Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
★★ / ★★★★
The problem with “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” directed by Joss Whedon, is that it does not attempt to do anything particularly special. It drifts lazily from one action scene to another—sandwiched by so-called character development with lines of dialogue so television-like that at times I wondered if I was watching a first cut of the film rather than a final one—and not one is so well-choreographed that the sequence is etched in our brains well after the movie is over. Clearly, it is a sequel not worthy of the original.
Successfully acquiring Loki’s scepter, risk-taking Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and a more reluctant Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) decide to use the scepter’s gem to complete a defense program called Ultron that can potentially protect the entire planet from otherworldly invaders. But the unknown technology proves highly dangerous when Ultron (voiced by James Spader) becomes sentient. Its goal: To achieve world peace by destroying mankind.
Ultron is a most underwhelming villain. Although the visual effects that make the artificial intelligence appear sinister are quite a marvel, there is nothing complex about the antagonist aside from the contradiction of his endgame. As a sentient machine, he does not accomplish anything big or terrifying either; it all feels small in scope—too small for the bar that the predecessor had set up. For instance, in the beginning there is talk about the rogue AI possibly being capable of activating nuclear weapons on a whim and yet by the third act our heroes only deal with one bomb. It might have worked if the final battle commanded so much suspense and tension, we forget that Ultron has the capacity to cause more destruction. Instead, not once are the Avengers thrusted into any real, convincing danger. Thus, Ultron comes across as a forgettable villain-of-the-week.
The romantic connection between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk is a good idea but it is not executed in such a way that we want to invest deeply in what they share. These are two of the more interesting characters in the group—the former is in control but heavily scarred by her past and the latter finds himself fighting an every day fear of being out of control—but their exchanges are reduced to soppy, googly-eyed bore. Instead of communicating true humanity underneath their roles as mankind’s protectors, the dialogue sounds very scripted, lines that must be uttered for the camera.
However, the film is not without a sense humor which almost always works, whether it be our superheroes just hanging out in Stark’s multimillion-dollar loft or out there in the field where things go boom! The wit and the snark unique to each character are exercised with confidence. What I will remember from the movie are not the scenes where the Avengers engage in physical battle but the battle of words and looks they give one another once in a while because each of them, deep down, is convinced that he is that special flavor in the group. The script has a way of consistently making self-importance charming—which is difficult to do.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a disappointment as an action film. Specifically, it fails to command imaginative or creative sequences that force us to undergo a rollercoaster of emotions. The emotions that we do experience are superficial, forgotten after two or three scenes. Lastly, perhaps the picture does not engage thoroughly because not one character comes across as expendable. Future writers and filmmakers of the franchise ought to keep in mind that there is excitement in danger while there is passivity in safety. It neglects to play with our expectations so the final product is not by any means compelling.