AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)
Starring: basically everyone (e.g., Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and Cobie Smulders)
Director: Joss Whedon
Writer: Joss Whedon
Music: Danny Elfman, Brian Tyler
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Age of Ultron is the eleventh installment of the MCU, and the second time Joss Whedon writes and directs an Avengers movie. The film starts in Sokovia, where the Avengers raid a Hydra facility. There they encounter Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and his two only surviving experiments: Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. Or as Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) perfectly describes them: “he is fast, and she is weird.”
The Avengers retrieve Loki’s scepter and have a nice party afterward. Unfortunately, all hell breaks loose as an experiment of Tony (RDJ) and Banner (Mark Ruffalo) breaks loose: Ultron births himself out of Tony’s chains. Still, willing to fulfill his master’s wishes to save the world — by eradicating the human infection — Ultron begins to build an army and better versions of himself. Being a master manipulator, Ultron manages to use every available resource he can muster to finish what he started. But by doing so, he creates the very thing that will eventually be his doom.
For me, Age of Ultron represents everything I want out of an Avengers movie, even more so than the first one. The first Avengers movie had the unthankful task of bringing the team together before they can fight Loki. There is a lot of fan service there (which is not necessarily a bad thing), and we see some things we already saw in the individual installments of the characters.
Now that the main characters know each other — and we know them — we can skip all of that and focus on the situations at hand. The infiltration of Strucker’s base perfectly captures the feeling of a real team that has worked together for quite some time. It is fun to watch them do their thing and working together. Every member has a purpose and a task, which builds on their strengths.
Sometimes, for example, when excited Hydra goons line up perfectly, those strengths can be put together. From a technical point of view, the first sequence also impresses: long takes that are to die for, a money shot I want to put on my wall, and the team dynamic (perfectly captured by the reactions to Cap’s “language”) create a light, adventurous feeling. Add all of that to the fact that the entire creative team can always give you a sense of location (throughout the movie), and where everything is in relation to each other, and you get a great starting point.
The introduction to the twins (Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, as perfectly portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, respectively) makes a lot of sense and positions them as the Avengers’ antagonists. They don’t know better. All they knew is that Stark tried to kill them and Strucker, while an evil bastard, gave them powers for their revenge. Ultron ultimately plays with their feelings and experiences to manipulate them in the right direction. Their entire arc throughout the movie feels thought through and makes Age of Ultron their film. They represent the relatable characters among the gods we know and love.
What would Age of Ultron be without James Spader as Ultron himself? I love James Spader in everything he does. I still watch The Blacklist simply because he is in it. Give the man some well-written words, and he transforms them into a masterpiece. Not only his voice makes him unique but also his body language and facial expressions. Everything he says and does comes together in this immense, and powerful thing — a force of nature even.
To have Andy Serkis in this movie, who also plays a terrifying villain here, as well as in Black Panther later, and to use his abilities and expertise in motion capture, serves as the cherry on top. With the new technology (which by now is four years old) they could capture everything Spader does and transform it into Ultron. They do the same things for Hulk with Mark Ruffalo, which gives him also this sense of realness.
One critique I often heard about Age of Ultron concerns to a degree the finale, where the Avengers fight a bunch of “faceless” goons. However, Ultron is a robot and able to build an army in his image. Why rely on humans when you can multiply yourself? And, to be honest, don’t some Avengers comics also end up that way? Sometimes, it can get a bit crowded on the screen, yes, but you can see similar things in comics as well. For me, Age of Ultron brings to life those Avengers stories, and I love every minute of it. The more I watch it, the more details I discover.
CALL ME CRAZY
Before we wrap this up, let’s talk about some other highlights. Since Age of Ultron is the eleventh MCU movie, it allows Whedon to explore the characters a bit more. We know who they are, their power set, relationships, and other things. But now, it is time for some more in-depth stuff. First and foremost comes Barton with his family. In my opinion, it is an excellent addition to the character. It not only grounds him more in reality but also the others as well. We always see the Avengers around themselves and against their villains, but how do their looks and behaviors fair around “normal” people?
The same goes for Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce’s relationship. I still hope they end up together. I enjoy their scenes very much, especially with the lullaby and everything they have been through — together and on their own. They can support each other, be there for each other, and find something to hold onto besides the next mission.
Watch it! Again and again. From the premiere of Veronica and the Hulkbuster armor, the musical cues that hint at Black Panther, to the creation of Vision, everything in this movie adds to the bigger picture. The Avengers do here what they do best: saving people, giving each other second chances, and fighting as long as it takes.
“You get hurt, hurt ’em back. You get killed … walk it off.” – Cap