Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson
Watching something like this makes you yearn for standalone films that tell contained stories because Avengers: Age of Ultron was a lot with most of it being quite a mess. With even more mythology to build on and the creation of a new villain, it appears that everyone had too much to accomplish with such a limited runtime.
Through their fears of another alien attack on Earth, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) collaborate to create a force to protect the world. This force, named Ultron (James Spader), gets out of control and sees the only true way to save Earth would be to eradicate humanity.
Just like with The Avengers, this film follows a crop of other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and has the same purpose of combining their storylines and threading together an epic story. It’s a difficult task to do it once, but Joss Whedon had to do it again, which resulted in an inferior product. With this film, the stakes needed to be raised, as this would reunite our heroes once again. It needed to be something that would get Thor (Chris Hemsworth) back to Earth and the Avengers to reunite. They definitely created something that poses a large threat to the world, but yet it did not feel that way because Avengers: Age of Ultron attempted to do too much in one movie.
In the length of one feature, this movie needed to be an Avengers team-up while also setting but the third film in the trilogies of Captain America and Thor. It also created a romance out of thin air, and manufacture a villain from scratch that was meant to terrify the Avengers more than anything else they have encountered in any of the previous films. All lofty goals that clunkily came together, thus leaving each part feeling woefully incomplete.
The film begins with a reunion of them all attacking this abandoned facility operated by Hydra, which calls into question, what is worth reuniting the Avengers? Could it be when a fight between Dark Elves and Thor crashes its way onto Earth, thus threatening the planet or would it be possible in Iron Man 3 that Captain America would receive a call when the President of the United States is kidnapped? No, a facility that may be using Loki’s old scepter draws the whole gang to be reunited to beat up on some humans. It shows the inherent flaws in a cinematic universe where each installment tries to raise the stakes on each other. However, for the sake of focusing on one film, we can move past that and go along with the story. The reunion works because the characters have good chemistry as shown in the party they each try to hold Thor’s hammer. It highlights one of the better sequences of the film because it allows these characters to spend time together. It creates the most human moments, even with one of them being a god. It shows the great character work done in the films preceding this one.
It then introduces the villain of the story, who just feels incredibly underwhelming. Even with Ulton being voiced by James Spader, the character felt like something thrown in because there needed to be a villain. His plan revolves around trying to eradicate humanity as they pose the biggest threat to Earth and you know what? He’s not wrong in thinking we’re the biggest threat. We do treat this planet terribly but as we are all on team humanity, his goal to eradicate threatens all of us and the Avengers as well. He creates an army of faceless robots who the Avengers need to fight to show off their moves because it worked so well in the first film. Ultron was meant to be this intimidating figure, but his wisecracks took away from this fear we should have for him. The Marvel comedy has become part of the brand in this universe, but this villain got far too cute with the jokes for me to take him seriously if I’m being honest. Especially when contrasting him with someone like Thanos in the later films.
It’s unfortunate because this film actually tries to set up some moments to slow down and explore the ramifications for actions but fail to do so. One example lies in the hatred the Maximoff twins have for Tony Stark. The weapons he produced led to the death of their family members, which offers an opportunity to reflect on his past, but we can’t stop for that, as we need to keep the story going. Other moments set up great talking points that superior films would actually explore but this film wanted to be an action extravaganza. At least The Avengers did not even entertain any large ideas. It sought out to be a union of characters that just fight some aliens. Age of Ultron tried to do more but then fell flat on its face when they forgot they needed 40 minutes for the big fight at the end.
What goes up must come down can be the best way to describe Avengers: Age of Ultron. It feels like a downgrade across the board from the film that came before it. The story could not follow through on many of the ideas it tried to pitch and just resulted in a movie given far too much to accomplish within the runtime of a feature film.