“At long last is lasting a little long, guys!”
So here it is, at long last: Avengers: Age of Ultron. It came and went, and I was neither impressed nor disappointed. It was a mixed bag, indeed. Far too much going on and a villain that, once again in the Marvel Universe, doesn’t present a great threat…
It’s clear that Joss Whedon has poured his heart and soul into the film. We are thrown into the action right from the beginning, as The Avengers storm von Strucker’s base of operations looking for Loki’s sceptre. A tracking shot follows the Avengers, one by one, until they are all lined up in a single shot. It hits all the right notes, but, like most other action scenes in the movie, it doesn’t do any ground-breaking. They seem to pad out the plot, rather than add to it. The only action scene that sticks in the mind is the Hulkbuster vs Hulk fight, but that is completely ruined by a 9/11-esque ending. A building collapses inwards, smoke and dust rise, people are cowering in terror…it left a bad taste in the mouth (will directors forever replicate 9/11?).
With well-shot but repetitive action scenes, that leaves plot and character to take up the slack. The plot is something of a rerun of the first Avengers film. Basically, bad guy tries to separate Avengers by causing them to argue (especially getting the Hulk angry and causing him to smash…but instead of the SHIELD helicarrier, Hulk destroys a city instead. And Iron Man fights him, but not Thor). But they realise they are stronger together than alone, so unite in the end to defeat him. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but those are the essentials.
“There are no strings on me”
Tony Stark and Iron Man work together (in a montage) to create ‘Ultron’, an A.I. that will replace the Avengers and bring peace to the world. Things go awry, and Ultron decides that the quickest way to peace is to kill all humans. Ultron isn’t a cold, emotionless A.I., but one burdened with hatred for its creator, Tony Stark. Ultron is potentially one of the most interesting villains in the Marvel Universe, but yet again, he’s minimized in favour of the superheroes we know and love.
Ultron is one of the greatest villains in the Marvel Universe films. But the Marvel Universe doesn’t exactly have a stellar cast of villains, does it? Loki…and that’s about it. Ultron is given a decent amount of screen time. And James Spader, as the voice of Ultron, does a brilliant job. The character, sure of why he was created in terms of purpose but not sure of the meaning of his existence, is also well-written. His musings of religion (the “geometry of belief”), philosophy and humanity are thought-provoking, but are never fleshed out. His motivations are laid out, but his powers are vague. So he can access the entire internet…so why doesn’t he shut it down? Bring down governments and banks and companies through the internet, so that there’s nothing The Avengers can do to stop him? He never presents a threat. Entertaining to watch and listen to, but his plan seems doomed to fail.
His two accomplices, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, are hampered by their lack of screen time. Scarlet Witch plays a key role is bringing Stark’s fears to light, which in turn provokes him to reignite his Ultron programme. But both characters barely register in the two hour-twenty minute film. Instead, there is more focus on the ‘under-utilised’ Avengers in the first film. Black Widow becomes romantically involved with Bruce Banner, and Hawkeye is given a family with a house in the country. The former plot strips Black Widow of all the character she developed in the Winter Soldier. The latter plot simply doesn’t mesh well with Hawkeye’s character, and slows the middle part of the film down.
In fact, Avengers: Age of Ultron seems as if it occurs straight after Avengers. The character and plot developments in the films since The Avengers are ignored. Why is Tony Stark back in his Iron Man costume after destroying all his suits in Iron Man 3? Didn’t the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier shatter Steve Rogers’ view of the world? It’s comparable to the deluge of questions that X-Men: Days of Future Past never answered (but not as bad!). Plot devices were set up for The Avengers in the prior films, such as the Tesseract.
“Everyone creates the thing they fear”
Ultron says this in reference to Tony Stark. Joss Whedon has tried his hardest to better The Avengers, but sadly, he has created what he feared in a muddled, mediocre film. It’s saved by the quick-witted dialogue which raised a laugh at least every five minutes (if not more). It’s probably the funniest Avengers film yet (“Please be a secret door. Please be a secret door. Yayyyy!”). The film sags at only a few moments, with the running time not affecting enjoyment. While the action scenes aren’t anything mind-blowing, they are pleasant to look at. But, overall, the film struggles and struggles to impress. And in the struggling, it often forgets what it is trying to achieve.
VERDICT: 6/10. Are we reaching superhero saturation? Possibly, which is why I might be harsher on this film than I would have been otherwise. Age of Ultron tries too hard to accommodate the bloated cast, a stuttering plot and future events. Let’s hope it’s a stumble, and not a fall…