When Tony Stark tries to jump start a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for a global adventure.
As Avengers: Age Of Ultron opens, we find Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in Eastern Europe, in the middle of a pitched battle against Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kreschmann) and the forces of HYDRA. The Avengers are trying to recover Loki’s scepter, with which HYDRA is using to create weapons of war. HYDRA has also used the scepter to create a pair of super powered siblings, Pietro & Wanda Maximoff – otherwise known as Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). And although our heroes win out in the end, Hydra manages to play the Avengers right into the palm of their hands. And Wanda, uses her mind control powers to manipulate Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) into having a vision of a future where he creates a robot that will protect the earth from all possible threats, whether alien or otherwise. He reveals this plan to Dr. Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and despite some initial hesitance about the project – Stark convinces Banner to help him make his vision a reality. Once Stark recovers Loki’s scepter, and the infinity gem that’s attached to it, they commence work on their project, to be named Ultron. But there’s a party to attend! So Stark and Banner leave it up to Jarvis (Stark’s really nifty computerized assistant), to handle most of the heavy lifting as they mingle with the rest of the big boppers at the fiesta. But much to everyone’s horror, once Ultron is complete & sentient, he decides that the best way to protect mankind is to eliminate mankind from off the face of the earth.
The problem I have with movies that deal with artificial intelligence in their storylines is that they all pretty much end up the same: The AI always thinks it knows better than its creators do. I was reminded of films like Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), and The Terminator (1984) and it’s myriad sequels as I watched this movie. And while there’s nothing particularly wrong with a good “computer run amok” storyline, that isn’t what returning writer/director Joss Whedon supplies here with his script. The first thing I thought to myself was that minds as brilliant as Stark’s & Banner’s should’ve known better than to mess with something that essentially never goes right. Whedon’s script doesn’t quite feel like a thoroughly thought out story, it seems like more of a setup to Avengers: Infinity War (the proposed third entry in the saga) that feels more like Avengers 1.5 rather than a outright sequel. The fact that Whedon isn’t returning for the next sequel only makes me believe that even more.
Which might just explain all of the frantic action that takes place here. I mean, when your story doesn’t quite hold its own, covering up its shortfalls with a plethora of action set pieces makes sense. Whedon makes sure to keep his audience enraptured with slugfest after slugfest, that keeps the movie chugging along quite nicely. As the film progresses, and the other Avengers learn of Stark’s plan, there’s a bit of tension as the others feel betrayed by Stark – and the team begins to separate. But eventually, they all realize that united they stand and divided they fall, so they get back together for one last brouhaha with Ultron (cannily voiced by James Spader) and his seemingly endless army of robotic minions.
But despite all of the action on display, there’s a distinct hint of “Been there, Done that” that permeates every frame of this film right from the get go. Ultron’s army swarms about just like the Chitauri did in the first Avengers film, our heroes go through some internal squabbling before they realize how silly they’re being, they reach a point where they seem to be overwhelmed before Stark saves the day, etc, etc. It’s still boatloads of fun, but it feels a bit old already. Interestingly enough, Whedon introduces a love affair beteween Banner & Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) that’s rather interesting, but doesn’t really do too much with it. We’re also introduced to the home life of Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), which is really interesting. but Whedon’s script doesn’t spend all too much time there either. Whedon even gives Captain America (Chris Evans) a bit of a potty mouth, which leads to one of the funnier bits that run through the film, but it doesn’t lead to very much besides a few laughs. A colossal battle between Hulk and Stark (using his Hulkbuster armor) is a stand out sequence, but ultimately, it just reminded me of the battle between Thor and The Hulk from the first film.
All of the performances are pretty much what they need to be, but people don’t go to films like this one looking for thespian greatness, they’re looking for action, and they won’t come away disappointed here. The action here is nearly non stop and frenetic at times, and it’s never boring. The cast look like they’re having a great time pretending they’re superheroes for 2 1/2 hours, and we get introduced to a new one called The Vision (Paul Bettany), who is created from…oops! No spoilers!! The special effects do most of the heavy lifting here though and they are first rate and quite realistic looking for the most part. The film is also sprinkled with a slew of cameos from James Rhodes aka War Machine (Don Cheadle) to Sam Wilson aka The Falcon (Anthony Mackie). And what would The Avengers be without Colonel Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) popping in to berate them for a few scenes? There are also a few subtle hints to characters that have yet to be introduced to the Marvel cinematic universe sprinkled about that are interesting, but you have to look/listen closely for them.
It all concludes with a titanic final battle that looks/feels a whole lot like the siege of Manhattan from the last Avengers film, just in a different locale. And afterwards, something meant to be a surprise, but as most (if not all) of you know what the next Captain America film will be, it really isn’t. Still, the next Avengers film will be, if nothing else, interesting. And the end credit stinger promises what can only be described as something that promises epic adventure and drama on a galactic scale. But that’s another 3-4 years off from now, so we’ll just have to be patient and see how Marvel’s plans for phase 3 of its cinematic universe unfolds.
Don’t misunderstand me, I did enjoy Avengers: Age Of Ultron a great deal. It’s a thrilling, exciting and action packed film that will leave its audience tremendously satisfied. But I can’t help but feel that something is missing here, although I can’t quite put my finger on it just yet. Perhaps future viewings will answer that question for me, but I can say that this film isn’t as good as it’s predecessor – and that disappointed me ever so slightly. But that’s just me talking to myself, I’m sure that the end box office tally for this one will wash over my opinion quite thoroughly, leaving nothing in its wake but an audience hungry for the next film to come forth from the Marvel stable.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron – 3.5 out of 5 shrouds.