Avengers: The Age of Ultron continues the amazing roll of the Marvel Universe films, which have made more money than I can count. This one is written and directed by Joss Whedon, and it’s an agreeable comic book film, if not the best of the series, and far below the original Avengers in quality.
It does have the advantage of not having to be any kind of origin film. The Avengers have their own building, in the East 40s in New York if I’m a judge of New York iconography (presumably any questions about where they got the money can be answered: Tony Stark). The six members: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are getting along just fine, although Stark, Iron Man’s alter-ego, is still worried about all those aliens that Loki let onto Earth in the last movie. He wants to end the need for superheros by creating an artificial intelligence that will stand guard over such things.
But, as we learn in all A.I. films, right up to and including the recent Ex Machina, this never goes well. Stark has created Ultron (voiced with creepy glee by James Spader), but he interprets his mission: “Peace in our time” as getting rid of not only The Avengers but all humanity. He does have a point–no humans, no war. Everybody gets mad at Stark for playing God. By the way, hadn’t Tony Stark ever heard of Neville Chamberlain?
So Ultron wreaks havoc, eventually lifting an Eastern European city into the sky, but before that the Avengers and their ancillary members circle the globe trying to stop him, with big set pieces at the appropriate intervals. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but I couldn’t help thinking I’ve seen it all before.
Into the mix are thrown two new characters: Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who were married in Godzilla) are twins with strange powers–he can run really fast (he’s the Marvel version of The Flash) and she can fuck with your head and has telekinesis. In the comics, they are called Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, also those names aren’t used here. In the Marvel books, they are the children of Magneto, and are mutants, and in fact Quicksilver was seen in the last X-Men film, so for comic book geeks this is all blasphemy (and Hawkeye is a dissolute bachelor, not a family man). But I digress.
As the action continues, we get a few subplots, such as Johansson and Ruffalo forming a relationship (she’s the only one that seem to get him to go from Hulk to human) and there’s a lot of talk about magic stones that can destroy the universe (which will probably tie in to the crossover with Guardians of the Galaxy). But there just isn’t a spark that the first one had. It’s a film that exists only to make money, and that seems to be all that anyone in it is interested doing.
What will stick with me about this film is Spader’s great dialogue and delivery, and the creation of the Vision, played by Paul Bettany, who will also be around for the next film. In the comics, he and Scarlet Witch had a thing going, but in the movies it’s all topsy-turvy.
My grade for Avengers: The Age of Ultron: B.