In the final season of Mad Men, a TV-show about an ad-agency in the 60s, there was a moment when one of the characters was sitting on his couch at home in front of the television watching the moon landing. He looked at the TV with a smile of excitement and satisfaction on his face uttering just one simple word: Bravo. That scene perfectly encapsulates my feelings about The Avengers, released in 2012 and which featured an entire group of characters who have starred in their own movies the years before. It was an enormous undertaking which paid of in the end in what is simply a great movie. Bravo indeed Marvel.
3 years later The Avengers has finally gotten its sequel: Age of Ultron. When the movie opens the last Hydra base is under attack by the Avengers and Loki’s staff has been retrieved. Having the staff in their possession for three days (for plot-motivation reasons only) until Thor will return it, Bruce and Tony are examining it coming to the conclusion that the power of the staff could be used to create artificial intelligence and thus an “Iron Legion” (as seen in Iron Man 3 and the opening scene of this movie) not dependent on Tony’s commands. This would make the Avengers unnecessary, something which was the goal of this team in the first place according to Tony as the Avengers would no longer be needed to protect the world from an alien attack. But as 5 Terminator movies have proven, providing machines with artificial intelligence isn’t a wise choice as in this case it gives birth to Ultron.
Ultron is somewhat of an omnipresence once released. Though it manifests itself in a body it creates, it’s a piece of artificial intelligent software that travels on the internet and is able to access almost everything it can hack its way into. The body/shell idea is best explained by a scene where Ultron addresses someone only to be attacked from behind by a carbon copy of him who then takes over his lines. This concept makes Ultron an almost God-like character setting the writers a trap they will have great difficulty to get out of. They have a solution of which I’m not going go into too much for the sake of spoilers, but it revolves around creating something of an Ultron 2.0. Because of this, one of the themes that this movie poses at first is actually brushed off. Tony and Bruce create A.I. without consulting other people and the result is that the entire world is in jeopardy. Their solution: do it again. The impact of their actions is very little, the team is only mad for a short time and neither Bruce or Tony deal with guilt over creating this killing machine.
One of the other faults the writers made was recycling material. For instance: the finale places the Avengers against an army of Ultrons in the middle of a city. If that might sound familiar it’s because it’s the same finale as the previous Avengers movie, only then it was an army of aliens and a different city.
At this point the Marvel Cinematic Universe is starting to grow out of their control. People not familiar with the movies preceding it will have a hard time understanding what’s going on or who certain characters are. But even I, who has seen all the movies, had some difficulty remembering what the status of each character was when their last movie ended. With even TV shows being set in the M.C.U. it becomes even trickier. Not much is said about the status of Agent Coulson who is dead to the people watching just the movies, but is clearly alive to people watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. People watching the show will probably miss him because the Avengers are so closely connected to S.H.I.E.L.D. At some points the movie has the same flaws Iron Man 2 had: it’s too much concerned with setting up future movies, and too little with telling a self-contained story.
Since Iron Man, Thor and Captain America have their own movies released between the two Avengers movies more focus is put on characters like Hawkeye, Black Widow and the Hulk. The latter two are developing some sort of semi-romantic relationship while it’s revealed Hawkeye has a family who lives off the grid on a remotely located farm. These are some nice developments to characters which have been mostly serving as supporting characters in other character’s movies. Even though Hawkeye has some nice scenes with new addition Scarlet Witch, he and Black Widow still feel out of place surrounded by and playing second fiddle to characters with superhuman strength, abilities, metal suits and Gods.
But despite the faults in Avengers: Age of Ultron it’s a pretty enjoyable summer blockbuster. Whedon knows how to shoot great action scenes even if 90% probably comes out of the computer. There is a lot of humor in these movies and as long as it works, and it does, I don’t mind. People have been complaining how Marvel’s movies are all relatively light and colorful compared to DC properties like Batman and now the much moodier Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. But Marvel’s knows its own properties the best and has proven to be great at bringing comic book movies to the big screen. Just because Batman is a success, doesn’t mean that you have to make a dark superhero of every character you have. How well did it work for Man of Steel? Not that much. Marvel’s darker properties like Daredevil, Blade and The Punisher already have pretty moody and darker movies or TV-shows dedicated to them which work fine. The Avengers related movies however have the right amount of lightheartedness to them.
The new characters also bring something fresh, especially James Spader’s Ultron is a performance that, despite being motion capture, resonates to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Other new additions are The Vision, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. To keep you spoiler free I will not disclose their allegiances, but one especially makes life pretty hard on The Avengers.
Even if Avengers: Age of Ultron seems to be the Iron Man 2 of the Avengers movies, it’s a pretty entertaining flick I thoroughly enjoyed.