My wife and I took in some superhero action as Avengers: Age of Ultron kicks off another summer movie season. The film under Joss Whedon’s direction showcased a lot of style and substance, although it lacks in some areas. Some of the diluted elements were easy to ignore, while others were kind of a head-scratcher.
Things start off with an absolute bang as the team reassembles, and we see that their chemistry has evolved past the getting to know you phase into an efficient fighting force. It was fun to see Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest of the gang do their thing as Whedon injected that pronounced Marvel humor into the fold.
The film’s villain, Ultron, appears by Tony Stark’s design, but the programmed intentions of the peacekeeping android’s A.I. concludes that he needs to eliminate them to help humans. In the comic books and animated shows, Ultron has this menacing “DESTROY, DESTROY” presence where he understands humanity and can communicate on that level but chooses to operate closer to his robotic being.
In the film, the very talented James Spader brought life and a new spin to Ultron that was well realized and brought real threatening stakes to the table. The sinister android made deals with people, complained about things not going his way, and even told a joke or two.
This threw me off at first because it wasn’t what I was expecting, and therefore I didn’t like it. After thinking about it some more, I really appreciate this interpretation. Stark wanted Ultron to eventually replace the Avengers, so his programming can’t be the run of the mill A.I. It needs to have a human essence with advanced placement, understanding of what makes us tick.
Having that nonchalant attitude of “Dude, I’m just trying to build myself the perfect body so I can destroy you all” added depth to the character that otherwise would have fallen by the wayside like many of Marvel’s rogue’s gallery. Ultron was a reflection of Tony Stark’s hubris and, in turn, an evil doppelganger.
Jeremy Renner’s expanded role as Hawkeye came off very well and was a welcome addition since he was the only Avenger we knew very little about. In many ways, he was the team’s beacon of humanity since he has no powers, and seeing him with his wife and children serves as a heroic reminder of what the likes of Hulk and Thor are fighting for.
Also, kudos to Don Cheadle as War Machine, who was given some screen time that was too short but sweet.
My biggest criticism lies in the first half of the film. Everything came together too quickly, which didn’t leave enough time for anything to resonate with the audience. This also rings true for Scarlett Witch and Quick Silver, who didn’t earn their keep until the climactic battle with Ultron in Sokovia.
Things returned to a more normal cadence because the Hulkbuster fight was epic in every way. I was worried we had already seen the best parts of the city smashing brawl in the trailers. Nope, it just got better and better with a collapsing conclusion that left my mouth wide open.
To answer the one million dollar question, no, Age of Ultron doesn’t surpass the original. It would have been an almost impossible task to do so. Seeing the Avengers assembled on screen for the first time was a magical experience that seemed too good to be true and will never be duplicated. The movie was an 8, and we expected a 10. This particular 8 was really good, but still, I didn’t walk out of the theater in a euphoric state as I did with the first Avengers.