‘Age of Ultron’ starts summer movie season


Photo Courtesy of IMDb

Avengers: Age of Ultron

By Josh Weitzel

Most films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe share similar characteristics: The central characters are established, a new villain emerges and the two forces fight. The final sequence is 20 minutes of breakneck action that leaves cities leveled and the hero victorious. “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” written and directed by Joss Whedon, follows this formula with great characters and an outstanding villain to leave casual moviegoers and hardcore comic book fans excited about the future of the franchise.  

The film begins after the events of “The Avengers.” Superhero scientists Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) have developed an artificial intelligence named Ultron, voiced by James Spader (“The Blacklist”). The program is designed to protect the earth and eliminate alien threats. However, Ultron goes rogue, escapes Stark’s laboratory and creates an army of robots. Earth’s mightiest heroes then join forces to try to defeat Ultron before he wipes out humanity.

While Ultron may seem like a generic blockbuster villain, he does not fit the typical mold. His argument for bringing extinction to the human race initially makes sense when hearing it despite being morally and ethically wrong. He is driven by genuine emotion. Ultron’s mind operates in a towering metal body with piercing red eyes, and because he is a computer program, he can jump between any of the robotic bodies he has created. Spader’s sensational voice work makes Ultron menacing and creepy, yet he has the traditional Joss Whedon sense of humor that Marvel characters are known for. 

There are three major superhero newcomers. Quicksilver, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Kick-Ass”), Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen (“Godzilla”), and Vision, played by Paul Bettany (“Margin Call”). All the characters share an important role in the overall story, yet their introduction and development takes a substantial amount of time. The film runs 141 minutes, and much of this time is spent telling the audience who these people are. The film could have done without the newcomers, but their inclusion will hopefully have significant impact in future films. 

The secondary Avengers are far more developed than in previous installments. Expert archer Hawkeye, played again by Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”), shows a radically different side of himself. Unlike previous films, he is more than just a plot device to advance the story. Even the Hulk shows significant change; Because the character has not had a solo film since 2008’s forgettable “The Incredible Hulk,” Joss Whedon has given him room to flourish. His story arc takes him to surprising places only he could go.

Most notable is the growing rift between Steve Rodgers (Captain America) and Tony Stark (Iron Man), reprised by Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. While both fight for peace, they each have different goals. Rodgers believes in fighting until the bitter end because the fighting will never stop. On the other hand, Stark fights to stop the fight. He dreams of a world that will no longer need the Avengers, which is why he developed Ultron as a method of peacekeeping. This dispute will become the premise of next year’s “Captain America: Civil War,” which is based on the critically acclaimed comic book story of the same name. 

The film’s typical Marvel formula is swathed in a different coat of paint. One huge action set piece consists of countless explosions and civilian casualties. Death and destruction run rampant wherever the Avengers go, which was an issue in the first film—the only focus was destroying the enemy. Now, the Avengers’ primary goal is to save the people. Even during combat when the enemy is not targeting citizens, the Avengers rush to save them from falling buildings, raging gunfire and runaway trains. Superhero films, such as “Man of Steel,” have received criticism for their insane body counts, and watching superheroes save civilians in this movie is a breath of fresh air. 

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is another great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It may follow a traditional blockbuster mold, but a fantastic villain and great character development are a welcome change to the series.