Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader, Paul Bettany
Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: 3 stars
After destroying the main Hydra base and recovering a dangerous artefact, the Avengers — Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffallo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) — come to believe that they have contained all immediate threats and can look forward to a period of peace. In order to safeguard that peace, Iron Man builds the Ultron programme, a complex artificial intelligence (AI) with vast self-regeneration powers.
However, the programme unexpectedly becomes self-aware and forms a will of its own. It comes to see the Avengers as humanity’s greatest threat and launches on a genocidal scheme. Ultron allies with Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a super-powered being who can run at light speed, and his sister Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) who has mind-warping powers. Together, the three of them provide the superheroes their greatest challenge yet.
There’s an old joke about a director being asked by a producer to make a certain scene the film’s climax. The director refuses but the producer insists. Finally, the director rises and walks off the set saying, “I can make this scene a climax, I can make the scene after that a climax, I can make a movie entirely of climaxes, but that will not be a good movie”. Joss Whedon’s Age of Ultron is essentially an attempt to take that challenge on. Ultron has wall-to-wall action, with every scene being a kind of climax. Where the first Avengers movie had minor action in the first half and ended the film with a major final battle, Ultron, as the gleefully sinister robot villain boasts, has no strings to hold it back. So, is it a good movie? Unexpectedly, yes.
Fascinating threads in the story and the meeting between magic and science are touched on briefly but they aren’t part of the drama so much as window dressing. The first Avengers is on the whole a more successful film than the sequel. However, Ultron is a work of agile craftsmanship from the cast and crew. As a director, Whedon has a good ear for dialogue and timing, and the film is a competent work of entertainment that is as satisfying as any work in this genre can be.
The writer is programmer, Lightcube Film Society