned refugees who have been given special powers and are being guided to misuse them. James Spader as Ultron has to be one of my favourite villain performances in the MCU. While his character could be summed up as “killer robot who thinks Earth is better without humans on it” that would be disservice as a lot of his motivation comes from both a lack of experience and resentment towards his “father” in Tony Stark. Stark claimed to want “peace in our time” and Ultron decided that there can be no peace with humans on the planet. Cold hard A.I. logic, but Spader’s charisma and silky smooth voice adds so much the role that I genuinely smirked or smiled at damn near every line. Then later on we get Paul Bettany as Vision, a “perfect” artificial body with both the Mind Stone powering it and Tony Stark’s old JARVIS A.I. mixed in. Unlike Ultron Vision is also newly born and uses logic in his decisions but also understands and values both life and beauty.
Such a human expression of joy on an artificial face. Good old modern technology! (That sentence makes sense in and out of universe!)
Your plot is a good mix of “evil A.I.” and super hero team up, with the movie opening up with the first of two huge and well-shot action sequences with the titular team taking down a group of baddies. There they find Loki’s staff (complete with Mind Stone) and Tony tries tinkering with it to create his new A.I. program, but leaves for a party with his fellow Avengers when it doesn’t stick. Little does he know that Ultron, as it was going to be dubbed, does in fact come to life and within seconds reads the history of humanity via the internet and decides that his core directive of peace can only be achieved without the human race. He attacks the Avengers via basic Iron Man drones to announce his presence and then begins building new and better bodies and drones to use. Meanwhile the Avengers crack as everyone points fingers at Tony before they all track down Ultron, who at this point has recruited the Maximoffs. Wanda uses her powers to either cripple or turn the Avengers on each other, including an Iron Man in Hulkbuster armour facing off with Hulk. Good fun.
The team goes into hiding at Hawkeye’s place as Ultron begins constructing the ultimate body, which is then stolen by the returning Avengers. Tony, despite everything that’s happened, is convinced putting the JARVIS A.I. into it wouldn’t cause the exact same issue but worse, and although other Avengers try and stop him Thor arrives and activates what becomes known as Vision. Throw in the Maximoffs switching sides and suddenly a much larger and more powerful team of Avengers arrives in Sakovia to face down with Ultron, who unleashes his army of robots on them and eventually reveals his plan to wipe out humanity by literally lifting a city into the sky and then dropping it back down onto Earth and do the whole dinosaur extinction over again. We then get our second well directed team action sequence that eventually sees Pietro killed, Wanda pissed off about it, Ultron defeated and the human race saved though the city destroyed, and quite a few innocent people with it (though a good majority of them were evacuated during the course of the battle). Thor goes home, Hulk runs off, Tony once again bows out like he did at the end of Iron Man 3 and Cap and Black Widow get ready to train the next incarnation of the Avengers to end the film… well, apart from Thanos putting on the Infinity Gauntlet and claiming he’ll “do it himself”, leading to the two-film finale…
The city lifts high into the sky, a.k.a. “Brown trousers time”.
The film may be a tad too long for its own good. There are some good action sequences throughout and some fun dialogue, but there are times where it feels stretched. Certainly a long stay with Ultron and weapons dealer Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis) in order to flesh out some details for Black Panther and a lengthy Thor side-story where he visits a magical lake in order to have a vision were unnecessary. It’s not a major deal breaker and don’t exactly gobble airtime, but it’s something I couldn’t say about the original Avengers film or the two sequels.
There you go Hawkeye, told you I’d make up for it.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a fun film. When I went to see it at the cinema I thought it was great, I was completely into the hype at that point, then when I watched it at home it felt disappointing. Now after my third watch completely independent of being “in the moment” I can say it’s in the middle. It’s a good film and a fun time, but it doesn’t reach the heights of the other films in its sub-series…