Review contains mild spoilers
Synopsis: When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it’s up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans. (From IMDb)
Review: Age of Ultron starts off with an action sequence worthy of a James Bond film or a video game. The opening scene depicts the Avengers in the middle of the storming the castle hiding the last Hydra stronghold. Iron Man and company leave the castle with some exciting spoils, including the key to sentient artificial intelligence. While storming this castle in the fictional country of Sokovia, the Avengers also manage to pick up Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch. From there, the movie manages to cross the globe. The Avengers track Ultron from New York to Africa and back to Sokovia. And each showdown leaves a trail of death and destruction. Several cities are leveled throughout the course of the film. Whedon does an admirable job of trying to show the Avengers dealing with collateral damage. However, by the fifth massive showdown, the CGI enhanced battle sequences become slightly tiring. Age of Ultron is an excellent comic book movie but it is not as polished as the first Avengers film.
There is plenty to like in Age of Ultron. The screenplay is sharp and witty and most of the actors do a credible job portraying their characters. There is a great scene where everyone attempts to pick up Thor’s hammer. And there is one wood chopping scene between Captain America and Iron Man that is quite amusing. However, a majority of the movie suffered from character bloat. There is an ever growing cast of characters that Marvel is trying to add into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But there were too many character introductions and backstories that the pacing felt slightly off. Perhaps the greatest problem is that the heroes never felt in danger. Because everyone knows most of these characters are needed for the next film, there was no sense of real danger. My largest qualm involves the “love” story between Black Widow and Bruce Banner/The Hulk. The Black Widow is in charge of calming down the Hulk and this soon transforms into her hitting on Banner. Now I do not mind a little office romance but the whole subplot felt oddly out of place and untrue to the characters’ personalities.
The villain, Ultron, is created because Tony Stark wants to put a suit of armor around the world. He gets this idea from a delusional dream The Scarlet Witch put into his head. This results in Stark and Banner trying to create a peacekeeping AI program that would protect the world and allow the Avengers to take a vacation. Whedon missed a bet here and under dramatized Stark’s immense weariness with the world. This would have added a new dimension to Stark and make him a more cynical foil to Captain America. Anyways, Stark’s idea is personified in the form of Ultron, who is more genocidal than expected. Ultron is essentially a more demented and metallic version of Stark. There was a lot of potential here to showcase the weaknesses of the Avengers. However, Ultron is a horrible super-villain. He felt more like a villain of the week character who posed no real threat to the main protagonists. Supposedly Ultron is an all-powerful AI with the ability to manipulate/bend the internet to his will, which would bring the modern world to its knees. However, he chooses to go more old school and use traditional metal and gunpowder. I would expect a hyper-intelligent and adaptable robot to choose a more terrifying weapon. James Spader is thoroughly creepy as the voice of Ultron.
With an intimidating metallic frame and alien but humanoid features, Ultron at least looks cool. His program glitches manifest as homicidal urges. The screenplay never makes Ultron as dark as he could be in order to make him into a darkly comedic version of Stark, one line zingers and all. However, Ultron is still a more believable villain than the twins, Quicksilver (Pietro ) and The Scarlet Witch (Wanda). Olsen (Wanda) and Taylor-Johnson (Pietro) do their best to adopt Eastern European accents but they are no quite convincing. The weakest link in the screenplay is the weird telepathy powers of The Scarlet Witch. Her powers are incredibly vague and the scenes where she invades the heroes’ minds are hypnotically trippy and felt out-of-place. This is probably because the movie simply had no time to explore the twins’ powers due to an already packed narrative. The most poignant/emotional scene is actually between Quicksilver and Hawkeye towards the end of the film, which I will not divulge at the moment. Paul Bettany finally gets to play more than a disembodied voice and portrays The Vision, a sentient android. The Vision was an interesting character and I am intrigued by how Whedon plans on developing him in future movies. Overall, this was a good addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it is slightly derailed due to character bloat.