In 2012 Marvel did something with it’s heroes that had not yet been seen from either of the two major comic companies, it put its biggest superhero team on screen, together. It had one of the biggest opening weekends in box office history and is now considered a classic. The question became, “Can you ever top this?” The Age of Ultron is now upon us and as the sequel to The Avengers, it has very big shoes to fill. Luckily it does have some intriguing themes.
There is an interesting conversation that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have about being mad scientists. Tony is already responsible for creating the Ultron program that has run amuck after he tried to bring it to artificial life. Tony believes that merging the construct that Ultron was creating for himself with Jarvis, he will be able to create Ultron’s doom.
It raises some very interesting questions. As Tony and Bruce work, they are meddling in things they don’t completely understand, their motive is pure but their methods are flawed. They are taking terrible risks. The alien technology they are trying to use has barely been studied and the consequences of their actions has already created one “Murder-bot”. You’d think they would have seen The Terminator and Skynet and learned something. Tony willing does not tell the rest of the team about his creative activities feeling there is no time to discuss it in committee. He also does not want to be told yet again that he should not be meddling in things he doesn’t understand. Tony and Bruce have not seemed to consider that just because one can do a thing does not mean one should.
These men want peace. They want to proactively protect the world. Captain America reminds Stark that every single time someone has acted preemptively, innocent people have ended up in the crosshairs. There must be responsibly in creation and Tony cannot see the line of how his will to protect could actually create the world’s greatest weapon. There is often a good chance that one will become the thing they hate if they are not careful. Ultron is very much a mirror for Iron Man, it is one of the strongest themes in the film, the hubris of thinking you can control everything through technological creation. History shows us that humanity is it’s own worst enemy, creating it’s own doom from which we desperately need salvation.
Why We Fight
This is really well done in the movie. The ideas of why these heroes do what they do. They are on the side of life and will do whatever it takes to protect it. That means that they do fight to kill and take out the threat. Vision reminds the heroes that even though Ultron is a unique creature, its aim is total annihilation of the world, therefore there is only one choice. Honestly it’s the best reason I’ve seen in a comic book movie for taking out the villain for good. As a hero you are protecting life by making sure the destruction planned by the bad guys can never happen again. Now of course there are people the heroes will go up against where these measures will not be needed, but something like Ultron or Zod, these are treats that have to be eliminated.
While the movie has some good themes, it feels extremely busy with not enough narrative focus. It is as if it’s trying to serve too many masters. the film is trying to finish the second phase of the Marvel franchise, set up the third phase, as well as tell a compelling story. There is so little explanation for the things happening on screen and if you blink you’ll miss the small amount that was there. From the enhanced twins, to Thor’s sight bath, so much is glossed over and never fully fleshed out; partly because it’s feels like it’s just set up for the next action scene. The action is good and there is a moment near the end of the movie that looks like splash pages from Avengers comics which is a lot of fun. Yet, it’s nothing revolutionary and it might just be because theirs so much action to digest that it begins to wash over you like a raging waterfall.
There are new characters in the movie, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision. Vision and Scarlet Witch are the two most interesting, with Vision stealing some scenes from the likes of Thor. Quicksilver, who’s character was seen in Days of Future Past (albeit with a different actor) and who’s scene was the stand out in that film gets nothing like that here. It’s as if they realized there was not topping that so why bother trying.
The rest of the main characters play off each other with ease. It’s a well oiled machine at this point. Unfortunately there are some things that get short shrift, like the romance between The Hulk and Black Widow. This really deserves it’s own movie as does Black Widow herself. The humor and banter, a Joss Whedon trademark are well represented with Captain America’s line about Iron Man watching his language getting huge laughs. It was also nice to see Hawkeye get something more to do than be mind-controlled. Renner gives some of the best lines in the film, bringing a humanity and levity to the craziness. He seems to be speaking as much to the audience as Scarlet Witch when he talks about a flying city, evil robots and he’s got a bow and arrow and how none of this makes any sense. It’s a nice wink to us in the seats.
This is a competent Marvel movie. All the actors and action are good, it’s the story that bogs down the film with the weight of all that’s it’s trying to accomplish that left me underwhelmed. It feels formulaic, as the plot is much the same as the original Avengers – team ends up fighting amongst itself, gets beat down, gets a pep talk from Fury, saves the day. One of the pitfalls of Marvel’s cinematic universe is that there is not always enough distinction between the films. I one of the things that made Winter Solider so good, it continued on the Captain America story while feeling fresh and new. Here’s hoping that Anthony and Joe Russo can bring that same sensibility from their work with Cap to Avengers: Infinity War part one and two. Age of Ultron is rated 3 out of 5 Captain America shields.