Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The Marvel superhero films seem to be almost all there is in theaters over the summer these days.  Where once DC reigned supreme (and is trying to, again, with Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad), Marvel has been churning out movies about every character it could since the first X-Men movie turned out to be surprisingly palatable by those of us who don't typically read comic books.

Since then the films have been up and down affairs. They have managed to produce two of my favorite films in recent years, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  The latter came out just prior to this, introducing the plot of Hydra (the secret organization from the original Captain America film) infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D.  It turned out to be a throwback to classic 1970s action films rather than a straight CGI fest.

Unfortunately, the Hydra problem gets a quick wrap-up in Avengers: Age of Ultron, with the titular band of superheroes dispatching some of the last remaining holdouts at a secret Eastern European research facility early on the movie.  It is at this facility that Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) have been groomed by Hydra, their hatred for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) fueled by the fact it was his armaments that were used during a civil war in their country that resulted in them becoming orphans.  The twins allow the Avengers to escape, but not before Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) discover that the stone from Loki's scepter is an advanced form of artificial intelligence.

Being the scientists (and egotists) they are, they keep this from the rest of the Avengers and begin experimenting to see if they can create true artificial intelligence themselves, testing it on Stark's army of drones.  All tests seem to fail, but one suddenly succeeds while Stark and the others are involved in a victory party.  The intelligence, Ultron (James Spader), quickly subdues Stark's on AI, JARVIS, and gains control over the drones for its own purposes: destroying the Avengers, whom it sees as the greatest threat to peace in the world.

Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch join with Ultron as willing accomplices, helping to steal what is needed so that Ultron may create a synthetic human body and gain true life.  Unbeknownst to them, Ultron's ultimate goal is not just to wipe out the Avengers, but to also reset Earth with a mass extinction event.  Once again the Avengers are tasked with saving the world.

Although there is a bit more learned about Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and there is a subplot about a budding romance between Banner and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), this could largely be Iron Man 4, as the events are by and large created by Tony Stark, exacerbated by him and, ultimately, he works them out with a little aid from Captain America (Chris Evans).  Gone is the interesting dialogue between Steve Rogers and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and both spend most of the time being background characters.

Ultron itself is not that interesting of a villain.  Too many wisecracks that fall short and a plot ripped from a superior film, The Forbin Project, even if Ultron is a bit more mobile than Colossus.  Partially this is because, despite Ultron's objections, his personality is heavily influenced by Stark's, but it still doesn't make for much of interest.

Also, we're back to tons of cartoonish CGI.  It's especially glaring since this came out at the same time as Mad Max: Fury Road, which made a point of showing how great an action film could be when CGI was used sparingly.

Even though I was not a big fan of the first Avengers movie, Age of Ultron is a huge letdown, especially since some of the individual Marvel franchises still tend to be better than getting the gang together.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Time: 141 minutes
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader
Director: Joss Whedon

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