„Everyone creates the thing they dread.“ – Ultron
After three years of speculation, anticipation and teasers, Avengers: Age of Ultron hit German cinemas this past Thursday. Did it live up to the hype? Well, no. Nothing could have. The Second Coming of Christ couldn’t have lived up to the hype. Was it worth the wait though? Oh, hell yes!
Age of Ultron is a worthy succesor to the bombastic Avengers. It’s a surprisingly typical sequel in a lot of ways, hitting many of the same beats as its predecessor, only with the volume turned way up. If Avengers was an iPhone 5, then Age of Ultron might be the iPhone 6 Plus (Not an Apple guy, but you get the picture). I might’ve held this against a lesser movie, but Age of Ultron provides so much fast-paced fun that I really can’t fault it for going back to that well – the formula is somewhat apparent here, but it still works like a charm. Although some moments — e.g., the climactic battle against an army of enemy drones in a ruined city — might inspire a brief feeling of déjà-vu, there’s still plenty left to wow you in Age of Ultron. I’m just going to say, „Veronica„…
Long stretches of the movie are dominated by an intriguing dichotomy: While the artificial intelligence Ultron (James Spader) might be our heroes‘ most over-the-top enemy yet, the movie devotes large amounts of time to the most human Avengers, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), as they struggle to stay both relevant and alive in a battle of god-like entities. It’s a smart choice that helps ground the plot and finally grants fans deeper insight into these caracters. Pointing out their vulnerability also raises the stakes considerably. I mean, let’s be real, we know Captain America or Thor are not going to bite the big one here, but can we say the same about the lesser known team members? Age of Ultron casts that into doubt to great effect.
Unfortunately, I get the feeling that this (smart) decision was mostly an attempt to make our main antagonist seem more threatening than he really is. Don’t get me wrong, James Spader does a great job as Ultron, infusing him with a level of wit and personality that many villains in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe have been lacking. What Ultron lacks, unfortunately, is proper development and motivation. He’s never boring, but he’s more of an obstacle than a character. As a result, he never quite evolves beyond the ‚evil AI‘ trope that has long been a staple of the sci-fi genre. All too often, Ultron comes across as a less effective Terminator instead of the terrifiying opponent the trailers made him out to be.
Its own marketing may prove to be the movie’s greatest enemy. From day one, Marvel teased a dark, high-stakes sequel. One of the first clips released to the public showed the team battered and beaten, with Captain America’s iconic shield broken in half on the battlefield. The first full-length trailer had a distinct horror-vibe to it, with Tony Stark announcing, „This is the end“. There were rumors claiming that all of the current Avengers would either be dead, retired or MIA by the end of the movie. Director Joss Whedon further fanned the flames when he cited The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather II, two very dark second acts, as inspirations for Age of Ultron. We were prepared for our heroes to go through hell – and then they didn’t.
But that’s okay. Even though Age of Ultron wasn’t neccessarily what I felt was advertised, I was still extremely pleased with what I got. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2015 blockbuster season.