Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders
When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s mightiest heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plan. (Source: IMDb)
Age of Ultron frequently gets a bit of a bad rap, and whilst that isn’t totally unjustified, it’s certainly not the worst Marvel film by a long stretch. I would argue it is disappointing compared to the joy of The Avengers and it is certainly a step down from The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, however it is still an important piece and the events of this film have ripples into the rest of the MCU.
So often a weak point of superhero films, Ultron at least initially is one of the more complex and interesting villains, born out of an experiment gone wrong between Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. Voiced by James Spader, Ultron is a terrifying realisation of technology gone awry and the best intentions resulting in something which seems unstoppable. As the film progresses, “Ultron” essentially becomes a faceless robot army and it is at this point that it loses some of its initial power. What is interesting however is the guilt that Stark carries over into the later films as a result of creating Ultron. This is particularly notable in Civil War, and you could argue that it was one of the main reasons behind him signing the accords.
Stark’s ego had not been something that had stopped him in the past but in realising that he had inadvertently created a monster, we see a real change in him. The effects of New York became the trigger that lead him down this path, taking risks to find something that would solve that problem for good and stop the threats before they happen. But of course when this goes wrong, this has a huge effect on Stark, to the point where he becomes willing to turn his back on the Avengers or at least see them regulated by another body.
Another interesting thing picked up on this rewatch is the acknowledgment that things beyond this world are the real “endgame”. Stark even mentions this at one point (“that up there, that’s the endgame”) which is a great bit of foreshadowing for what’s to come. Age of Ultron in itself may not be the best film but what happens after this is incredibly important so it gets a bit of extra merit when looking at it retrospectively.
The action is as solid as you would expect, however it does become a little cluttered and messy towards the end when the robot army comes into play. The opening scene however is great, and it’s hard not to feel nostalgic when the “circle shot” is recreated with the new additions to the Avenger family towards the end as well.
As one would expect in a Joss Whedon directed film, there’s plenty of quips and banter between the characters which makes it an enjoyably ride. There’s a couple of plot deviations that slow things down however. The “romance” between Black Widow and Banner feels unearned and clunky and the extended scenes on the farm feel a little laboured. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the film is that Hawkeye is the standout. Yes, I did say Hawkeye! Despite the scenes on the farm feeling prolonged, it is nice to get some development to this character and he has a couple of really awesome moments throughout the film.
As a film, Age of Ultron is a little all over the place, but as part of the overall “Avengers” narrative, it has importance, but we’ll cover this when we get to Civil War…
As I am planning to rewatch all of the MCU films, I will rank the films as I go and update on each review.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – ★★★★★
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – ★★★★★
- The Avengers (2012) – ★★★★½
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – ★★★★
- Iron Man (2008) – ★★★★
- Thor (2011) – ★★★★
- Avengers: Age of Ultron – ★★★½
- Iron Man 3 (2013) – ★★★
- Thor: The Dark World (2013) – ★★½
- Iron Man 2 (2010) – ★★½
- The Incredible Hulk (2008) – ★★