Main cast: Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Dr Bruce Banner/Hulk), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Pietro Maximoff), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff), Paul Bettany (JARVIS, Vision), James Spader (Ultron), and Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury)
Director: Joss Whedon
It’s another installment of Iron Men & His Dirty Dozen, although to be fair, there is a better balance here. It’s not all about Tony Starks all the time, just most of the time, as he still drives the whole story. In fact, it is his paranoia and determination to achieve his goal at any costs that create the whole mess in this movie. Joss Whedon, who once again doubles up as writer and director, must really love Iron Man or the producers ordered him to milk Robert Downey, Jr for every cent they are paying him for being the highest-paid cast member here. In fact, Tony is in a VIP class by himself in this movie: everyone else does all the dirty work, but he just flies in the sky, getting his computer programs to do all the work, and then soar in at the last minute as if he’s Gandalf to partake some credit in taking down the bad guy.
By the end of the previous movie, Loki had been taken down, but his staff – the one that controls people after giving them a poke – is still missing. Our gang track it down and manage to retrieve it from Baron Wolfgang von Strucker at his HYDRA base, but Tony decides that it’d be a good idea to study the staff before giving it back to Thor. He discovers that there is a gem inside the staff that seem to be some kind of brain-like thing, capable of remarkable sentience, and decides to upload it into his Ultron robot to create the best super soldiers ever. Yes, another loser who did not learn anything from Transformers: Age of Extinction or the many, many science-fiction books and movies out there with similar theme since the dawn of time. As you can guess, Ultron comes to be, only to decide that the best way to “save” humanity is to purge all people in this people, as humanity, in his estimation, can never be saved. He finds allies in Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, twins with super powers who want vengeance on Tony Starks – they blame him for the death of their parents and home.
By this time, it is obvious that Joss Whedon is using this franchise as his personal playground and money maker, but to give him credit, at least this time around he tries to keep some of the tone and elements set by the main Avengers members in their respective movies. Thor, for example, is no longer an idiot getting slammed and bashed around by Hulk for cheap laughs, but someone more like the Thor in his own movies, only with an IQ dip of 100 points or so. Mr Whedon also acknowledges and addresses the friendship between the Black Widow and Captain America, established in the Captain America movies, while introducing some star-crossed angst in Black Widow and Hulk, with Hulk oh-so-nobly not wanting to be her boyfriend for her own good. Even Hawkeye gets some ability upgrade here, and his background and character are fleshed out a bit, even if this means turning him into that stereotypical family man who goes out to fight, complete with a pregnant wife and a farm house.
That’s this movie in a nutshell: stereotypes of heroic archetypes, all coming together to fight – insert the obligatory slow-motion scenes at predictable moments – when they are not going all “We must stay together! We are family! Ooh!” and slipping in some angst in ways that I have seen and come across many, many times before. The plot is riddled with deus ex machina and inconsistencies. A noticeable example of inconsistency is Bruce assisting Tony in creating a soldier to counter Ultron, despite the objections of Steve, only to then insist that they can’t trust the resulting creation. Still, the last half hour or so of the movie is pretty gripping, which salvages this otherwise pedestrian mess of clichés.
Just beware of the first hour or so, as Mr Whedon ticks off his checklist of self-referential in-jokes (which address many of the criticisms and jokes hurled at the first movie, such as the absence of the love interests from previous related movies, the bromance of Steve and Tony) using cringe-inducing one-liners that fall flat more often than not. The worst has to be when Bruce tells Natasha that she is too hard on herself, and she “quips” that being hard on her is his job. How drunk does one has to be to come up with that incredibly corny exchange? These one-liners are all tired clichés too, done better in other movies and comic books out there. The script also loves introducing cameos and small appearances of the more affordable characters from previous movies (so no Gwyneth Paltrow this time), while trying to avoid the elephant in the room: aside from Samuel L Jackson, the only other black cast members show up as barely-there sidekicks of our white overlords Tony and Steve. And, surprise, the Asian chick turns out to be a scientist. how original.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a pretty uninspiring movie, best watched for the flash and explosions. It really, absolutely does not hold up well if you watch it for anything more than superficial, transient pleasures.