THE PROBLEM WITH “AGE OF ULTRON”; or, How Not To Please Everyone – by Cian Morey Jun06

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THE PROBLEM WITH “AGE OF ULTRON”; or, How Not To Please Everyone – by Cian Morey

I have my reasons for rarely watching superhero movies, particularly Marvel superhero movies. The majority of them, in my opinion, are simply money-spinners tossed out into the cinemas year after year to reel in easy wealth and perhaps to try to convince the Academy to devise a new Oscar for “Most Explosions in a Feature Film.” I have found that they often lack significant character development and forgo emotionally powerful or thought-provoking plots in favour of collapsing half of America’s skyscrapers in extensive climactic battle scenes that drag on for over half an hour.

But that’s fine. Superhero movies don’t need character development or fascinating plots. There are enough people out there who are perfectly happy to watch two hours of explosions and loud noises to supply Marvel and company with more money than they could ever need.

Marvel, therefore, should stick to doing what they do best. They should focus on creating the most exciting, explosive romps in the history of cinema. They don’t need to worry about those who would prefer some interesting characters or intriguing plotting; after all, those people are far from their biggest source of income.

But nothing, I am afraid, annoys me more than when a half-hearted attempt is made at satisfying both parties.

Avengers: Age of Ultron had a spectacular premise (and yes, from here on there are spoilers). Tony Stark, obsessed with protecting the world following the alien invasion in the previous movie, creates the perfect global defence program, an artificial intelligence by the name of Ultron. However, Ultron sees from plentiful records of war and so on that the greatest threat to the world is, in fact, the human race itself, and, having been programmed to eradicate the greatest threats to world, sets off to kill everybody in it.

This is an ingenious concept, which, in the right hands, could have made for an excellent movie. Tony Stark had unleashed hell upon the world in his deluded obsession to protect it. But he was not the only culprit; we had brought about our own downfall by all of our violent mistakes throughout history; everyone was responsible to some degree.

But that’s not all. Ultron is not content in a body of wires and metal; he wants a body of flesh. He creates one for himself and tries to upload his mind into it, but the Avengers interrupt the process and Stark insists on uploading another of his own, supposedly “good” AIs into the body instead. When he does so, the Avengers have their doubts that this new being is on their side, as he was created for Ultron, who almost succeeded in swapping his consciousness into him.

And still there’s more. Hawkeye is revealed to have a family, who are trying to cope while he goes off avenging around the place. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, new additions to the Marvel cinematic universe, begin as allies of Ultron but eventually change sides to help the Avengers. The Hulk goes on the rampage at the expense of a great many innocent lives. And at the end, Ultron attempts a mass extinction event by lifting up a huge chunk of the planet and letting it drop like a meteor.

This is wonderful, powerful material. This is the sort of stuff that jerks tears, wracks nerves and leaves you wondering who is right and who is wrong. Does director Joss Whedon make the most of all of this?

Absolutely not.

Stark’s responsibility for letting Ultron loose on the world is explored in a barnyard for about a minute and a half. We are unsure for about thirty seconds if the new AI he creates to combat Ultron is on the side of good or not. Little reference is made to what Hawkeye’s family life must be like as a result of his dangerous job. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s change of allegiance is predictable, and does not feel half as moving as Joss Whedon may have hoped. The whole world appears to take no notice whatsoever when the Hulk decimates an entire city. Ultron’s plan to smash the planet with a piece of eastern Europe doesn’t have nearly enough impact – pardon the pun – as it should. And as for how humanity in its folly taught Ultron that we were the greatest threat to Earth? That’s mentioned once at most.

And thus Age of Ultron was a tremendous disappointment. It could have been so much more, but Joss Whedon and Marvel just didn’t bother. They thought they could satisfy everyone by squashing in a few poor excuses for character development and moral ambiguity.

Well, they got it wrong.