Avengers: Age of Ultron
Director(s): Joss Whedon
Writer(s): Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader and Samuel L. Jackson
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)May 1, 2015 - Wide
After Dr. Jekyll, Bruce Banner is probably fiction’s best known dual personality sufferer. Quiet scientist one moment, unstoppable rage-filled monster the next. Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron seems to be suffering from dual personality issues as well.
The Avengers are in the fictional Eastern European country of Sokovia, where they’re attacking Baron von Strucker and his Hydra henchman in an effort to regain control of Loki’s sceptre. During the battle, the team come across two new enhanced humans – the telepathic and telekinetic Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and her brother, the fast and Flash-like Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) – but Iron Man manages to get the sceptre.
This is the start of the split personality issues the movie exhibits. The battle is a blur, a literal 3D blur of explosions and gunshots and spinning shields and mythological hammers being tossed around so quickly that you don’t know where Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) begins and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) ends. After their victory, the film slams on the brakes and they throw a party. Not some victory celebration with ticker tape parades and cheering citizens. A party. With a DJ and bartenders and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) wearing dress pants and shirts. There’s flirting and cajoling and ribbing. It’s like a lost Friends episode.
Meanwhile, Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) discovers a super-powerful artificial intelligence in the sceptre and decides to use it to power Ultron (James Spader), a sentient system designed to be a peacekeeping force for the planet. He starts the project despite misgivings from Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and without consulting the rest of the team. Ultron, now out-of-control, decides that the best way to keep the peace is to get rid of all these pesky humans. He’s on a rampage and it’s up to the Avengers team to stop him.
The rampage is followed by more moments of introspection. The team doesn’t need a leader, they need a marriage counsellor. And speaking of marriage, we get to see Hawkeye’s home life and the hints of a relationship between Johansson and Ruffalo’s characters. Then the film turns into more lessons on group dynamics, the fine line between security and freedom, and soul-searching by each of the major characters about their place in the team and their personal journeys.
Joss Whedon wrote and directed the film and he packs a lot into the film’s two hour and twenty-one minute running time. But it’s almost as if everything that’s in here belongs in different films. Do we need to rush through a battle scene so quickly that it’s almost incomprehensible just so the team has time to chew the fat on a farm where Hawkeye’s wife (Linda Cardellini) actually says to her husband the laughable line, “You know I support your avenging.” The Marvel Universe is so crowded now that we have to keep track of all the threads from not only the previous films, but the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, while figuring out which plot threads will be tied up in subsequent films involving the team or its individual characters. So many minor Marvel characters make appearances that you wonder if it was required to maintain their SAG union health insurance.
Look, this film already crossed the $200 million mark worldwide before being released in North America May 1st. Millions will see it on this continent on opening weekend. It will smash records and excite fans no matter what we say. It is a roller-coaster ride, but the type where the excitement is dampened by the realization that you may have eaten too many funnel cakes before boarding. The quips come fast and the story touches upon issues of society just like a good comic book should. I still think we can expect more from this franchise. I said that Captain America: The Winter Soldier combined the best elements of superheroes and Seventies political thrillers. So maybe the Avengers doesn’t need peacekeeping artificial intelligence, but just a plain old compass to give the next one a clear direction.