Some spoilers. You have been warned.
Some time after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Avengers are hunting down Hydra to find Loki’s sceptre. But Hydra has a secret weapon, two mutants, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who have a grudge against former arms manufacturer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr). Meanwhile Tony has created a new artificial intelligence designed to protect the human race, which decides it actually wants to destroy the human race for reasons that aren’t really clear. Fortunately it has access to an infinite supply of disposable military robots. Can the Avengers save the day once again?
In Age of Ultron, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) once again has little to do and is wholly ineffective in a fight compared to her superpowered companions, so once again she is weirdly paired off with yet another of her male counterparts. This is a character who had a romantic backstory with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in The Avengers and flirted with Captain America (Chris Evans) throughout The Winter Soldier, at one point kissing him, prompting me to write:
After the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers AKA Captain America (Chris Evans) is still struggling to adjust to life in the 21st Century. Luckily a flirtatious Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) is on hand to help, having seemingly forgotten about her relationship with Hawkeye. Either that or she’s trying to sleep her way through the Avengers. Good luck with Hulk. Ewww. Sorry.
Guess who she hits on in Age of Ultron? You got it, The Hulk! He doesn’t even seem that keen on her. Perhaps writing has got so desperate in the Marvel franchise’s tenth instalment that Joss Whedon has started looking to Screen Goblin for inspiration. Although I doubt it, because then he would have read my article ‘5 reasons why Iron Man 3 sucked‘ and avoided them all, rather than doing most of them.
My main problem with that film was it dispensed with the humorous tone that made the first two so great in favour of something overly downbeat and serious. It’s a problem when we’re asked to take these films seriously, as they’re basically about blokes in lycra beating up bad guys with plots that make little sense. This is all fine when they’re fun. What I love about The Avengers (every time I re-watch it) is that it’s funny, and has loads of great, memorable moments. The kind of moments you talk to your friends about afterwards.
I don’t come out of the cinema and turn to Dan and say ‘I loved that bit where Black Widow calmed the Hulk down by stroking his hand gently’ or ‘I loved that bit where Tony Stark was traumatised that he might be responsible for his friends deaths’. It might work in a Dark Knight film where a small number of characters have been carefully developed and the director has gone to great lengths to make it seem real, but in a film which features a Norse god and a man capable of inventing anything he wants within an hour of deciding he needs it I want fun… FUN!
Also in my Iron Man 3 review I said:
At the anticlimatic climatic final battle, Tony destroys his suits… The problem is that we all know he’s going to become Iron Man again because we know how much money is invested in it, and that Avengers 2 is scheduled for 2015. So when he destroys the suits we don’t think “oh my god, Iron Man is no more!” we think “oh my god, the first 40 minutes of the next film with Iron Man in are going to be spent explaining how Tony is persuaded to suit up again…Or they’ll just completely ignore the ending of the previous film, like they did with Thor.
Well now we know. They ignored the end of the previous film like they did with Thor. He’s Iron Man at the start of the film and that’s that. Now I don’t want to be the guy who picks apart the campy superhero film, but if they expected us to care when he stopped being Iron Man, do they not expect us to care when he takes it up again? Don’t they owe us at least a line of explanation?
But they don’t have the time, because by this point there are so many characters in the film it’s impossible to explain anything at all. The Avengers had two main characters who hadn’t had their own film, Hawkeye and Black Widow. But Black Widow had been in Iron Man 2, and while they felt fairly peripheral and two-dimensional, it just about worked. Well this time there’s a new villain and two new Avengers, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. As if that wasn’t enough The Vision (Paul Bettany) is introduced later, with The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) also showing up. This means there’s no time to develop any individual characters, no time to explain the plot, and no way of seeing what’s going on in the action scenes (accurately pictured above).
Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver suffer most from this, with a back story explained in a few sentences. When they go over and join the Avengers they don’t even have a conversation about it with anyone, even though they were fighting them minutes before. It’s not helped by forgettable performances and dodgy eastern European accents but it didn’t have to be this way. Last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past also featured an adaptation of Quicksilver, and in spite of having even less screen time than in Age of Ultron, he was funny and likeable, benefiting from a strong performance.
The deliciously evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been replaced by Ultron, a bland villain which looks like a million other movie robot psychos but makes misfiring quips all the time, like General Grievous with a bad sense of humour. He has no obvious motivation of any kind, beyond the vaguely-explained inability to tell the difference between saving the earth and destroying it (!), which brings me onto my next point. This film is full of quasi-philosophical dialogue about human nature which makes no sense at all. One robot thing ponders that it’s a flaw of humans that we believe chaos and order are opposites. Ooo, deep. This ponderous nonsense is all we’re left with when the humour’s gone, and it pales in comparison. I like an action film that makes you think, but this doesn’t, it just wants to make you think it’s making you think, if that makes sense. The only thing it made me think is ‘how long is left of this film?’.
What results is one of the worst MCU films to date, behind only The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 3 and arguably Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It will leave people who have invested in the last 3 years of mediocre sequels to get to here feeling cheated. Personally I’m done with these films, and am making a resolution to watch something decent every time they bring one out. Robert Downey Jr made headlines recently by walking out of an interview. I wish I’d had the sense to walk out of this film.