Avengers: The Age of Ultron
Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany and James Spader
Dir: Joss Whedon
The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes face off against their own creation, a formidable enemy that seeks to design a perfect world by annihilating humanity. With the help of a pair of enhanced siblings and an artificial life form, the Avengers assemble to bring down the wrath known as Ultron.
We’re reintroduced to the Avengers in the middle of a skirmish with HYDRA, led by Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann). Like a well-oiled machine, the team effortlessly overwhelms their formidable defenses. However, it’s clear their efforts aren’t fully appreciated by all, most especially Stark’s Iron Legion peacekeeping program. Still traumatized by his experiences in The Avengers, Tony has gone out of his way to form a shield across the globe to protect them from any otherworldly invaders. Unfortunately, his paranoia and self-involvement brought forth his most unstable creation yet: an AI named Ultron.
What can be said about Ultron (voiced by James Spader) that isn’t a spoiler? Born from ego, programmed out of fear, there shouldn’t be any surprise between the titular heroes how it hastily manifested into an agent of destruction. For an artificial intelligence, Ultron tends to espouse florid soliloquies about life and the self-destructive tendencies of man. What would typically be considered a slight for such a deadly antagonist is impeccably achieved thanks to the silky smooth smarminess of Spader’s voice. Imagine the greatest intelligence on the planet that knows it’s the greatest intelligence and loves to gloat every 10 seconds. Essentially, Ultron comes off as a giant metal dick… and you love him for it.
Ultron isn’t without his flaws, megalomania and genocidal agenda aside. In typical Whedon fashion, the stark brutality and unfettered killer instinct for a villain of his scale is sacrificed for hubris and humor. One would presume a being singularly focused on remaking the world in its distorted image wouldn’t be so quip-happy. Granted, Ultron is an imperfect machine created thanks to Stark’s genius and ego, a fact he most certainly abhors. As much as he wants to eliminate humanity, the more he acts exactly like them.
One would assume The Twins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) are the weak links of the chain, being the new kids on the block. The pair are more than capable in holding their own in a fight and within the storyline, which seamlessly connects everything to Stark’s checkered past. Products of HYDRA experimentation, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff give the Avengers more trouble than expected thanks to their unique ‘enhanced’ abilities. No doubt this version of Pietro will be tirelessly compared with Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in Days of Future Past, and it will be a fruitless discussion. Memorable as Peters’ performance was, Johnson was able to develop an equally distinct and memorable Quicksilver in what little screen time he had. However, Olsen’s Wanda was the stronger of the two, the driving force in their personal mission of vengeance.
I won’t even write about Vision. I’ll save that glorious tear-filled moment for you to experience on your own. Enjoy this photo instead.
With an even more elaborate cast full of overpowered characters to play with, Whedon somehow managed to find time to give each Avenger a moment in the sun. As much as audiences enjoy the banter between Rogers and Stark, that was subdued in Age of Ultron to strengthen the rapport and background between the lesser developed characters, notably Black Widow and Hawkeye. When Whedon claimed The Empire Strikes Back as inspiration for Age of Ultron, he definitely wasn’t sugarcoating it. Everyone within the team, in some form or fashion, has made a dark turn with little hope to crawl out. Philosophies are clashing, secrets are kept, and loyalties are openly questioned. As tenuous as the alliance felt before, it now hangs on a razor’s edge with all the world hanging in the balance.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, how long it will last is anyone but Kevin Feige’s clue. The MCU has gone through a considerable shift in tone and scale by Age of Ultron’s end, which should provide for some truly epic storylines during Phase 3. The bar has been raised to a whole other level, one which would have been inconceivable only five years ago. With two phases in the record books, Phase 3 will truly be the test for Marvel Studios; storylines will be more interwoven and complex as ever, popular heroes of old will finally have their solo movies. Not to mention more films will be released during this period than in either phase. It truly is a great time to be a geek.
Avengers: Age of Ultron will premiere Stateside on May 1.