Avengers: Age of Ultron,2015.
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.
The novelty of witnessing a team of superheroes (whether they are humans, Gods, or fantastical beings with enhanced abilities) is one that seems like its wow factor should be whittled down a notch in its sequel titled Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it isn’t. The concept is still relentlessly entertaining with full throttle pacing and numerous geek-out moments, whether Earth’s mightiest heroes are landing whimsical jabs at one another or beating the holy hell out of each other.
Maybe it’s because writer/director Joss Whedon is a self-renowned nerd that is as passionate about bringing these enormous events to life as much as the legion of fans of these characters that wait with bated breath for each new installment within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe it’s because of the star-studded cast featuring numerous A-listers such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and more delivering fine performances that do justice taking the beloved heroes from comic strips to the silver screen. Maybe it’s the fact that the movie doesn’t even feel like a movie, but rather a pop-culture event that the entire world anticipates and wants to be a part of. No matter how you slice it though, Avengers: Age of Ultron is another homerun in the portfolio of Marvel films.
As the culmination of past films and TV shows, Age of Ultron wastes little time getting to its grandiose action sequences. Also, there are a lot of those spectacular battles here, far more so than the original Avengers film which from a narrative standpoint was more focused with uniting the heroes and getting them on the same page, not just in terms of a well-oiled fighting machine, but as a group that can trust one another and get along. That is fairly non-existent here as from the beginning it is clear that The Avengers are an unstoppable force to be reckoned with, so it is instead more of a deconstruction of their teamwork this time around. Surprisingly, the falling apart doesn’t really much come from the narrative, but horrifying visions of the future and the Ultron program going terribly wrong.
What this leaves us with is a movie that is almost a literate definition of nonstop action. Furthermore, the aggressive tone to keep building and building off of its action sequences and upping the stakes with every one is at once the film’s mightiest strength but also the direct cause of some of its shortcomings. Without spoiling anything, there are some more emotional scenes that could have packed a bigger punch had there been just a little more quiet time for dialogue and character development. It doesn’t mean these scenes fall flat, just that they could have been more.
On the other side of the token, it truly is remarkable how Joss Whedon can juggle so many characters at once, both familiar and new. Without having any prior films for true introduction or beforehand knowledge, it is Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who steal the show in terms of how awesome their abilities are utilized amongst the cacophony of destruction. Ultron is also a highly menacing villain voiced to perfection by James Spader, and fully realized visually with a heavy intimidation factor. His only real flaw is that like most Marvel villains, his evil grand plan is the old generic “wipe out humanity” routine. There are some passing references and thematic elements that he is the antithesis to Iron Man and what he stands for, but it falls on deaf ears due to the fact that 90% of this movie is complete carnage and not necessarily concerned with plot.
You could argue that at times it suffers from Transformers syndrome, globetrotting around the world just to blow more stuff up so dramatically and theatrically that you’re left wondering how The Avengers aren’t simply seen as villains seeing as wherever they go mass chaos and city-wide annihilation aren’t far behind, but it’s easy to overlook when you realize that Joss Whedon is more concerned with giving diehard fans what they want to see; fantasy one-on-one fights between our heroes, epic battles over the fate of the human race, and to put it bluntly, a whole lot of badass shit. There’s a line where Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) makes a self-aware remark that none of this makes any sense, and you know what, he’s right. There’s also nothing wrong with that or anything to be ashamed of because at the end of the day Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers summer blockbuster fun that its competition won’t be able to match even half-way.
The framing of the rampant violence once again makes for scenes such as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) fighting Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in his Hulkbuster armor to pop and really come alive. They toss each other into buildings, punch each other up the walls of buildings, and even pound each other from the sky to the ground through buildings, and with each passing second you are left in awe and sheer excitement. Even more stunning is a quick scene of all of our heroes together laying the smackdown on a robot army as the camera pans around in a circle, giving each warrior their money-shot moment. It is without a doubt one of the most liberating and satisfying scenes in a superhero film. The only real negative thing there is to say about the action is that occasionally the CGI looks a touch unconvincing. It’s not that big a deal though when the movie is so exciting it’s tough to catch your breath.
The darker tone of the sequel is also something that is sure to take some viewers by surprise. There are still beloved moments where characters make jokes or talk smack about one another (regardless of whether it is an opportune time or not) but there is a real sense of danger this time. Some scenes also elicit an unexpected amount of blood that miraculously didn’t push the film into R-rated territory. As an example without spoilers, a human enemy gets an arm sliced off, not in graphic detail, but enough to jar you and make you rethink if you are watching a Marvel movie or not. That darker tone is a welcome and pleasant surprise though, and something that the studio should incorporate more into their films, especially factoring in the success of the Netflix exclusive Daredevil show.
Some may say that the era of the superhero film has peaked, arguably with the original Avengers. If Age of Ultron is any indication to go by, it hasn’t. It is just as fun as its predecessor, arguably more so. Like every ambitious blockbuster it does have its flaws, but they aren’t enough to weigh down the massive amount of thrills provided. The only crime against cinema that Age of Ultron commits is making us wait another three years before Infinity War. It’s hard to believe that with a franchise this exciting, the best is yet to come.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook