I've been squeezing AGE OF ULTRON in during a busy week, watching 20 minutes or so at a time as I have a few minutes; it's not an ideal way to watch a movie, but it got the job done!
I wasn't expecting a great deal as this entry seemed less popular than many of the movies, and I'd found the last film I watched, THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013), to be about the weakest in the series.
IRON MAN 2 (2010) was also one of my favorites. AGE OF ULTRON had everything I could want in a Marvel film, with lots of quality time with characters who have come to feel like old friends.
As the movie begins, the Avengers have united in a quest to retrieve evil Loki's sceptre for his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth); the team includes Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie).
Right off the bat there's some wonderful humor, with Captain America admonishing Iron Man "Language!" when Tony curses in the middle of the action; Steve never hears the end of it. When Thor grabs Tony in a rage, Tony exclaims "Use your words!" The entire movie is filled with delightful banter and repartee. ("It's been a long day. Like, Eugene O'Neill long," or "The city is flying and we're fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.")
Nothing in the initial mission goes quite as planned, due in part to the interference of a pair of super-powered twins, Wanda/The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), but the sceptre is retrieved, and Tony and Bruce use it to start building a computer which Tony thinks could help protect the world from a future alien invasion. However, the computer powers a robot which has a mind of its own -- and it doesn't like the Avengers. It considers them killers and plans to eradicate them...and maybe earth too.
It's a movie filled with many great moments, such as a marvelously staged battle when the villain reveals himself at Avengers HQ; I loved Natasha grabbing a gun conveniently strapped to the underside of a table. The Avengers don't miss a trick, even (especially?) on their home turf.
There's a priceless scene where the various Avengers try to prove themselves worthy enough to pick up Thor's hammer; Thor's eyes widen with alarm when Captain America actually briefly wobbles the Asgardian equivalent of the Sword in the Stone. That sets up an even bigger surprise at a key moment late in the movie.
Master archer Hawkeye has been a favorite since the series began, and I was delighted with his expanded role in AGE OF ULTRON. He has a marvelous back story which comes out of nowhere but is absolutely charming. No wonder I love these movies.
At various points in the film old friends such as Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), and Rhodey (Don Cheadle) show up, along with the usual cameo by Marvel creator Stan Lee, which is especially funny. Paul Bettany, who has voiced Tony's computer Jarvis throughout the films, has a physical role, as Jarvis is transplanted into a robot called Vision.
Some have criticized the motivations of the movie's villain, but I didn't spend much time dwelling on it. In the first place, I assumed that the same evil which lurks in the real world can infect artificial intelligence, and in the second place, to a certain extent a Marvel villain is the movie's MacGuffin -- the excuse to hang out with the Avengers.
The Marvel films are the very best kind of movie comfort food, with roots which go back to series of decades ago such as Dr. Kildare or Boston Blackie. The films have built a world with recurring characters, layered relationships, and running jokes which make a Marvel film feel like spending time with old friends. They just happen to do crazy things like turn into a green monster or occasionally fly off to another world...
Joss Whedon. It was filmed by Ben Davis.
Parental Advisory: AVENGERS: THE AGE OF ULTRON is rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments." Like the other Marvel films, it's relatively family friendly. The suggestive jokes will fly over children's heads.
Blu-ray and DVD.
Coming tomorrow: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR!
Previous Marvel reviews: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011), CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014), IRON MAN (2008), IRON MAN 2 (2010), IRON MAN 3 (2013), THOR (2011), THE AVENGERS (2012), THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), AGENT CARTER (2015), and ANT-MAN (2015).