Age of Ultron is a flamboyant, loud, colourful celebration of its genre and, it’s exactly what you expect. It starts off with the Avengers storming a castle in the Eastern European country of Sokovia to capture Baron Strucker who as we know has Loki’s sceptre which contains one of the Infinity Stones that were formally introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy last year. As far as movies are concerned we’re starting to get into Deep Continuity. This is not a new thing to comic book fans but something on this scale hasn’t been done before in films before. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s focus on this one movie for the time being although, that’s probably going to get harder and harder as we get into Phase 3.
Tony Stark has always had issues with responsibility. He’s always felt a little short of the ideal he’s placed for himself. That coupled with his ego makes him believe the fate of the world rests on his shoulders alone. He doesn’t see the Avengers as a single team. He sees Iron Man and the Avengers with Iron Man being the last line of defence. Just at that moment he sees an opportunity – a magic pill that can keep the world safe. That it’s a technological solution only makes it more attractive. What’s the solution? Ultron.
Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (after some persuasion) re-purpose an artificial intelligence program into a global peace keeping system called Ultron. Ultron becomes self aware. Unlike what you’d expect from Joss Whedon and exactly like what you’d expect from a story with a self aware AI, Ultron turns against his creators and vows to destroy humanity. Because you see, to save the world you must first kill all humans.
The logic must be flawless. After all, Skynet, VICKI and countless other AIs came to the same conclusion. You know how these things are. They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity or fear or remorse. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. Well at least Ultron feels fear and, some measure of pity. He also benefits from having Joss Whedon as his speechwriter. That alone makes him a
thousand hundred times more interesting than the other guys.
So, Ultron steals the sceptre and – you know, I think you should just watch the film. It’s a fun ride from beginning to end. Just try to see it in 2D if possible. The 3D is unnecessary and doesn’t add to the experience. If anything with battles that take place in limited light the 3D just makes it harder to see. More than the spectacle, the action or the continuity nods to other films watch it for the character moments.
Joss Whedon is one of the very few directors out there who can make a giant spectacle driven action film where it’s the characters that steal the show. When Iron Man and the Hulk have brawl in the middle of a city, it’s not just there to give us a Hulkbuster vs. the Hulk dream showdown. It’s a milestone in Bruce Banner’s character arc. Whoever’s making the next Transformers film should probably take notes.
It is kind of funny how they make a point of showing the civilian evacuating. When Iron Man drops the Hulk into a building under construction, we see something like “No Civilians in the Building” displayed in bright red letters on Iron Man’s HUD. It’s almost as if they were scared of the backlash Man of Steel got. But to me, Man of Steel was a lot more honest with its violence. Age of Ultron and other films like it try to have it both ways – big giant battle sequences that make us go ooh and aah with none of the casualties that would spoil the fun. And that’s okay but, it’s not bad to have the other ones that let us watch these fights from the other side.
So, is it better than all the previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Yes, I think so but it couldn’t have achieved that without the groundwork they laid.
Does anyone die in this film? Yes, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe lost the ability to milk death for drama a long time ago. I don’t buy it. No one stays dead in comics except Uncle Ben, and now that applies to the MCU too.
Is it really important to the larger myth arc with Thanos? Well, to be honest Age of Ultron feels like a Monster of the Week episode for the main plot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s unfolding through the Avengers films. Its impact on what’s to come is hard to say at this point but it seems very limited. That’s a shame because it makes this movie seem more like a stopover on the way to Infinity War. But, it’s a good stopover so no harm done.