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TAC Reviews...Avengers: Age of Ultron

 

Released in 2015 this film continues the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Once again uniting the characters from the Iron Man trilogy, the two Thor films, and of course the two Captain America films. This sequel sees The Avengers fighting to recover Loki’s sceptre (glimpsed again in the post-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Solider). The only main character of the Avenger’s line up who has not had their own film in the interim between Avengers Assemble and Age of Ultron is Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk, although Mark Ruffalo returns to reprise the role he made his own in the first Avengers film.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron Poster

 

There are a number of questions hanging over the opening few minutes of the film and things that had been shown in the trailer, we see Thor present, why is he back from Asgard? Did he just return to Earth after the events of Thor: The Dark World and if so was that to find the sceptre or reunite with Jane?? In the climax of Captain America: The Winter Solider we saw his trademark shield being knocked into the river and yet in this film he has it again, is it the same shield?? If it is then how did he find it again?? Did Shield make him a new one?? These questions were on the tip of my tongue when I sat down to watch the hugely anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron but they disappeared to the back of my mind pretty quickly…

 

The film starts with an action scene in which The Avengers are closing in on a Hydra facility where Loki’s sceptre is being used to create Enhanced humans. Two of which go up against the Avengers, The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who has telekinesis and mind manipulation powers and her twin brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who can move at superhuman speed. Tony Stark breaches the facility first and whilst exploring (out of his Iron Man suit for some reason) Scarlet Witch reveals to him his ultimate fear in which we see the rest of the Avengers dead because he did not do enough to save them.

 

After recovering the sceptre the Avengers realise that their work is finally done, Thor can return the sceptre to Asgard and Hydra seems to finally be no more. Stark convinces Thor to let him examine the sceptre for a few days believing it contains an advanced computer programme before Thor returns to Asgard, who allows him to do so, and whilst working with Dr Banner the two start to develop a brain child of Stark’s namely: Ultron an AI that would be capable of defending Earth in the event of another large scale attack like the one seen in New York that the Avengers barely survived.

 

During their celebration party, the highlight of which is the other Avengers attempt to lift Thor’s hammer but are unable to (apart from Steve who does make it more slightly) Jarvis (Stark’s first AI) manages to create a link to the Ultron programme using the sceptre as a template. This unleashes Ultron, who attacks Jarvis, and downloads himself into a number of damaged Iron Man type suits and reveals himself to the Avengers.

 

He wants to protect the world but sees the Avengers as the main obstacle to do that so wants their extinction…the rest of the film follows the efforts of the Avengers to stop this rogue AI whilst struggling to deal with the worst fears that the Scarlet Witch has unleashed in all of them and they even start to turn on one another as they disagree on how to ultimately defeat Ultron.

 

The hype surrounding the first film was HUGE, honestly I don’t really know of any film that was being anticipated quite as much as The Avengers Assemble and thankfully it did live up to the expectations. I could only think of a couple of things that I did not like about it which was pretty impressive, and whilst my criticisms of Age of Ultron are also relatively small compared to everything the film does right they were quite significant and worth talking about.

 

Let’s talk about everything the film does right, and believe me there is plenty.

 

The cast are all superb and after playing their respective characters in standalone stories they are all able to slip easily into the characters they obviously know well. I think that Thor is becoming my favourite character because he is effortlessly cool and has the opportunity to sit around having a beer with the other Avengers. The worried look he gives when his hammer moves as Steve tries to pick it up is absolutely priceless, his delivery of the tongue-in-cheek one liners suit how his character has evolved since the first Thor film. Plus he is a badass and is phenomenally strong.

 

The cameos of other cast members that have been in previous films are dropped in throughout the film and at the Avengers party we see Steve talking to Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Stark’s friend James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) is suitably frustrated by the fact that his “War Machine Stories” don’t carry much weight when he is telling them to the Avengers as they do when he is telling them to random people. Thor also goes to see Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) at one point because he needs to venture back into the nightmare the Scarlet Witch showed him to uncover a hidden message contained within. This really does cement this film as part of the universe with these other characters going about their own lives after we’ve seen them in various other films. Although, this does lead to a couple of my issues but we will get on to that in a minute.

