Never before has Marvel had so much of its future laid out before it. With the announcement of huge storylines like Civil War coming in the near future, Avengers: Age of Ultron could have fallen flat as an action packed preview of what’s to come, but instead manages to stand on its own two feet as quite a fun and formidable entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The film opens with the assumption you’re up to date on all things Marvel, diving right into the team assaulting the last of Hydra’s fortresses. After quite the explosive intro, Tony Stark is tormented by a vision from newcomer Scarlet Witch, an ‘enhanced’ with the power to bend reality and mess with minds, motivating his desire to protect earth with a sophisticated A.I. system. With the means at hand to create our titular villain, Ultron is unknowingly brought to life with the intent to destroy the Avengers and humanity – all in the pursuit of ‘peace in our time’.
Age of Ultron is by no means a light Marvel film, especially coming after Guardians of the Galaxy. It retains the signature humour of the team, with some utterly fantastic one liners coming from even Ultron himself, but at its core is a darkness, emblematic of the universe’s current heading. Scarlet Witch proves to be the main vehicle of this darkness, inciting dream like visions in the minds of our heroes, giving context to their backstories or cryptically showing us glimpses of a possible future.
The movie wastes no time planting the seeds of conflict and division amongst Stark and Captain America, finding themselves at odds over the creation of Ultron and their larger role as heroes. The way the characters interact is easily one of the best aspects of the film, allowing a large amount of development in even some of the less central roles. In the case of Ultron however, this is where one of the film’s few flaws began to show.
Though we meet Ultron very early on, it didn’t feel like they gave enough time to him to really give our villain a full character. You see twinges of rage come through in the character that were explained simply as part of his programming, and while he was quite imposing I feel a little extra time to round him out would not have gone amiss. That being said, James Spader almost stole the show in his scenes, channeling a terrifying and destructive force. His voice really lent the hulking robot a presence to match Ultron’s physical size.
It’s impressive how well Joss Whedon looks after the Avengers’ supporting cast throughout the film, with Hawkeye especially receiving quite the well deserved spotlight. Long gone is the mind-controlled Hawkeye from the original Avengers, we’re now given Clint with a reason to fight and a responsibility to help hold the team together. While Thor takes a more backseat role this time, Black Widow and Bruce Banner both rise to fill his boots with a love story that felt a little out of character, but it did work to add a new dynamic in the team’s relationships.
The two main newcomers, Alexi and Wanda Maximoff, or Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were also incorporated very well. While quicksilver was given less of a focus, he had some cool moments, with Scarlett Witch taking centre stage in most of their scenes. The two were quite a valuable addition in tying the whole story arc together.
The Vision, another new addition to the world, doesn’t show up till quite late in the story, played quite intriguingly by Paul Bettany. We don’t get a lot of explanation about his purpose but it’s clear he’ll have a large role to play once Thanos appears later in the timeline, and his mystery was quite refreshing amongst the well known core team.
The film is very much the usual in terms of comic inspired spectacle. Mixing some truly spectacular action sequences with the quieter emotionally impactful and character developing moments. There’s also some classic Marvel moments to be found here, including a Stan Lee cameo and one moment that literally had audience members shouting in surprise. There’s plenty of laughs to be had throughout too, rounding it out and making it quite the joy to watch.
I keep coming back to one thing when thinking about Age of Ultron, and it’s that I really wish the film had been another fifteen minutes or so longer. The movie doesn’t feel long, in fact I felt like it all went from battle to battle little too fast. That extra time would have been really well used in order to give Ultron a bit more of a character, explore our new additions and ultimately allow the Avengers themselves a little extra time to shine.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a fantastic film. It’s easily one of the best films Disney and Marvel have released to date, filled with action, humour and fun. It’s business as usual for Earth’s mightiest heroes, I only wish they could have stuck around a little longer in order to fully showcase all the universe has to offer.