Today I watched Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Age of Ultron kicks off with the intrepid team still working together after the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the opening scene they are taking on the most heavily guarded Hydra fortresses they have yet encountered. Inside it hides dark experiments with fragments of alien technology from the New York incident and two successful human enhancement experiments, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. While the Avengers mop up the pathetic enemy mooks, Wanda uses her vague and all encompasing powers to subtly effect everyone’s minds, most notably Tony Stark. Stark was deeply affected by his experiences in New York and his paranoia leads him to open the pandora’s box of the Hydra tech which includes the alien scepter used by Loki in New York. Within this extraterrestrial artifact, Stark finds an amazingly advanced artificial intelligence which he seeks to use to complete his Ultron initiative, a global defense program. Before he can really do much with it, it activates itself and assumes the identity of Ultron, though, like most super AI defence programs, it decides that the best defense from warfare is to destroy humanity, silly robots.
The rest of the plot unfolds in an unfortunately tepid and predictable manner, the writers and director seem afraid of any really heavy drama, despite alluding to it numerous times. This is an easy way out film, to illustrate this I point to the internal conflicts caused by Wanda Maximoff, they only lead to a moment of hesitation before being promptly dropped, and the mind rape virtually forgotten when she makes her inevitable face-turn. Another point of narrative shortcutting is Stark’s whole paranoia angle, the film sets up a point of division with him activating Ultron, but he doesn’t Ultron turns himself on and pretty much alleviates Stark of all blame. Finally there is another new hero introduces, The Vision, who is a literal deus ex machina, an overpowered to the nines post-human mary-sue whose existence makes all of Stark’s work worthwhile anyways.
On the further note of mary-sue characters, the Maximoff twins are a horrifying addition to this franchise, their existence stinks of business executives in direct financial competition with that other marvel movie brand, not of organic storytelling. Really they just exist to facilitate plot elements and to create the illusion of division within The Avengers. The actors who portray them are terrible as well, people get up in arms about too many roles for white actors and the racism of casting white people in parts that should be another ethnicity, equally racist are the bad eastern European accents of Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. They can’t play Eastern European at all, not one bit, and it is horrifyingly distracting every time they are on screen, if the producers were unwilling to cast people with real accents who could actually inhabit the characters, they should not have included them, they are dead weight anyway.
After watching both Batman V Superman, whose action sequences had an epic scope to the superpowers, and Deadpool, which had the impact of gore in it’s fights, the action in Age of Ultron is rather tame and uninteresting. The only sequence which seems to have any real scope to it was the Hulk vs. Iron Man fight when Stark breaks out his Hulbuster armour. Beyond that the action comes off more as a bunch of posing and photo ops than the chaos of combat. There is also this silly thing that Ultron does where he constantly uses an army of weak henchman robots and only uses one of his personal super bodies per fight, despite showing off a multitude of them on multiple occasions, so the film doesn’t even raise the stakes in the obvious ways, again leading to the atmosphere of a photo-op, “here let me send out the weak minions so you can show off.”
While this is hardly a terrible film, the good hardly makes much of an impact. The only drama ends up coming from a romantic subplot between The Hulk and Blakc Widow, the only situation which doesn’t have an easy button. The film focuses on humour and fan service over drama at almost every chance it gets, which means this series is starting to get into that realm of superhero comics that I can’t stand, the one that puts spectacle over engagement and exciting moments over well crafted plot. At least the cast have good comedic timing, but this film presents itself as big and epic. The comedy hampers the melodrama which never comes off as epic but the attempts to be so likewise hinder the humour from really being that charming or heartfelt, problems that will only be enhanced when we see Antman do the comedy schtick so much better. 2/5