 

James Spader is also superb as the voice of Ultron, his delivery of his lines is draped with menace and he is a very sinister bad guy. There is a lot that he does really well, the character of a machine that is seeking to bring order to a world and possesses a warped version of Tony Stark’s personality is really good. The intention behind Ultron is good, but as they say “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”

 

The actions sequences are all very well choreographed and done extremely well. The battle between Veronica and the Hulk is one of the best in any action film, and we get to see what happens when The Avengers go up against regular soldiers of Hydra. There is also a good amount of characterisation with Banner and Black Widow as the two of them move closer together and the potential of a relationship between the two is dangled before us and the audience will find themselves rooting for the two of them. The Hulk has an attachment to her too which indicates that it is possible for the Hulk to feel what Banner feels and that may even work the other way round, this is an interesting idea and as I said before I like the idea of warring sides to an individual’s psyche.

 

So…the action is good, the cast are excellent and the special effects are top notch, how can a film that has got so much going for it possibly mess it up??

 

Here’s how…first off Ultron is an artificial intelligence that is tapped into the internet, so surely he should be effectively omnipresent, if he is inside the internet then he can bring chaos to the world without even trying. Scramble plane’s radars, turn off air traffic control, hold the world hostage, bring down the economy, any of these things Ultron could do but he doesn’t. Why?? Why isn’t he tapped into every security camera on Earth, he could shut the Avengers down without even trying but again he doesn’t which doesn’t really make much sense. Now whilst I love James Spader doing his voice, ultimately it turns out that all Ultron really wants to do is destroy the world…big shock…the villain want to destroy the world. The AI in I, Robot was better because it wanted to ensure the survival of the human race by slavery and conquering humanity so they couldn’t fight and kill one another – basically saving humans from themselves, Ultron just wants to kill all humans and wipe the Earth clean. His personality is also a great highlight but in the final battle some of his dialogue doesn’t fit because his diabolical scheme is unravelling before him and he doesn’t really seem to be too bothered about it.

 

Help me out with this particular question: In the opening sequence why does Stark get out of his armour??

 

I mean he has a fucking suit of armour and yet he takes it off so he can have a wander around an enemy facility with no other form of protecting himself. It seems a bit stupid as perhaps the Scarlet Witch wouldn’t have been able to get as close to him or affect him if he had been wearing his trademark Iron Man suit. If my power-armour wasn’t still in the repair shop (fixed in three googlepleximuns or less my arse) I would wear it when infiltrating a hostile enemy stronghold.

 

Remember that I mentioned the supporting characters seen from other films??

 

We see James Rhodes and Sam Wilson at the party and whilst War Machine reappears in the film’s climax, Falcon does’t, again why?? It would have been really cool to see them coming together to join the Avengers but they don’t and there is no real reason for it.

 

Plus there needs to be a special mention of Andy Serkis, you know the actor film makers call when they need flawless voice-casting and motion capture. He portrayed Gollum and Sméagol in Lord of the Rings, Caeser in the newest Planet of the Apes films and King Kong in, well, King Kong. So you would think that his role in the proceedings here is going to be very significant, but he pretty much cameos, he is in the film for maybe five minutes. He steals his main scene which is impressive considering he is standing before a seven-foot robot being voiced by James Spader. I don’t really understand why he was in the film if he was only going to be in it for a few minutes.

 

Now fans of Joss Whedon know that he loves killing off popular characters or tearing two people apart when they are at their most intimate. So when we see one of the Avengers getting a lot more characterisation you will be forgiven for thinking that he might as well have a bull’s-eye painted on his forehead. Yeah, do we really think that he is going to make it to the final credits, admittedly there is a bit of a twist towards the end, but it is still annoying when characters that you have become attached to are mercilessly killed off.

 

The ending does also seem to suggest that Tony Stark may have bowed out of the Avengers, and that might have been due to the fact that Robert Downey Jr.’s involvement in subsequent Marvel films was a little shaky for a while, he has since signed up to star in two more Avengers films, and possibly another Iron Man, so we are going to be seeing him again in this universe. I would just like it if we could veer away from him and maybe focus more on one of the other characters, I mean, how cool would it be for The Avengers to go to Asgard?? Admittedly despite the last sentence I wrote, how funny would it be for Tony Stark to be interacting with the characters we have seen in Thor??

 

This film focuses a lot more on the characters themselves rather than what they are doing and that is good, unfortunately whilst I like that, Ultron is no Loki, and the scale of the final battle is not as epic as it was in The Avengers Assemble.

 

Basically the final verdict is this: Avengers: Age of Ultron does a lot of things right but there are a few more cracks in its masterpiece than there were in Assemble. Overall it does fall short of its predecessor, however, it is still a great film and gets a definite Thumbs Up.

 

 

8/10 – Not as good as the first film but still great fun, and the post-credits scene me eagerly awaiting the next one, now if I can only get my time machine working again I can jump ahead to watch it…anyone know where I can get a Flux Capacitor at 3am??

 

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© Chris Sharman