by Sam Robinson
Rated M. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo. Directed by Joss Whedon.
How do you follow up the most successful superhero movie of all-time?
Bigger budget! Bigger runtime! Bigger explosions! More superheroes! More villains! But all at the same time, keep the formula just the way we like it. In other words – keep director Joss Whedon at the helm.
This is what makes Avengers: Age of Ultron so enjoyable. You can throw more and more money at a film’s budget, but without Whedon’s wit, creativity and directorial skill, you’d probably end up with something far less imaginative.
Following up 2012’s The Avengers is no easy feat. The movie raked in $1.5 billion at the box office, and it made money for good reason. Seeing Iron Man, Thor and Captain America (and more!) all in the one movie was breathtaking; let alone the film’s climax in ‘New York’ (as it’s become known in every film and TV show since). It was a cinematic experience like nothing before, and has paved the way for more crossovers in not just the Marvel world, but DC too. But what a dilemma The Avengers left: how can you possibly create a battle bigger than New York? I mean – there was a wormhole in the sky!
Well, Whedon has taken Ultron in his stride, in what is sadly his Avengers swan song (Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 due in 2018 will be directed by Captain America: Winter Soldier’s Anthony & Joe Russo).
Within seconds of the film beginning, our mighty Avengers are assembled and fighting bad guys in a snowy forest. There’s shades of Empire Strikes Back mixed with a James Bond opening. The action starts from the get-go, and rarely backs off.
I’ll avoid spoilers, but Ultron sees the team facing the ultimate nemesis, a massive A.I. robot named Ultron. The twist is that he’s actually the brainchild of Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) and Dr. Bruce Banner (Ruffalo), and comes to life by accident. He’s not just any robot either, he’s highly intelligent and uses the Internet to do his bidding. Fighting back proves difficult, particularly as the team itself struggles to work together.
As I mentioned earlier, Ultron is very Joss Whedon. It’s filled with witty one-liners, funny scenes (wait til you see the team try and lift Thor’s hammer after a few drinks at a bar), and excellent choreography. The addition of Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and their powers, means that victory for the Avengers isn’t as easy as before.
Where Ultron suffers is in its over-crowdedness. There are so many characters to keep tabs on, and it’s hard to keep so many heroes in the spotlight, particularly equally. But I will say that it’s refreshing that Iron Man isn’t the focus, as often is the case. Maybe it’s because Downey Jr.’s contract is running out, but it’s nice to see Marvel let others save the day. Also, Ultron (James Spader) is a formidable villain, but being a computer-generated character lost some of the scariness for me. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki of The Avengers was bent on power, and his acting convinced us of it all the more.
‘I had strings, but now I’m free. There are no strings on me.’
As Ultron is born, he creepily sings this classic song from Pinocchio – James Spader’s raspy tones only accentuate the horror. He isn’t stuck to one robot body, but can spread his wings to others. He was born, but now he’s free. And as Jarvis says to him, ‘I believe your intention is to be hostile.’ Hostility is Ultron’s default, and he wants to live in rebellion against daddy Stark. He thinks that he’s God.
Really, a bad guy hell-bent on power is what we see in every single Marvel movie. In Avengers, it was Loki forcing people to bow before him. But this extra twist of Ultron being created by Stark, and living in rebellion to that, is all too similar to the gospel.
God made us, and we chose to be ‘free’ from him. We thought we had no strings, and that we could live our own way, be our own God. But this just results in hostility. Our default is hostility before our maker, and there’s no way out.
True freedom comes when Jesus steps in to take our rebellion on himself and forgive us. He saves us better than any Avenger could. And this mends the relationship between us and our creator. Romans 5:10 –
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Ultron thinks he is God. We think we are God. But God is God. And he is gracious to us, even though we try and achieve freedom from him time and time again.
So many people are going to see this movie. Why not chat with your mates about these things. Ask them why Ultron seeks freedom and is hostile against Stark. It could lead to an opportunity to share the gospel!
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a lengthy, fun ride, and won’t disappoint fans of the Marvel Universe. Oh, and the ending might just flip you out a little. I’m giving it four stars.
Avengers: Age of Ultron will release in Australian cinemas this Thursday, 23rd April; and in the US and UK on Friday, 1st May.