After a lot of waiting, a LOT of previews, trailers, teases, reveals, and more, Avengers: Age of Ultron has come out, and I have seen it. So, why review it now? Well, I feel this is a little better, as I can give a full-on spoiler filled review instead of trying to dance around the finer points. Also, this will help show why I gave this Age of Ultron review the score I did.
It’s hard to believe it’s already been another Phase since the original Avengers came out (yes, I realize Ant-Man hasn’t come out, but it’s basically been a full Phase), and a lot has changed since then. In fact, if Age of Ultron had acted like nothing happened since the original Avengers, a LOT of opportunities would have been lost. Thankfully, it didn’t, and though there are some bumps, miscues, and a few unneeded moments, Age of Ultron does a really good job of keeping the Avengers magic alive, but also laying the groundwork for Phase 3.
So let’s get started.
The movie itself is jam-packed with numerous pieces of both story and action. For my money, the opening sequence is one of the best parts of the movie period. It balances story elements from Winter Soldier, Avengers, The Dark World and more, all the while delivering some classic Avengers action and comedy. Not unlike the original Avengers, this opening sets the stage for the entire film, as during the battle, both Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch take the stage to show the Avengers what they can do. For Wanda, her biggest impact here is showing Tony Stark a future he wants no part of; a future with the Avengers did, all because “he didn’t do enough.”
This is actually key, as it plays off of what happened to Stark in Iron Man 3. You can tell he wants to put away the armor for good, and has (as we are told) been working with Bruce Banner to make a way of that actually happening through the construction of a true, benevolent A.I., code named Ultron.
Yeah, you see where this is going.
Using Loki’s staff, which they recovered in the opening sequence, Bruce and Stark begin trying to make Ultron work, but they are unsuccessful…or so they think…until Ultron quite literally crashes their party and reveals himself to them. Instantly, everything has changed, as their newest enemy is quite literally one that their teammate created. And it’s apparent it won’t be easy to defeat.
Director Joss Whedon has noted many times that Age of Ultron was made to “twist the knife” in the team, show the flaws that they have, and why their team isn’t always perfect. The birth of Ultron truly gives form to that, as numerous members attack Stark (both physically and verbally) for what he has done. But of course, Stark doesn’t stay silent, and he gives back his own reasoning. Throughout the movie these cracks continue to show, and for Tony and Steve Rogers especially, it begins to show the rift that will cause a Civil War.
So, onto Ultron! I mean, seriously, this is what the movie was all about in some ways. Ultron being born and causing havoc on the Avengers. Just like with Loki in the original, this villain is a huge standout. James Spader plays Ultron beautifully, conveying both his “madness” in regards to destroying humanity, but also his compassion in regards to his “Vision” and to the twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. What I personally liked about Ultron was that in some ways he’s a child (unlike Loki who acted child-like). He has these bursts of emotion that can only be described as a childish tantrum, and then he cracks jokes with child-like joy. Heck, he even sings a song from Disney’s Pinnochio!
Don’t think though he’s a light-hearted villain, Ultron is menacing, physical, and has a literal legion of Ultron-bots at his beck and call; one that actually makes sense him having given the context in the film. The numerous fights with him and the Twins were easily the highlights of the film action wise. Sole exception being Hulk vs. Hulkbuster, which was just as epic as advertised.
Now let’s focus on some characters, shall we? Every movie has its standouts. I’ve already pointed one out above, but for Age of Ultron, the characters I truly dug the most were Hawkeye and Vision.
For Hawkeye, he really got his redemption after his less than appealing appearance in Avengers as Loki’s stooge for most of the film. Here though, he not only got to show his skills, but he got to show why he’s a truly valuable member of the team. It was he that helps the Avengers get back on their feet after the mindjob Wanda performs on them, and it was Hawkeye that actually inspired Wanda to later become an Avenger.
But for me personally, the best parts were both funny and serious. Clint had the best one-liners in the movie, period. He delivered them so flawlessly you laughed every time. Then, just when you think you had it all figured out, you got the revelation that he not only had a wife, but three kids. This is a big swerve from the comics version of Hawkeye (who has often been a player in the comics, or dated Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird for a while, and the two were once briefly married), but it really worked; if for no other reason than to say that even Avengers can have a life and possibly a happy ending.
As for Vision, he may not be in the movie that long (I think that works in his favor for the record), but he makes his presence felt immediately. Paul Bettany delivers a powerful performance as Vision, giving us a calm soul who wants to do good, but also a being not afraid to get violent to save others. By the end of his first scene, you will see why he is called in the comics, “The Greatest Avenger Ever.” No lie. I’m putting the hammer down on this…
Sadly, not all the characters got their time to shine, and other characters were put into truly weird scenarios. First off, the twins. One on hand, both Pietro and Wanda got some good scenes, many with Ultron, but they were never truly fleshed out. Then (BIG SPOILER COMING!!!!)…(still here?)…they kill of Pietro at the end battle! This for me was really shocking and incredibly sad. Not because I liked the character a lot in the film, but because of what the character means to the Avengers. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are special because they’re family, that’s something that could’ve easily been a focus of later movies. With this though, it’s not as fun. Now Scarlet Witch is just another Avenger. Even with more time on screen, the unique dynamic (which was honestly shown really well) between her and Pietro is gone. Not cool in my mind. That’s an opportunity lost.
Then there’s Black Widow and Bruce Banner, who apparently now are truly eyeing each other to be a couple. Yeah, that somehow happened. Forget the flirting with Hawkeye and Captain America in past films, NOPE, she wants to be with Hulk. I know I sound bitter, that’s not it though. I hate forced relationships in TV and movies because that’s basically the writers telling us “you should want them to be together!!!” But that’s not the case. I thought (through both watching the movies and images released) that Natasha would be with Clint, it was hinted numerous times, and yet, she wants to be with Banner.
The other problem I have with this is how it made her look in the scenes with Banner. Gone was the cold assassin we all knew, and in was this incredibly emotional character looking for a connection with someone. Where did that come from? This “new side” honestly lead to some incredibly weird and awkward dialogue that made the whole thing unbearable for me. Thankfully, it never got fully realized.
There were other slip-ups as well. Baron von Strucker being killed (off-screen) was a blow I wish wasn’t dealt, especially after the hyped up reveal of him. He could’ve been used more as an enemy of the Avengers (or possibly some agents of SHIELD). Then there was the Thor storyline to the “magic waters” to help him realize his dream. I don’t understand why he did that, or why he needed Selvig, but hey, whatever. It honestly did lead to the creation of Vision and his storyline in Phase 3 most likely. I just wish it was done better.
Before I wrap up, I want to note one more fun thing about Age of Ultron: the comedy. It was on point for much of the movie, and it didn’t just come from the Avengers themselves. Numerous characters got to have their own joke or two, and it really helped release some of the pressure the movie was building. The subject of the “trick” with Thor’s hammer was a particularly fun one to see progress throughout the film.
As Avengers: Age of Ultron ended, you couldn’t help but sense where things were going. A new squad of Avengers was beginning to form, some of the old ones had gone away again, possibly for a good while. Another threat was beaten, yet another was possibly found. Though there are many movies in a Phase, the Avengers movies are meant to be both a capper on it, and tease what it to come. Age of Ultron did a great job showing the progression of the MCU, and why it’s a truly fluid universe. When Infinity War comes, a lot will have changed again, but just like before…the Avengers will be ready to assemble.