“Age of Ultron” is a thrill ride with peak levels and action and comedy, as well as fantastic performances, but completely lacks one important thing: suspense.
The sequel stars the original “Avengers” cast, plus Aaron Taylor Johnson as Quicksilver, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, and Paul Bettany as Vision. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) start up a project on artificial intelligence after gaining new knowledge from an analysis of the gem in Loki’s scepter. The result is Ultron (James Spader), a scientific experiment gone wrong.
But most of you will probably already know the plot, considering the film grossed more than $180 million in its opening weekend, the second highest of all time behind its predecessor, “The Avengers.”
Spader gave an amazing performance as Ultron, apparently dumbfounding the rest of the cast when filming the motion capture. Ultron is as sadistic as he is cunning, especially when singing “there are no strings on me” from Pinnochio. The Christian undertones and Ultron’s references to religion and belief that he is, in a way, the new Messiah of our time is also quite creepy.
The film is hilarious, funny and the action sequences are on par, if not better than its predecessor. The first scene is a single 2-minute long, uninterrupted shot of a chase scene/battle sequence, with the camera flying along and showcasing each Avenger in their element, culminating in a glorious slow motion profile of the whole bunch.
Amazing as the action and comedy was, the film unfortunately ended up lackluster. The only reason is the premise: that Ultron wants to destroy all life on planet Earth. This might be the most overused, cliché, cop-out plot device in modern times. We know the Earth won’t be destroyed — that’s impossible, as there are two more Avengers movies already announced. And we know none of the major Avengers can be killed off.
The audience knows the Avengers will win, eliminating any suspense. The only risks for our heroes are their morality and their friendship, which are definitely challenged, but only the surface is scratched. By the end everyone is happy again and the team has not noticeably evolved since the last film.
The first Avengers had the same ludicrous premise, but it worked because it was the first time we saw all of our heroes work together, and that dynamic was entertaining enough to last through the whole movie. The same bait didn’t work in catching more fish, at least in critical acclaim. The metascore plummeted to a 66 from “The Avengers'” 72, and the Rotten Tomatoes score went from a rare 92 percent to a 75 percent for “Ultron.”
I congratulate director and writer Joss Whedon on managing such a complex universe of characters and creating such entertaining content with the pressure of the world on his shoulders. However, I would tell him to take a lesson from Christopher Nolan on writing. Make the true battle for something that can be realistically lost. We know the world won’t actually get destroyed, so make the target something that can be shot.
Collegian A&E Film Beat Writer Morgan Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MDSFilms.