Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Directed by Joss Whedon
It’s like spinning plates for 5-years…eventually, there’s going to be some crashing and smashing. Of course, Joss Whedon’s Avengers trade in the currency of crashing and smashing, which is partly why we pay the inflated admission fees, but with each sequel, we’ve come to expect greater narrative depth and more satisfying character development.
There are moments in which Whedon equals the fun of his first Avengers team-up, yet sadly, there are too many that fall short. He had the element of surprise up his sleeve the first time around, but now we know this world and how these characters interact with each other. Whedon knows that simply rehashing things won’t do, but for much of the many action scenes (yet more chaotic sequences of CGI destruction) it somehow feels rehashed; lots of noise but little finesse. Fun as the chaos sometimes is, the over-reliance on CGI restricts my own personal involvement – so if you’re like me i.e – tired of endless destruction in these movies – don’t be surprised to find yourself intermittently checking your watch.
The script continues to allow the Avengers to indulge in that Whedonesque sense of self-parody. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye exclaims – “The city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.” Beyond that, there’s more serious character development amid the carnage, albeit not entirely convincing. It feels as though Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is a little betrayed here. So great in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier, all of a sudden her character appears vulnerable and co-dependent, almost like the damsel in need of saving, but not quite in distress.
The guys mostly maintain their wining streak. Both Hemsworth and Evans have fun as Thor and Cap, while Mark Rufallo is a warm presence in any film. Being completely unfamiliar with text of the comics, there’s development of Renner’s Hawkeye that seems to stall things for twenty-or-so minutes, almost as if the film is pausing for breath and doesn’t really have anything to say, so it starts babbling. Downey Jr picks up where he left off, playing Tony Stark with his now trademark repartee, as the long-form storytelling of the Marvel Cinematic Universe sees him becoming increasingly isolated in his responsibility to making the world a safer place.
This is the plot for Age of Ultron, as Stark’s ambition to protect the human race turns on him. Stark is Dr. Frankenstein, Ultron is his monster. In turn, this sows the seeds of division that will undoubtedly lead into the Civil War storyline of the upcoming Captain America sequel. There’s another problem. There are too many times that this film feels like a telegraphed set-up for another instalment in a franchise. Iron Man 2 was guilty of the same sin, and isn’t highly regarded because of it. Audiences are weary of commercials – do they really want the plot-lines of their summer blockbusters to start behaving like them!?
In the spirit of avoiding spoilers, I can’t write freely about all of the players in the field. That said, the marketing openly promotes the dual presence of the brother-sister double-act of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. In terms of performance, while the two don’t have a shuddering impact, their joint presence is a faintly welcome new dynamic. Sadly for Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver, nothing he does remotely rivals that scene in X:Men: Days of Future Past.
So, while the smashing and crashing of Age of Ultron is fun in part, it’s a shame that so much of it feels perfunctory, especially when it’s well-known how hard Whedon worked on it. That said, it’s far from being a bad film, it’s just one that fails to live up to the lofty levels of expectation.