We’re Getting The Band Back Together.
It was never going to be able to recapture the original excitement of seeing your favourite superheroes together that proceeded 2012’s Avenger’s, but Age of Ultron gives it a good go.
The film picks up after the events of Winter Soldier with the Avengers hunting out the last of Hydra’s lairs, primarily searching for Loki’s scepter from the previous Avengers’ outing. The scepter is being held by evil German scientist Baron Von Strucker who has been experimenting with it in order to create super humans who take the form of x-men….sorry ‘inhumans’ Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
Upon retrieving the scepter Tony Stark then has a bizarre revelation that he should use the scepter to create an artificial intelligence to power an army that will protect the earth, hence the creation of Ultron. Because we all know how well it went in Iron Man 3 when Tony started letting his suits think for themselves (hence why he blew them up???), but regardless we press on into what became my favourite section of the whole film in which the Avengers are having a party to celebrate their successes.
Joss Whedon excels in his snappy dialogue exchanges and just as they featured in the first Avengers those exchanges return in force in Age of Ultron. Force being the operative word as some lines of dialogue feel a little too constructed and sometimes miss the mark. But on the whole the dialogue is fun and there’s a lot of laughs to be had at each of the Avenger’s expenses. Essentially that’s what most people want from these films is to see the interplay between the characters when they’re put together, a kind of Big Brother for earths mightiest heroes if you will.
The film bobs along at a good pace as Ultron sets about causing havoc with plenty of entertaining action sequences and some quieter sections that lay the foundations for Marvel’s next batch of films. It does hinder AOU that Marvel have announced the next phase of their films, rather than remain open to fan speculation and theory there are very obvious set ups for Infinity War and Captain America : Civil War.
It trips up the storytelling because characters split off on these set-up side quests and it detracts from what should be the star of the show, Ultron himself. I was expecting great things from Ultron thanks to the fantastic and eerie trailer that utilizes Pinocchio’s ‘no strings on me’ song. Voiced by James Spader, Ultron is a very cynical and tormented character who brings his own brand of humor to the film. Mostly in the form of social commentary about the human condition and I grew to quite like him which is why I feel a little annoyed at how short changed AOU makes his character feel.
I would have liked the film to focus more on the morals of using AI and Ultron’s perceptions of good and evil rather than reduce him to a simple villain who conveniently produces thousands of bodies for the Avengers to smash. The end of AOU feels more than a little samey to the first Avengers film, there’s lots of people in mortal danger, the Avengers must overcome their squabbling to fight together as a team for the greater good, and there;s a whole army for them to fight. Watching the Ultron soldiers swarming over a city was all too reminiscent of the Chitari invading New York and it would have been nice if maybe they’d come up with something else.
As expected the established Avengers are more than comfortable with their characters by now with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans probably able to act these roles in their sleep by now. Newcomers Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver respectively) are a nice addition though Quicksilver’s accent may offend anyone who actually comes from Eastern Europe.
Jeremy Renner gets a bigger focus this time around, even if it is just to exploit the fact he has a house at which the Avengers can crash. Mark Ruffalo again gives a standout performance as Bruce Banner/Hulk, though the romance with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is a little bit off. Not because it doesn’t make sense or seem realistic, but that it just comes out of nowhere and moves way too fast to have had no development previously.
We either needed a standalone Hulk film or at least some suggestion of their interest in each other beforehand, whilst well acted it just feels like a plot device shoved in for the sake of having a romantic sideline. Paul Bettany makes his physical debut as Vision, but he shows up a little late to the party to receive any proper development, hopefully Marvel will attend to that.
AOU is a very watchable film and makes for a great cinema trip, but it almost feels like a step backwards after the fantastic Winter Soldier. It serves the purpose of throwing the Avengers together and witnessing the carnage that ensues, the dialogue is fast, fun and the action equally so, the characters are, as usual, excellent but the overall effect is one of familiarity. AOU follows the previous Avengers film’s footsteps perhaps a little too closely but hopefully making some changes to the Avenger’s line up will avoid a repeat of a repeat.