By Sara Snoddy // Contributing Writer
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a self-aware and rather dark chapter in the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This highly anticipated sequel to the 2012 mega-hit The Avengers, has already blown box office records with the second-highest opening weekend of all-time, behind its predecessor.
Based on the Marvel Comics characters by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Avengers are a group of human and god-like individuals who combine their strengths and powers to protect the universe. Among them are Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
All you need to add to that premise is a convoluted plot that is less fun than the first film, an artificial intelligence trying to create the apocalypse and some serious computer-whiz jargon and you’ll have Age of Ultron.
After an achingly slow start—there were a few snores—we are reunited with Loki’s scepter from The Avengers, where it was hiding at a Hydra outpost in the Eastern European country of Sokovia. Stark uses the artificial intelligence inside the scepter to bring his global defense program, affectionately titled “Ultron,” to life.
This terrible idea leads to the now sentient Ultron, voiced by the wickedly-cool James Spader, who is attempting to exterminate all of the Avengers in a series of events almost too crazy for a Marvel film.
“The city is flying! We’re fighting an army of robots! And I have a bow and arrow! None of this makes sense!” Hawkeye says at one point, and that sums it up pretty well.
There is something to say about writer-director Joss Whedon’s ability to create a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and he breathes life into worn out characters. Whedon had a hard task ahead of him, trying to combine the storylines of several different Marvel films—too many to be exact. So many threads have been spun, and ultimately Ultron is just another villain in the cast of red herrings until we presumably reach the long-awaited battle with Thanos in the two-part Avengers: Infinity War.
The wit and humor of Whedon’s screenplay—while a bit cheap at times—is pretty refreshing, but it can’t save this underwhelming film.
As stunning as they were, the visual effects were not the standout of the film, nor were its sometimes poorly conceived action sequences. The most memorable takeaway from Age of Ultron was its ability to reflect on the bigger moral picture: whether or not the Avengers can or should continue to do their job, when everywhere they go destruction follows.