Review for Avengers: Age of Ultron
The first time around, this is where I quit on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I hadn’t watched them all at the time, but by far, most of the films that had come before this one, while adding pieces to the overall story, stood alone enough to be enjoyed in their own right. And while I did watch a few films after this in the continuity, like Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s with Age of Ultron that I felt that the reliance on interconnectivity and the ongoing narrative meant that the films wouldn’t stand alone any more. At the very least, I felt that each movie should start with a “Previously in the MCU” recap to get audiences caught up. Anyway, now that I’ve gone all-in on this cinematic franchise, I can finally sit down and watch Avengers: Age of Ultron without any annoying gaps in my appreciation.
The Avengers are on a mission to clean up the remnants of Hydra, while Thor sees an opportunity to recover Loki’s sceptre, following the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Hydra base in Sokovia is the most heavily guarded however, and it’s where Hydra do their most advanced research, including the ‘enhanced’ Maximoff twins, Wanda and Pietro. Pietro is lightning fast, and Wanda has telepathic and telekinetic powers, and they give the Avengers a hard time when they assault the base and retrieve the sceptre.
It’s with the after-effects of Wanda’s manipulations that Tony Stark seizes an opportunity with the sceptre, or rather the glowing stone at the heart of the artefact. It seems alive, aware, an AI far beyond his own intelligent computer, J.A.R.V.I.S. And that is just the ticket for his Ultron program, an intelligent shield to bring peace to the world, and protect it from enemies from without. And as usually happens in these cases, Stark designed Ultron without an off-switch.
Avengers: Age of Ultron gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, with the choice between DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround English, DTS 5.1 Surround Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Hindi, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English Audio Descriptive, with subtitles in English, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish and Portuguese. There’s nothing to really criticise about an impeccable transfer of a modern era blockbuster movie. The image is clear and sharp, and the subdued palette comes across with consistency. Detail levels are excellent, and there are no visible signs of compression. The audio is immersive and impactful when the story demands. The only nit to pick is with the overabundance of CGI, and Age of Ultron doesn’t even ease you into it, beginning with an action sequence that looks more cartoon than live action.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case and the disc autoplays with a trailer for Ant-Man, before loading up an animated menu. On the disc you’ll find the following extras.
From the Inside Out – Making of Avengers: Age of Ultron (20:54)
The Infinite Six (7:28)
Global Adventure (3:01)
Deleted & Extended Scenes x4 with optional director’s commentary (12:04)
Gag Reel (3:37)
Audio Commentary with Director Joss Whedon
I think The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3 spoiled me when it comes to expectations for this franchise, as Avengers: Age of Ultron is very much back in the comic book movie vernacular. This doesn’t offer a new twist into another genre to make things interesting. It’s also hardly the most original of stories, and could easily have been called Age of Skynet instead. It’s also not the smartest of films, with a couple of plot points that don’t stand up to any serious scrutiny. It’s a dispiriting reminder that sometimes a comic book movie is just that, a comic book movie.
Where Age of Ultron does excel is in how it handles its characters, although that is down to some sterling character development thanks to the earlier films in the franchise. In that respect, I may have made the right choice in shunning the MCU at this point, when I didn’t have time to invest in watching all of the films. Things really do come together well, especially when it comes to the dynamic between the main members of the Avengers team. Ultron makes for a charismatic villain as well, although for an AI running out of control, his personality is rather human.
It’s through the villains, or rather the henchmen, the Maximoff twins, that the character conflict is intensified. Wanda Maximoff has mental abilities, and the hallucinations she invokes in her targets trigger their innate fears. Tony Stark has been on a mission of redemption since the first Iron Man, and made to face his mortality at the end of Avengers Assemble. Here he is faced with a legacy where everyone else is dead, and him responsible, which intensifies his desire to create Ultron as a shield against all that. Captain America has been on a journey in the opposite direction, nostalgic for simpler times, and losing trust in authorities. Having been failed by SHIELD, he sees the Avengers team as something to trust, and that trust is eroded when Stark and Banner join forces to create Ultron without consulting the rest of the team.
At the same time, Banner and Natasha Romanoff find common cause. They already have a connection, with The Black Widow able to tame the beast within the Hulk, allowing him to be a member of the team. But Wanda’s powers lead the Hulk to a rampage, and once again, Banner faces the guilt at being unable to control the monster, and is compelled to flee once more. Meanwhile Romanoff is reminded of her own training as an assassin, and realises that she is as much monster as the Hulk, despite her redemptive work for SHIELD. Hawkeye, who in previous outings has been little more than the Archer, gets a fair amount of development in this film, and we learn more of his humanity. It’s Thor who is hard done by with this film’s story, even though he has his own demons to face following Wanda’s vision. The problem is that most of this story takes place off screen, and whatever he goes through is presented as a fait accompli.
At one point, I thought that Age of Ultron was going the Iron Man 3 route, with Ultron’s initial gambit effectively defeating the Avengers, stripping them of their support, and leaving them out in the wild, looking for a place to hide and lick their wounds, with no idea what to do next. But instead of ingenuity and planning, any kind of thinking outside of the box, Nick Fury shows up with a couple of script pages of exposition, and a road map to the film’s climax. It’s a cool moment comic book wise, but a bit of get out of jail free card when it comes to the film’s story.
Avengers: Age of Ultron works because of the characters, and because of the larger MCU, but when it comes to the story, I actually found it a little disappointing and rather generic. There are just a few too many absurdities that knock me out of the experience, and quite frankly there are a few too many existing movies with computers trying to start nuclear Armageddon for there to be room for yet another one. Age of WOPR?