Age of Ultron must be measured in some kind of dog years. The Stone Age lasted for tens of thousands of years. The Iron Age lasted for thousands of years. The Age of Reason lasted for decades (don’t believe anyone who tells you it’s still underway). The Age of Ultron unfolds over a matter of days, though in fairness to everyone involved, it does feel like it’s outlasting the Stone Age. One minute Tony Stark is trying to cook up an artificial intelligence which will armour the world, the next thing it’s gone rogue, and within days it’s running a robot revolution aimed at destroying humanity, almost as if it knows that it’s in an Avengers movie.
Over the course of Marvel’s gradual subjugation of the world of the movies, the one thing which hasn’t changed is that the villains are always out to destroy the world, This is because The Avengers are such a crowd of DICKS that only the complete destruction of the world begins to look as if it would be worse than having these ass-clowns try to save it. The first Avengers movie featured the Avengers doing Superman levels of property destruction preventing the alleged end of the world. The Winter Soldier devastated Washington. It’s hard to believe that humanity’s enemies could make more of a mess of the place than the Avengers do “saving” it.
Age of Ultron doesn’t really change the disc. The mid movie setpiece has Iron Man taking on the Hulk in a fight which more or less levels the downtown of some unidentified African city. Then the gang go to Korea and devastate Seoul while trying to snatch some piece of McGuffinry that Ultron was planning to use. Finally, they go back to Eastern Europe, which, like Africa, is totally a place and doesn’t need to be given any local identity, and just annihilate the whole damn place in the name of stopping Ultron from annihilating everything. The Avengers just do terrible things to property values. But in this movie, at least they’re not doing them to American property values, which I think is a first. They don’t devastate a single US built up area, which makes Age of Ultron a much more insightful commentary on American foreign policy than Winter Soldier ever was. I like to think that Joss Whedon pointed out that between everything that’s happened in all the other Marvel movies to date, most of the continental US has ALREADY been levelled, and it would cause continuity problems if the Avengers came back and relevelled it before the reconstruction could be completed. Going on how long it took to rehabilitate New Orleans (to pick a natural disaster) it might be some time before a Marvel movie can take place in the US, for fear that the fan boys will point out that the action is happening only a fortnight after New York was devastated and the place should still be full of construction crews.
It’s bad news for the third world, of course, but what isn’t?
What’s the good news for the movie? It’s less of a mess than the last Avengers movie, but Putin’s foreign policy is less of a mess than that was. There are fewer punch-ups between Avengers, which is always good. There’s very little Hydra, which is bad. There’s no Loki which, considering Loki was pretty much the only good thing about the first Avengers movie, has to go in the bad column. There’s no Gwyneth Paltrow, which would normally be a good thing, but these things need all the help they can get. There’s any amount of Jeremy Renner doing Hawkeye, the absurdity of which is perfectly summed up in this line: "The city is flying and we're fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.” No-one is ever going to convince me that Hawkeye is a good idea. Despite this, Joss Whedon seems to have decided to amp him and give him some backstory. I can’t believe that Jeremy Renner doesn’t have an agent at least as good as Natalie Portman, who managed to get her character the equivalent of a sick note so that she didn’t even need to show up. The downside of that was that Age of Ultron fails the Bechdel test so hard it almost vanishes into some kind of inter dimensional wormhole and turns everyone into feminists. There are three named female characters in the movie (so it should have passed Bechdel stage 1 normally), but they exist in a sea of testosterone so soupy that they might as well be guys in drag. Next time someone tells you that Joss Whedon writes strong female characters, remind him of this movie (it will be a him). Then get yourself some more well rounded friends.
And the bad news; well, there’s a lot more of this stuff coming. And it seems to be coming for the third world. Africa and Eastern Europe have been devastated. I can only imagine South America is trembling in the wings.