I find it interesting that Avengers: Age of Ultron seems to indicate a long period of time in its title. There are two ways of looking at this: first, in terms of the length of this movie, it does seem to go on for an age; secondly, as to the way time works in the film, it does not really qualify as an “age.” This is all a long way of saying that this one does not work as well as the first Avengers film. If you read our review of The Avengers, then you might remember the praise I gave to writer and director Joss Whedon. It was with this one that the cracks I mentioned there really begin to show. The problem with Avengers: Age of Ultron, as with many MCU films, is with the amazing ensemble cast. When you get together such an incredible group of actors, you have to give each their fair share while also attempting to come up with a sensible script. Take my word on this one: you cannot have more than one main character and have a piece of cinema that works.
Avengers: Age of Ultron picks up with the Avengers basically trying to do the same thing they wrapped up the first Avengers film doing: trying to retrieve Loki’s scepter. Oh, and surprise, surprise, it has an Infinity Stone in it, in this case the Mind Stone. How did it land in the hands of the bad guys when the good guys had taken it once already? I guess that fact does not really matter. Instead, they settled for a big, explosive, action-packed opener with our favorite group of superheroes assaulting a fortress in the fictional country of Sokovia. After obtaining the scepter, again, the Avengers return to New York for some fun and frivolity in celebration of their victory, which also has a bit of Whedon’s good humor thrown into it. The party-pooper arrives in the form of Ultron (Jason Bader), a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) that Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) have developed using the Mind Stone. Instead of being the ambivalent version of Skynet that Stark and Banner hope, Ultron decides humans are the real problem. The comparisons to Terminator do not stop with a threatening computer program. When the Avengers foil Ultron’s plot to construct a God-like figure, which becomes Vision (Paul Bettany), the deranged robot decides to return to Sokovia, levitate it into the upper regions of the atmosphere, and then shut off the engine. The resulting gravity assisted crash, as the movie tells us, would do to us what the asteroid did to the dinosaurs. To prevent this, the Avengers not only fight Ultron, but also work to evacuate the floating city and undermine the machine making it rise. They accomplish all these things, of course.
This is the most basic summary of the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron that I can give. What is missing from what I spoke about in the previous paragraph is character development. In the first Avengers film, the development comes from a group of individuals used to going it alone learning to work as a team. So I suppose we are all to assume that between the two films about this team they forgot how to do this during their other movies. Okay, Stark is technologically minded and believes in his Ultron solution, and Stever Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) feels the “human” touch will always be needed to address global threats. While the emergence of Ultron forces them to put aside their differences, the setting up of conflict between Iron Man and Captain America is never fully resolved here, which is a big yawn in this reviewer’s opinion. I am not interested in the idea that their resolution will come later in Captain America: Civil War. Call me old-fashioned, but the things introduced in one movie should be fulfilled in the same one. At the same time, there is whatever is going on with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and that weird vision bath he takes, and the need to do something with Wanda and Pietro Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The point I am trying to make is that there is a lot going on here and not all of it goes somewhere.
The best part of Avengers: Age of Ultron is the issues faced by Banner. In the first Avengers film, and indeed in The Incredible Hulk, we see a character that is afraid of his own powers. If you are one of the few out there who do not know how the Hulk works, whenever he gets really angry he turns into a huge, green rage monster that seeks to destroy everything in his path. Banner is understandably hesitant to give the beast free rein over his body given the amount of damage of which the Hulk is capable. All the Avengers look at their powers as a gift to be used to help others. Banner is not so convinced, and there is a sequence in this film where the Scarlet Witch tricks Banner into turning into the Hulk, but at the monster’s most uninhibited level. After he finally comes out of it, he is understandably horrified by the amount of destruction he causes. Thus there is an internal conflict within Banner where his power can also be his undoing, and this leads to a bit of self-loathing on his part. When I see the emotional pain he feels, I cannot help but think about the love of God, and how He is nearest to those who suffer the most. The unfortunate part for this reviewer, and for Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) I suppose (and apparently Marvel, too, felt this romance was forced), was that, yet again, the movie decided to kick the can down the road again where Banner’s problems would be solved by another film.
This is not the most positive review of Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it must be noted that my distaste for it has lessened. Like most of the other MCU films, it has intense action scenes, but it is really okay for the whole family despite the PG-13 rating. I cannot say this is an important cog in the MCU universe, unless you are intensely curious as to how Vision came into being.