Boom or Bust?
By Adam Sturrock
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Director: Joss Whedon
Writer: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany
The inevitable has come.
Like clockwork, the first wave of Summer heat (depending on location) and Marvel blockbuster films (depending on location; we are looking at you Germany) has arrived. And predictably, we get more of what you would expect: one killer baddie, a couple of sprawling, spectacular CGI battles, and Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark.
The thing is, with the first set of Marvel films slotting together to build towards the first assembly of the Avengers – which was pretty well executed – the novelty factor has worn off this time around. Sure, we get to build upon the foundation and chemistry set out over the last few Marvel films, but now it feels overstuffed. We are being killed with kindness, and exposition and cameos that don’t quite fit.
Don’t get me wrong, A: Age of Ultron is NOT a bad film, but the formula is starting to stretch too thin as each new character jostles for space in a rapidly crowding world.
Following on from the events of Captain America: WS, Thor: TDW and Iron Man 3, the main cast has gathered once again to hunt down more of the infinity gems. For those uninitiated, they’re fragments of the universe with special powers. When combined they can end the universe (wanted by Thanos -purple Josh Brolin, big chinned villain) and therefore must be destroyed or likely, hidden away for safe keeping.
The Avengers are searching for Loki’s scepter, which has the ability to control people’s minds, but they are first messed about by new characters, the Scarlett Witch (Olsen) and Quicksilver (Taylor-Johnson) who are hell bent on seeking revenge on Tony Stark and his past as a weapons salesman.
Moving on, Tony Stark decides that his days fighting aliens are over and designs an AI called Ultron (voiced by a pretty charismatic James Spader) to do all of the dirty work for him and internationally fight evil and create world peace. Things go awry, however (spoilers reduced), and now the Avengers have to fight Ultron in a myriad of locations with his massive robot army.
Walking into this film, I had watched all of the previous Marvel films – some good/some mediocre – but at times the plot can be intimidating from the outset. There is a lot of explaining and references that can go over your head and while I admire that Whedon has bent over backwards to smoothen out the bumps, if you haven’t seen any of the previous films, or even skipped a couple, you may take a second to get a hold of what is happening on screen.
While for once we have a villain who is entertaining to watch, his creation and motives are barely built up from their foundations in the film. It seems from the get go that scenes were left on the cutting room floor – which are made even more evident that the touted DVD extended editions from Whedon are apparently more than three hours long – to keep the film around the 2 and 1/h hour mark, and boy it shows.
On paper, there seems to be a pretty amazing cast with the likes of mo-cap extraordinaire, Andy Serkis and previously mentioned Spader, Olsen and Taylor-Johnson added to the group. But the problem is is that we barely get to see them. AOU is still trying to flesh out the backstories of the original cast while also building up the next wave of films AND including new characters to play around with extrapolates character development issues. Some of the scenes in the film are tacked on exclusively as nods to the incoming sequels, but they kind of seem out of place compared to the rest of the pacing of the film.
It is getting quite close to the point that the Avengers is a battleground between what Joss Wheldon wants the film to be – a usually witty, charismatic summer film – and what Marvel/Disney wants – a continuation of the franchise to make more films. We have cameos from characters that are there just for the novelty of being there – Warmachine (Cheadle), Falcon (Mackie), Erik Selvig (Skarsgård), Heimdall (Elba) and many more- which some would say is an expansive roster to call upon, I would call it bloated.
What the film does do well is building upon original character ties from the previous films. Scarlett Widow (Johansson) and Hawkeye (Renner) get more scenes to grow, rather than be barely featured characters. But I wished there was more to The Black Widow than her presence in the Avengers as just a counterbalance to the testosterone; Whedon should have done better. I like how the events in the film and the cause of Ultron are a reflection of Tony Stark/ Iron Man – his narcissism- and that butts heads with the likes of Thor and Captain America.
The Avengers gets a lot right – fluid, at times densely choreographed cinematography and big-budget CGI fighting, entertaining dialogue – but it makes a few missteps as well.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is not the best of the series so far, but I would argue that they have a lot of plates to keep in the air to stop everything from collapsing and that is a feat in itself.
What did you think of the film? Did you think this was Marvel’s best so far? Let me know in the comment section below.