The Marvel juggernaut steamrolls into another early May opening with this weeks Age of Ultron. Back again are Iron Man (Robert Downey JR), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and newcomers Quicksilver (Aaron-Taylor Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Vision (Paul Bettany).
Whew, that was a lot of names. With that, I didn’t even introduce the main bad guy…Ultron himself, voiced by James Spader. With this many names and egos in the mix you can’t help but wonder, how are they going to fit all of this in and keep people interested in any one character?
Truth is, they can’t, and what’s more, they aren’t trying to…this is the culmination and advancement of the Marvel machine on an epic global scale. Where the individual hero stories do character development, the Avengers movies highlight massive fight sequences, where the world is in the balance. Before a credit hits the screen, you are launched into a full on Avenger battle against the evil Hydra. This was clearly mop-up from old story lines but it gives you what you want to see right from the get go.
And action is at the forefront of this engagement. This is the end of Phase 2 of the Marvel plan and with it, Tony Stark puts into motion elements that will lead to peace, he hopes. Stumbling upon advanced AI, he goes behind the team’s back to devise an final defense that will let the Avengers retire. Tony apparently has not seen the 15,000 movies I have about artificially sensuous beings. Ultron is born from this gap in movie AI disposition and is determined to wipe out the Avengers.
It has long been my opinion that movies with superheroes are only as good as the villains they defeat. With the first installment of The Avengers, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) provided a surprisingly charismatic evil presence that brought with him God status. This is where Avengers: Age of Ultron struggles most. Ultron never became the menacing figure that Loki, with the backing of the Chitauri, and ultimately Thanos, brought to bear on the Avengers squad.
Two other factors diminish this movie to me as a placeholder until the real villain arrives. First, it is clear that Thanos is the true evil to come. Second, every movie in the Marvel stable hints at the infinity war that lies in the future.
Where this movie works is that Ultron breaks down the characters and shows their weaknesses. It shows why some of our most revered heroes are haunted by demons and make choices that may change the future of the makeup of the Avengers. You also see how certain characters have traits that are very opposed to one another (Iron Man-Captain America).
In the end, this is a movie that a tremendous number of us wanted to see.