Lawrence of Arabia may have had a cast of thousands, but The Avengers: Age of Ultron makes sure each one has a line. Despite the unwieldy cast, Age of Ultron never feels weighed down, even if the proceedings aren’t as fun and breezy this time around. Part of that is due to the large cast, and part is due to the titular villain who is nowhere near as fun to hate as Loki.
Age of Ultron hits the ground running on both giant green feet. The gang is all here, and they’re working in tandem to great success. The poor generic henchmen never saw Thor’s hammer coming. Or Iron Man’s blasters. Or Hawkeye’s arrows. Etc. The team is tracking down Loki’s sceptre, but along the way discover two mutants, ahem, excuse me, “the enhanced.” For fear of legal action from Marvel, please disregard that preceding sentence. The two X-Men, ah shoot, I did it again. I mean, the two “Hydra experiments” are Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, played by Aaron Taylor- Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, respectively.
We saw the Fox studio version of Quicksilver in last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. In that movie he was portrayed by Evan Peters and only had a couple scenes and managed to be a standout in each of those scenes. Age of Ultron has him for the whole dang movie and his power of super speed never reaches the enjoyability it did in Days of Future Past. It’s unfortunate, because we’ve seen what Quicksilver can do. Scarlet Witch, on the other hand, has mind-altering abilities and some kind of telekinetic red magic that she throws around. Both Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch appear throughout the movie, but are never explored in depth, as in a movie with so many characters it’s nearly impossible to do so.
Then there’s the big baddie himself, Ultron. Created after Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) decides that creating artificial intelligence would be a good way of protecting the planet, the plan backfires. The A.I. Ultron is not a nice guy. Programmed to keep peace on earth, Ultron decides the only way to do so is to kill every human. If all the people are dead, they can’t fight, and peace is achieved. Although his goals seem to waver and most of the time he simply comes off as unhinged. James Spader does great voice work as Ultron, but his menace never quite seems insurmountable to the Avengers.
The little I’ve read of articial intelligence gaining consciousness, it seems what A.I. would be capable of unleashing is far scarier and more far-reaching than what occurs in this movie. Perhaps Ultron would be too powerful in this manner, but a balance could be struck, and Age of Ultron errs on the side of keeping Ultron underpowered. And unfortunately, the bar for formidable villains has forever been set by Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Watching Hiddleston do his thing, one can’t help but secretly be hoping Loki wins. Ultron mostly comes off as annoying, unless he’s singing Pinocchio’s “I’ve Got No Strings.” Ultron’s rendition never gets old.
What made the first Avengers so enjoyable was the little moments. The small, character building tidbits that added up to a fully fleshed out cast. Those moments thankfully still exist in Age of Ultron. Any big-budget movie can put on a CGI-show and create scenes bursting with special effects and spectacle, and Age of Ultron easily accomplishes this. But its best moments exist between the action showdowns, with the superhero titans interacting in quieter scenes. Whether it’s each titan of ego attempting to lift Thor’s hammer, or chopping wood, the fun is watching the characters getting a chance to breathe.
Even simple throwaway moments or lines shine, as in the beginning when Tony Stark enters the Hydra castle and mutters to himself, “Please let there be a secret door.” And when a secret door opens, he gives a little squeak of joy. It’s an incredibly tiny moment, but it makes the movie that much more enjoyable. At this point, there’s only so many times audiences can watch the group of heroes standing in a circle and dispatching hundreds of baddies coming at them before it becomes stale. But getting to see the cadre interact in funny, interesting, or tense ways? That’s where the real fun is had.
Time in the movie is also devoted to how each of the mighty superheroes isn’t so super. That might seem counterintuitive, but look at a movie like Man of Steel, where Superman is unbreakable in every sense of the word. Age of Ultron avoids this staleness by highlighting the flaws and fears in each character in a number of ways, the strongest one being through the mind manipulating of the Scarlet Witch. This helps motivate each character, helps us too see their humanity, which is all the more important in a movie that deals with artificial intelligence. Any completely logical mind would be able to see how sloppy humans are, and how attractive simply getting rid of their messy, meaty bodies would be. Of course, for the Avengers and every other human on earth, this is not a desirable endgame at all.
Honestly, the highest of praise should be given to Age of Ultron that it never feels too long or collapses under its own weight. But one does wonder how much longer the Marvel Cinematic Universe can sustain itself. Especially after Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, and Thanos join the next Avengers outing, which will be split into two movies. As of Age of Ultron, any moviegoer looking to be completely caught up on the characters and plot leading up to the film will have needed to watch at least eight movies, and that number will only grow.
Not that all those movies are required viewing to understand Age of Ultron, the movie can probably be enjoyed on its own. But to maximize the pleasure mileage, it’s certainly in the viewer’s best interest to have done his or her research. For the average moviegoer, The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be an enjoyable jaunt. For those who love superhero movies, there are sequences that are a veritable wet dream. The film isn’t a perfect high throughout, but it’s more than enough to please any moviegoer.
I give The Avengers: Age of Ultron 4 Pinocchios out of 5
Score: 4 out of 5