8.5/10 (minor spoilers ahead, no plot details)
The first Avengers was good, it was a whole lot of fun, but as someone attracted to the gritty realism of comic book adaptations (thank you Christopher Nolan) it was always a little too polished, too nice for my liking. Hey, it’s not too much to ask for a realistic movie about super-powered humans and aliens is it? Apparently, according to Joss Whedon, it’s not.
Age of Ultron takes us straight back into the Avengers world where it’s as if the group had never been apart. This time, a new threat of their own making in the form of James Spader’s Ultron emerges bent on destroying the entire planet and, the Avengers for good measure. Can everyone’s favourite super heroes stop the terminator in time for Captain America: Civil War?
It’s an impressively performed movie in truth; a film so stuffed to the brim with different characters, all of which have markedly different personalities, might lose glimpses of individuality. For the most part every character is distinguishable, hilarious and importantly, entertaining. Downey Jnr gives his all to Tony Stark, Chris Evans leads the team with resolute righteousness, Thor is still the second best alien behind ET, Spader brings the mechanical Ultron to life in a surprisingly innovative way, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are welcome newcomers into the MCU and in the biggest shock of all, Hawkeye really comes into his own, stealing the show with Jeremy Renner’s brilliant self aware ridiculousness and crucially, vulnerability.
Vulnerability drives this film, or more aptly, humanity. Olsen’s Scarlet Witch’s ability to play around with her victims’ heads plunges Age of Ultron into Marvel’s darkest film yet, with some shockingly somber shots and revelations playing out over the course of the journey. Never have these heroes looked so human, a brilliant decision on behalf of Joss Whedon. For once in a superhero movie, even though everyone knows the Avengers will win, there is a genuine uncertainty to the cost of that victory as the heroes quickly learn they are not invincible, nor entirely heroic at all.
Ultron is Marvel’s best villain. He’s completely different to anything you might expect. One minute terrifying, a mighty visual metal presence on screen, the next a naive child, then suddenly a genuinely sympathetic character. Hilarious, angry and ambiguous, Ultron too is thoroughly human; not invincible and actually, not entirely evil. There are complex themes at play with little room for black and whites. Age of Ultron is one big grey area; you’ll still have the fist pumping support for the Avengers, but not the assured innocence you’d come to expect from them.
There is a lot going on, in terms of actual action and themes and consequently, characters in parts do suffer. As said, Downey Jnr gives it his all but we never have time to see the very best of Iron Man, nor the very best of Thor, nor the very best of Captain America. We do however see the very best of the villain, the very best of Hawkeye and yes, the very best of Vision, brought to life in fantastic british wit by Paul Bettany. JARVIS has never looked so fucking cool. As for that Hulk/Black Widow romance… yeah, whatever. People liked the Hulk enough, we didn’t need another reason to feel sorry for Banner.
The climax, as many have called it, is indeed ‘biblical.’ The stakes are huge, as are the special effects and action sequences. A glorious shot with all the Avengers battling side by side, above and below, in-between and around each other is the cherry on a mostly satisfying addition to the MCU. This is the first Avengers’ grown up brother and the world for the team sure as hell is changing around them.
Bring on Civil War.
Thrilling, poignant and morally ambitious, Age of Ultron might not show the best of our favourite characters, but it is a project much bigger than any one of them… and much more important. Marvel’s Age of Awesomeness.