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Countdown to Civil War, ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Lacks Focus

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The Avengers: The Age of Ultron marks the final time Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) lock horns before Captain America: Civil War.

Joining Iron Man and Cap are Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow/ Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), War Machine/James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and former director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

As if the previous Avengers wasn’t supercharged enough, the film is jam-packed with star power aside from the group mentioned above as S.H.I.E.L.D. is still recovering from the events of The Winter Soldier. Opposing them is Ultron (James Spader), a creation from Tony and Bruce as the pilot peacekeeping program as a measure to help against worldly threats that may overwhelm the Avengers. Unfortunately, Ultron had other plans as he deemed humanity as a threat to be eradicated given the resources available and sentience as an artificial life form. Joining him are Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his sister Scarlett Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen).

Avengers Age of Ultron Team charge

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Ultron turns on the world with the ego and abrasiveness of his creator in Tony. Ultron ends up controlling the entire robot fleet meant to protect the people of earth and building incessantly much like Tony did during Iron Man 3. His pet project becomes building a more perfect version of himself comprised of vibranium, one of the hardest substances known to man, which is what Cap’s iconic shield is made from. Once the new body is ready, Ultron planned to transfer his conscious into it.

While the body is being prepped, he aimed to keep the Avengers distracted from his huge force and the Maximoff siblings, who were featured in the post-credits scene of The Winter Soldier. Quicksilver has supersonic speed, a one-liner and not nearly as charismatic his Fox counterpart in Evan Peters. Scarlet Witch has telekinesis and has the ability to hex people’s minds. While both wreak havoc on the Avengers, there was an amusing moment as she was tainting the minds of all the Avengers as an excuse to shoehorn as many MCU cameos as possible in their own minds. When getting to Hawkeye, he sticks a taser arrow against the Scarlet Witch’s head before quipping, “I’ve done the whole mind control thing. Not a fan.”

The Hulkbuster
The Hulkbuster

Ultron isn’t necessarily a bad villain, but in a universe so predicated on building up, it just seems kind of lackluster as a one-off for all the Avengers to fight when Thanos has been teased and alluded to in multiple films, most prominently in Guardians of the Galaxy. Ultron’s ultimate plan to raise up Sokovia in a cataclysmic event to destroy the earth hardly seems to resonate as much as Loki’s plan to use the Chitauri to conquer it. Also, the allusion to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the “random” helicarrier hardly seems to do justice for fans of the show looking for more direct involvement.

As far as the dynamics of the story goes, Tony tries to create a defense that goes awry and it hits a nerve with Cap given his past experience with what happens with extreme measures in dealing with the Nazis and H.Y.D.R.A. When it is discovered Tony and Bruce implanted JARVIS (Paul Bettany) into the Ultron’s planned vessel after stealing it from his clutches, Cap tries to fight off what he feels may be another disaster before Thor intervenes with his lightning to breathe life into the newly christened Vision with the mind gem extracted from Loki’s staff implanted on his forehead.

Enter the Vision
Enter the Vision

The seeds to Civil War is there given how much Cap is against the pre-emptive action and doing what’s right by his own hands rather than waiting on the potential disaster waiting to happen. As much as Cap is a byproduct of science, he thinks its abuse given everything that’s happened is rampant from H.Y.D.R.A., the corrupt forces within S.H.I.E.L.D. and everything Tony Stark built as an empire as a force in defense contracting for Stark Industries.

Tony, on the other hand, doesn’t think Cap is willing to take the risks necessary to go that extra step. He believes Cap is naïve in not seeing the world for what it is now and remaining in a bubble.

The other performances get muddled and lost in the shuffle. Thor tries to make sense of the vision under the influence of Scarlet Witch. For some reason, we still don’t know why Hulk never got a “second standalone film” and somehow they’ve decided to tease a relationship with Black Widow. We also happened to meet Hawkeye’s family to remind us how much an average Joe he is with that magical bow and arrow in an age of higher capacity and more destructive firearms, but at least that taser arrow came in handy, right? Meanwhile, War Machine, Falcon, and all the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are just glad to be there.

The new characters in the Maximoff siblings don’t really offer much of anything to the film even when they decide to join the Avengers. They kind of get lost in the shuffle along with the other auxiliary characters.

The Age of Ultron really tried, but unfortunately it became a victim of the predecessor’s own success with a villain with absolutely no build up, a bunch of mini-character arcs with lack of any real focus and predictable crowd-pleasing fanboy moments.

Given how overblown the film became, is it surprising that writer and director Joss Whedon was burnout after the release of the movie.

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Tom Chang
Sci-fi and technology geek since the NES days, Tom loves everything from the cult classics, the contemporary hits to the beast with two backs that is Disney and Marvel. His life's mission is to be the ultimate nerd savant sitting on the iron throne as CEO of Skynet while masquerading as a vigilante at night wearing hockey pads.