Avengers: Age of Ultron

by Alex Stroup, staff writer
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There is a moment in Avengers: Age of Ultron where events have reached their nadir. Things really aren't looking good. At that moment a god literally flies down from the sky, waves his magic stick around, and solves the problem at hand.

I'd like to think that after first reading this in the script, director Joss Whedon immediately looked at himself in a mirror and said, "Screenwriter Joss Whedon, I have never seen deus ex machina demonstrated more literally. Good job!"


Avengers: Age of Ultron. © Marvel Studios

Age of Ultron once again brings most of the threads from the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" back together to the save world. At 142 minutes, it is pretty long—and feels like 142 minutes. Think about it on a fan-service basis, though, and it is hard to see how it could be much shorter. You need to provide several quality scenes each with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Captain America (Chris Evans). You need to give nods to your secondary heroes such as Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Then you have a scary new villain, Ultron (James Spader), who needs a creation story, evolution, and enough scenes of destruction for the audience to understand he really is a threat. Oh, and then there's the tertiary War Machine (Don Cheadle), The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), and Heimdall (Idris Elba).


Avengers: Age of Ultron. © Marvel Studios

You also can't forget the entirely new characters of the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Dr. Helen Cho. And even though they don't appear on screen, you need to spend time on some throwaway lines to explain why Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) won't be around.

Throw in the necessary battle and action set pieces, and 142 minutes is no longer long—it is amazing that you get to leave the theater before the three-hour mark. The fact that despite all of this the movie is generally coherent, sometimes funny, and never outright stupid is an almost awe-inspiring accomplishment.

Age of Ultron is about the sacrifices and limitations of being the hero. Diving right into the action, the Avengers are invading a medieval castle in the Eastern European country of Sokovia to reclaim Loki's scepter from the last Thor movie.
After a successful mission, the crew is back at Avengers HQ with a few days to kill before Thor takes the scepter back to Asgard. Tony Stark is still wracked with guilt over the losses in the Battle of New York (see end of The Avengers) and has an idea for a space-based artificial intelligence (A.I.) that will protect the Earth from future alien invasions. He convinces Bruce Banner to help him out without telling the rest of the crew.


Avengers: Age of Ultron. © Marvel Studios

It is unfortunate that Stark and Banner are so busy dealing with being heroes and their inner demons that they apparently don't keep up on science fiction. Or else they'd know that all A.I. does is realize that humans are awfully mean to each other and the best thing is if we just stop being around.

Of course that is what happens, and Ultron is born. He is an A.I. that inhabits Stark's robotic minions and quickly develops a plan for humanity "evolving" by pretty much ceasing to exist; with the wrinkle that he has something of Stark's personality and therefore some daddy issues. Along the way he picks up Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch as henchmen. They've been "powered" through Hydra (see last Captain America movie) experiments (see the April 28 episode of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series) and have reason to hate Tony Stark (see back story revealed in first Iron Man movie).


Avengers: Age of Ultron. © Marvel Studios

The Avengers, and friends of Avengers, go all out to stop his dastardly plans, and you won't believe the outcome (see, Don't Put Clickbait Headline in Middle of Review).

As you'd expect from a Joss Whedon script, there is a fair amount of talking for what is, fundamentally, an action movie. It's good talking, too, with plenty of wit and rapid-fire asides. The wit helps because when presented with something stupid, you don't know if it is actually stupid, or just a wink at the audience. For example, at one point, the action switches to Africa and text appears on the screen letting the audience know the action is now "on the coast of Africa." Because who needs location defined to anything less than a 16,000-mile range?

Most of the action sequences are also pretty solid, particularly an all out knock-down drag-out between Hulk and Iron Man in Johannesburg (about 300 miles from the "coast of Africa" but don't tell anyone). Unfortunately, as is the norm for modern comic book movies, they often go on way too long. The climactic battle sequence goes on so long it actually pauses several times for everybody to catch their breath. Also, to evacuate civilians from danger. After several movies of complaining about complete disregard for human collateral casualties, Age of Ultron almost goes too far the other way with the screen time expended on evacuations.


Avengers: Age of Ultron. © Marvel Studios

While the overall result is a 142-minute movie that feels 142-minutes long, it is never boring and never quite reaches the point of wishing for it to just end already.

If you haven't been the previous Marvel movies, there's no reason you should start now. If you have seen them all, you won't have any reason to feel burned by this latest effort. It'll have to tide you over—after all, there are only six more Marvel movies before the next Avengers hits theaters in 2018. Sadly, despite the fact that Mark Ruffalo finally seems to have captured the psychic damage of Bruce Banner, none of them are a Hulk movie.

Two things to wrap up:

  • Breaking with tradition, if you aren't a credit watcher there is no need to sit through the corporate phonebooks for 23 different visual effects companies just to get a 22-second stinger that you may or may not understand. There is one brief scene shortly after the credits start, but nothing at the very end.
  • When the Avengers universe eventually adds a time-traveling squirrel (or whatever), hopefully it'll go back in time to 2013, visit Joss Whedon, and whisper into his ear while he sleeps: "Joss... Joss... hear me... there is no good reason for Ultron to have teeth."


Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron - Trailer 3. Marvel Entertainment


  • Avengers: Age of Ultron is a Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures release
  • Wide theatrical release on Friday, April 31, 2015
  • Directed by Joss Whedon
  • Screenplay by Joss Whedon
  • Starring approximately 18.3% of all recognizable actors currently in SAG
  • Running time: 142 minutes
  • Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments
  • Alex's rating: 7 out of 10

 

Comments

  1. By danyoung

    I saw the movie yesterday, and pretty much agree with your review, Alex. I didn't actively wish that the movie would be over, but it wasn't as riveting as some other movies. I'm a huge Joss Wheden fan, and really enjoyed the humor that he can inject into an otherwise tense situation. But the long fight sequences just about did me in (I think they had the same effect on Joss, from what I've read!).

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