I love Marvel movies. While I’ve never been a big reader of comic books—so much continuity and interconnecting plotlines over years and years is a little daunting—it’s not hard to convince me to see a superhero movie. This week, let’s talk Avengers: Age of Ultron
Coming off of the other movies in the Marvel cinematic universe, Age of Ultron begins with the Avengers assaulting a Hydra base. Their target? Loki’s scepter. Successful in their mission, the group returns to the Avengers HQ, where Tony Stark (Ironman played by Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (The Hulk played by Mark Ruffalo) begin their study of the weapon before Thor (Chris Hemsworth) can return it to Asgard. They discover that there seems to be a consciousness of sorts within the scepter. Going off on a vision given to him by the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff played by Elizabeth Olsen) back at the Hydra base where earth is invaded and the other Avengers are dead, Stark convinces Banner to help him configure the consciousness into a robotic body. This being will then multiply itself to create a “robotic shield” against alien invaders, leaving humans as the greatest threat to the planet. Banner eventually agrees and he, Stark, and the program J.A.R.V.I.S, get to work.
Things seem unsuccessful until the end of a party the Avengers hold to celebrate their victory. Ultron is born, he’s multiplying, and his idea of protecting earth involves nothing but pure destruction.
Visually beautiful and action-packed, Age of Ultron is a lot of fun. For me, a lot of charm in the Marvel movies comes from the comedy. Between moral dilemmas and amazing action sequences, this movie still knows how to make you laugh in ways that make all its characters seem very human.
There are a few points I would really like to discuss. From here come spoilers. You’ve been warned.
I’ll get the first issue out of the way. There’s been a bit of flak for this movie regarding the portrayal of a romance between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson). The big problem with this romance for me—besides the fact that I assumed she and Hawkeye (Clint Barton played by Jeremy Renner) totally had a thing going—was that it came out of nowhere. Hulk hasn’t had any stand-alone movie, Natasha doesn’t mention him once in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the whole thing feels rushed. It’s almost like there’s a movie missing where they decided they might’ve had feelings for each other.
If I would have to pick the one thing that kind of bothered me about Age of Ultron, I would have to say the sheer amount of characters they were bringing in. We have Pietro and Wanda Maxixoff (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch), who were introduced in the stinger of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, properly shown in this movie. Due to Fox owning the rights to X-Men, they have a bit of a different backstory, being enhanced humans made by Hydra rather than being mutants. They start the movie allied with Hydra, and then Ultron, only to defect to the Avengers when they realize that Ultron’s idea of protecting humanity involves destroying it.
Also introduced is The Vision. Made from the synthetic android body Ultron was crafting for himself and combined with J.A.R.V.I.S and the Infinity Stone (specifically the Mind Stone) set in Loki’s scepter, The Vision serves as a foil to Ultron. Unlike Ultron, he believes in protecting human life, and is even worthy of lifting Thor’s Hammer.
The most you can say about these characters is that they’re kind of cool.
Age of Ultron brought in a lot of characters, from the new team members to the squeezed in cameos. It can get a little overwhelming at times, and makes it hard to decide whom to root for. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are familiar to me because I used to watch X-men cartoons when I was a kid, but The Vision is a character I’d never even heard of. Truthfully, being crammed in such a massive cast really limited my ability to really like them. I thought The Vision was cool, and while I was sad when Pietro died, I should really have been bawling for
Wanda’s loss. The massive cast of characters to care about made it hard to care for the Avengers themselves. I feel the studio is relying a lot of appeasing people who’ve read the comics, and are assuming that the audience knows what’s going on at all times because they’ve got great trivia knowledge.
Now, before I tell you what I think was the best part of the movie, I want to point out what bothered me the most. At the end of the movie, four new members are inducted into the Avengers: War Machine, The Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon. The Falcon, Sam Wilson (played by Anthony Mackie), was one of the major characters in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and one of my favorites. He makes a guest appearance at the party in Avenger HQ near the beginning of the movie, and then appears in the one scene at the end. This bothers me because unlike War Machine—also present at the party—he did not appear in the climax. Basically, I wanted to see Falcon fighting alongside the Avengers and I was disappointed that he wasn’t.
But if you want to ask me what the best part of Age of Ultron was I would have to say…Ultron.
Specifically, James Spader’s performance.
This movie was part of our Mother’s Day jaunt, and when Ultron made his first extremely creepy appearance in the broken body of a Stark robot, my mom leaned over and whispered, “They sure knew who to pick to give long speeches.”
Now, I’m mostly familiar with James Spader through Boston Legal and a few episodes of The Blacklist. The thing I love about this guy is his voice. The first time you hear him speak, his mild voice catches you off-guard. You sit there thinking, That’s it? That’s the voice the villain has? Yet as you keep listening, his inflections and attitude come through and you start to feel uneasy. The longer you listen, the more you realize that James Spader is not a man to be fucked with.
And it works great for Ultron. Between Spader’s voice and the wonderful, emotive—yes, Ultron’s robotic body emotes to near-human levels while still managing to seem strange—character design, Ultron comes off as humorous and straight-forward in his thinking, but complex and frightening at the same time. He makes a great villain and is wholly entertaining and intimidating.
If you haven’t seen it already, I’d recommend checking out Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s a fun jaunt, despite its flaws, and offers a lot of hints at what’s to come in the next installments of Marvel’s cinematic universe.