Avengers: Age Of Ultron begins with know-it-all philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) putting into place a peacekeeping program. Why? Because he has far too much time on his hands, and with his ‘Iron Legion’, it basically deploys a number of silver iron men to the streets like the UK puts PCSOs on the beat. Naturally, the public don’t take kindly to the autonomous machines so it feels like a waste of time for him, until it leads to delivering a plot idea for Joss Whedon to spin 141 cinematic minutes around.
He’s tinkering in his lab with AI (artificial intelligence, but you knew that) and showing off to Dr Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), demonstrating that not only his equivalent of Knight Rider’s KITT (aka Jarvis) is cool, but that he’s developing the next generation of this, Ultron. Sounds like a great idea, but in the movies, the more power you try to give a computer in order to do its own thing, the more it bites the hand that feeds.
Naturally, once it gets too big for its own boots, Ultron (voiced amusingly by James Spader), decides world domination is the answer. And by incapacitating Jarvis, it means that Iron Man might actually have to push a button or three on a console, for a change, rather than simply talk to his machines like a robotic version of Doctor Dolittle.
Once out and about, Ultron’s plan is to gather up as much vibranium as possible for his own nefarious purposes, knowing how well it served Steve Rogers for his shield.
What leads on from there is more calamity which will put the world at its unease as superheroes crash and bash around the city, racking up not only an extortionate repair bill that even Stark would baulk at, but also cause a situation which would no doubt put him in jail for wanton destruction. After all, if two men have a fight in the street in Manchester, the worst might be a split lip and an f-word. If two superheroes do the same in New York, it usually results at the very least in a skyscraper requiring a whole new set of windows along all of one side of the building as they glance past, in some supercharged willy-waving contest.
(I’m here all week, tip your waitress)
I don’t know all the ins and outs of the Marvel canon, like all the big fans who follow every last comic book and graphic novel, so I’m just relying on what’s put out in the cinema, but compared to the engaging first film, Avengers: Age Of Ultron felt like rather a lazy sequel. There was a hotch potch of ideas which we’ve seen before in various movies; there was less humour; some of the action scenes felt like Whedon just thought “Hey, let’s just blow stuff up for no real reason!“; and there were more scenes taken up with romance and talking, reminding me of some of the worst times I’ve sat in the cinema, namely for Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones and Star Trek: Insurrection. There was also plain old kitchen sink drama, which might’ve filled in a bit of backstory, but when you sit down expecting a good solid two hours or so of action and entertainment, it didn’t cut the mustard. If I wanted that, I would’ve stayed home and watched Coronation Street or Eastenders.
If you thought Loki was a hard man to pin down, then Ultron has his own get-out, and when that was revealed to us, it felt like about two seconds of thought had gone into that one. There was also the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, this time coming in at the 25-minute mark, and Andy Serkis pops up to give us the worst cod-South African accent we’ve seen committed to film since Joss Ackland’s Arjen Rudd in Lethal Weapon 2.
Loki’s sceptre is like that eczema which just won’t go away, and it felt like Joss Whedon got bored after being in the same place country for more than ten minutes, as the locations were jumping from country to country just to see how many air miles the cast and crew can clock up, apart from all those scenes which are filmed with a green screen, of course.
There’s also some new blood in this sequel, firstly the twins – as highlighted in Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Quicksilver (aka Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson – making me wonder why Evan Peters wasn’t used when he appeared as the character in X-Men Days Of Future Past) and Scarlet Witch (aka Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen), who is a dab hand at being a baddie by screwing with everyone’s mind and making them feel like they’re in an alternate Nexus-style worldl like Star Trek: Generations.
There’s also the achingly hot Claudia Kim as Tony’s associate, Dr Helen Cho (below, alongside Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill), and also sizeable roles for Paul Bettary and Don Cheadle, although after Anthony Mackie was introduced in the aforementioned Captain America sequel as Sam Wilson aka Falcon, and since he pops up here early on, it seemed odd that they sidelined him until the end of the film. Is he just being paid for the Steve Rogers movies, then? Then again, Mackie shouldn’t worry since Whedon falls to the lazy stereotype of “Hey, War Machine is a black character, so all black people must say ‘represent’ from time to time, right?” during the scene where each character tries to lift Thor’s hammer off the table, in what clearly reeks of ‘deleted scene extra thrown into the mix as filler’ as, while it gets a small payoff later, it’s completely redundant to the plot.
Oh, and there’s been a bit of hoo-hah in the news about some topless pictures of Cobie Smulders in Women’s Health Mag.com, but it’s a US magazine, which is no good to us in the UK as there are no topless shots online.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the film…