The eleventh film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has finally arrived and on the whole it doesn’t disappoint, just don’t expect it to win over any new fans. In Age of Ultron Tony Stark has created artificial intelligence but when the results go awry it is up to the Avengers to save the world from Ultron.
With A.I. being a major talking point in recent years, this film clearly has some important things to say about technology interfering with mankind. The good thing here is that this message is handled with maturity rather than forcing views down the viewers’ throats or taking a ham-fisted approach towards such a deep, debate-worthy topic.
As ever the cast are all brilliantly on form (apart from a couple of wobbly Eastern European accents from Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson). My favourite characters this time around were Black Widow and The Hulk who really seem to be the most developed characters with the most interesting of the sub-plots.
This time around there is no Loki to be seen. Whilst Loki will always remain a fan-favourite villain, Ultron feels much more imposing and threatening as he seems much more genuinely indestructible and has a brilliantly menacing voice thanks to James Spader. Even just singing “I had strings but now I’m free, there are no strings on me” has transformed an innocent children’s song into something quite menacing and disturbing.
Like with any other summer blockbuster there is no shortage of action sequences which were all very impressive and seemed necessary for plot progression rather than just to show off how big a budget they have.
Having seen Age of Ultron in both 2D and 3D it is genuinely arguable that this film has actually made good use of the format here, with it being most notable in scenes involving flight, objects flying across the screen such as Captain America’s shield and Quicksilver running. Clearly it is not essential but for once the format was not made completely redundant.
Whilst there is clearly a lot of extravaganza to witness, some of the more compelling scenes were the intimate ones which allowed some of the characters to develop without resulting in the pace slowing to a plod. The Avengers’ dream sequences seemed particularly important in this regard so thankfully they weren’t cut like Disney had supposedly wanted them to be.
One of the slight problems with having so many characters though is that some are clearly left under-developed thus making it difficult to emotionally invest in some of them. This particularly came to light, without giving too much away, in the event of the death of a character which would’ve had more of an impact had it not got slightly lost in everything else going on.
The main flaw with this film is that, whilst Ultron says “I’ve got no strings to hold me down” you can’t help but feel that it’s a bit of a contradiction given that Age of Ultron includes a lot of set up for the third phase of this massive franchise. It’s these commercial strings that tie down the movie, making it marginally over-long rather than the more taught action ensemble it could’ve been.
The MCU prides itself on being more light-hearted than its DC Comics counterparts. However the attempts to keep events from being too dark have resulted in the script occasionally being tonally uneven, with some unfunny attempts at humour peppered throughout such as Hawkeye’s hammy rant about Black Widow and Quicksilver in the middle of the epic final showdown.
Moments like this have resulted in it being more tonally similar to The Expendables than many of the other MCU films which had previously got the tone balanced much better.
Don’t get me wrong, there were several very funny quips and running jokes throughout but some of them felt unnecessary. Towards the start this was especially notable when almost every scene seemed to try and end with a one-liner which sometimes disrupted the general pace and tone of the piece.
Whilst it’s clearly far from perfect, it is still far from the worst of the Marvel films and provides human drama as well as the usual comic book action that audiences expect. The tease of even more great things to come is promising, particularly the scene in the closing credits which links it back to other phase 2 films which will culminate in the two-part Infinity War.