Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2015.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Bettany, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader, Thomas Kretschmann, Cobie Smulders, Claudia Kim, Andy Serkis, Don Cheadle, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Hayley Atwell and Linda Cardellini.
When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.
I looked back at my review of The Avengers from 2012 and the opening paragraph struck me as one which I’d never consider writing now;
“Firstly, I love films based on comic book characters and I enjoy many summer blockbusters, so I cannot complain that I wasn’t part of The Avengers’ target audience. Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Batman, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, X-2, X-Men: First Class, Superman Returns (yes, that’s right) and the greatest superhero film of them all, Superman: The Movie, all range from very enjoyable to truly outstanding in my opinion. It’s interesting to note that all but one of these were released before 2008 when Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were made and paved the road to The Avengers.”
Whereas this still hold true for me, the fact is this new entry into the never-ending production pipeline of Marvel films arrives in a week where trailers for several other franchises have dropped, the seventh film in a pitiful series of films just crossed the billion dollar mark at the global box-office, and fatigue has set in for me as far as all of this ‘world building’ is concerned. I’ll be honest and say it set in many years ago. It makes no difference if I liked comic-book films pre-Iron Man much more than majority of those released now, it the cinematic landscape which is shaping up the next decade of summer and winter releases and no one forces me to watch these movies; I watch them because I want to like them. I really do. I’d have to be a sadist to spend time and money watching films which I want to dislike.
My opinion on Avengers: Age of Ultron is of course in no way linked to what other films may be coming out in the future, but this feeling of utter boredom from start to end (and at 141 minutes this film drags for anyone not fully invested) is indubitably linked to all which has come before it. Three Iron Man films, two Thor, two new Spider-Man stories, two Wolverine spin-offs, four Transformers, three from The Hobbit, the last four Fast & Furious, thankfully only the one Man of Steel so far, and now two fully blown stories from The Avengers – what’s the difference aside from the character names and the digitally created backgrounds on which the actors stand in front of? The basic goals of having something at stake, showing audiences new and unique set pieces, a plot which keeps us guessing, and above all else a directorial vision of excitement and adventure to stand up and say ‘THIS film is something you’ve never seen before!’. In 2012 at least Joss Whedon could say audiences have never seen all these characters together on-screen at the same time, but his new film can’t even make that claim.
I understand the attraction of these films, I really do. If seeing [insert any character name here from comic books or 1980s toy lines] is enough to make one care about the mayhem unleashed on the screen, regardless of the coherence or tension it may or may not create, then great for that person. And that’s not meant to come across as anything but genuine; if I don’t enjoy a film then I hope at least others can. But what does baffle me is how audiences can give a pass to 45 minutes of action which is never once feels like it’s happening in the world in which it’s set (the major problem I have), let alone look much different from the film which opened last year, last month, or even last week. Same problems, different name on the title. I have to think it’s because of who is doing the work in front of the green screen, and not what they’re doing. Michael Bay’s latest films get (deservedly) critically bashed, Joss Whedon’s gets critically bukkaked. It makes no sense to me.
This needlessly long film’s running time is devoted to one third plot exposition and character building, and two thirds action, but it’s the action which I go to see and where I have the biggest gripe. As mentioned, it looks and feels the same as most other mega budget films from the past seven years which on its own is disappointing enough, but considering this is coming off of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the most recent film featuring an Avenger, Joss Whedon has taken a giant step back, just when I hoped Marvel had turned a corner. The Winter Soldier was such a pleasant surprise with the handling of its many action sequences that it ended up being in my top 35 films of 2014 – from a total of 134 titles. Everything that film did so right with its action scenes, especially in the first two thirds, Avengers: Age Of Ultron seems to purposefully go in the opposite direction.
If you’re looking for a comic book ‘nerd’ view of this film then by now you’ve probably gathered that isn’t my angle; I’m interested in discussing the film making only. There’ll be no “wasn’t it awesome when Hulk did X,Y, and Z because he’s Hulk” or orgasms over post-credit scenes or how Ultron has evolved since his first appearance in The Avengers issue #55.
I say this because, even though I’m all for a film paying service to the legions of fans who flock to cinemas worldwide in their droves to see Iron Man in his Hulkbuster armour fighting the Hulk, the extended scene of carnage which sees an entire skyscraper flatten and countless vehicles and properties destroyed is insanely stupid. The reasons why Bruce Banner A) turns into the Hulk here B) doesn’t go help his fellow Avengers once he has turned C) cannot control his rage in this one scene yet can channel it in every other instance in the movie and D) why Iron Man even needs a special suit to battle the Hulk BASED ON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THE FILM is never explained. But who cares when two CGI characters based on Marvel comics get to fight, right?
Quite why every character in the film talks the same way which cocky one liners and endless banter regardless if they’re from another planet or New York City is a topic for another review, because these traits never seem to change. Why the villain talks that way, however, is unacceptable; but hey, he’s Ultron and he’s based on a Marvel comic book character, so let’s ignore little niggles like dialogue and character.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Rohan Morbey – follow me on Twitter.