We all know the roots of the story; Tony Stark creates Ultron, an artificial intelligence that threatens the world. And the next blockbuster is made!
This film compares really well to ‘The Avengers‘ in terms of characterisation. Joss Whedon has clearly got his head around the cast, and he has fun setting them up in surprising ways – the Black Widow / Bruce Banner romance being the most surprising of all. Scarlett Johansson has become a firm favourite of mine, and I still can’t believe Black Widow hasn’t got her own movie.
Robert Downey Jr. continues to shine as Tony Stark, and Joss Whedon pulls off a brilliant job in developing his arc from ‘The Avengers‘, through ‘Iron Man 3‘ and into the present. Some of the scenes with Tony are downright chilling, and you really don’t know whether to root for him or not. Of course, by the end he’s being set up for ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘.
Oh, and yeah, the Hulkbuster is awesome.
That said, the unexpected heart of this movie is Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, who takes a character twist the comics are seriously unlikely to ever replicate. It’s a brilliant touch, although some viewers may find it a tad too unexpected. I’m seriously avoiding spoiling this.
A kudos to Elisabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, who practically steals the show in so many scenes. From creepy villain to confident rookie hero, Wanda’s journey is superb.
Ultron is fleshed out wonderfully, and everything ties together nicely, but the end seems a trifle confused – too much technobabble, vibranium as ‘applied phlebotium’ doing whatever Joss Whedon wants it to do.
Oddly enough, the biggest problem is the scale of the film. Avengers Tower yanks us out of the story, especially immediately after the Hydra battle, and Ultron’s plans just strain credibility even for a super-hero franchise. Sorry, but there are issues here, although I can’t help wondering if the nearly-an-hour’s-worth of cutscenes would have resolved some of these.
That said, the climax includes the best scene of the whole film, as Nick Fury makes his presence known in a way that has to be seen to be believed!