When Tony Stark creates artificial intelligence, his creation Ultron turns on its creators, and the Avengers must protect the world from the threat they created.
Joss Whedon, 2015
We catch up with the Avengers as they storm a castle in fictional Sokovia where it is rumoured that Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) has something they’re interested in – Loki’s scepter from the previous film. While retrieving the item, the Avengers run across the genetically modified Twins – the mind-bending Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and her speedster brother Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). They have a vendetta against the Avengers that caused them to volunteer for Hydra’s experiments, but now they’re on their own. Back at Avengers HQ, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), spurred on by a vision caused by Wanda, decides to use the scepter’s “computer” brain to create artificial intelligence with the help of fellow scientist and occasional big green hulk Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). They think they’ve failed, but in fact they’ve created a monster, angry at the circumstances of his birth and ready to go out in the world and wreak havoc. Ultron (James Spader) builds himself better and better bodies as he implements his master plan, and the Avengers’ attempts to stop him are hindered by his new allies, the Twins, as well as their own demons.
I had a good time watching Age of Ultron. I laughed at the jokes, I thrilled at the fight sequences. I still think there’s a solid, easy chemistry between the cast that comes through on screen. And yet, when I walked away from the movie, I felt oddly disconnected from everything I’d just watched. Nothing hit me on a personal level, it didn’t really grab me, and as such I noticed a lot more flaws in it that I might have forgiven had I found it as engaging as the previous Avengers film. The sheer number of characters and the weight of the tie-ins to the rest of the Marvel universe dragged the movie down a bit – it was long, and yet it still felt like there were pieces of it missing. Some sections were awkwardly paced, as though important information had been left out. The emotional high point of the movie is in the second of the three major action set pieces, rather than the last, which felt too long to me. It didn’t quite feel earned, either, too distant from the central characters. The movie looks good, a little busier and less sleek than the first film, but with great special effects. Ultron is a very convincing baddie.
As always, I found that the most enjoyable scenes involved the Avengers hanging out and interacting rather than moving the plot forward. Thor is largely comic relief in this film, before his story diverges into something that I assume will be important later, but the other Avengers get a lot to do. Mark Ruffalo continues to imbue Bruce Banner with a great deal of bruised dignity as he undergoes more trauma in this film, this time at the hands of Wanda, the Scarlet Witch. She does a number on the whole team, in fact, and while she and her brother Quicksilver share a heartbreaking backstory, their inevitable turnaround to becoming part of the team doesn’t quite feel earned. They were both great characters (with terrible accents), but we haven’t been given as much time to connect with them or for them to connect with the team as I would have liked. I enjoyed Tony’s arc in this film, Chris Evans is always solid as a patriotic rock, and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow continues to be amazing, given the opportunity to be both vulnerable and the strongest member of the team in equal measure. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye also gets more to do in this film. If Age of Ultron focused on the team a little more and less on side quests, it might have been tighter and more affecting. James Spader’s Ultron is terrific, all menace and misplaced anger, but I was a little disappointed by the way his story wrapped up in the film. (I did cheer when Falcon showed up, though his appearances are brief. He’s my favourite.) After the soaring successes of the first Avengers and The Winter Soldier, I found Age of Ultron disappointing, though it still had its moments. Here’s hoping that the unveil at the end of the film foretells greater awesomeness to come.
Avengers: Age of Ultron on IMDb