Marvel deliver another high thrill action adventure while continuing to expand their universe and up the stakes.
How can one film possibly survive under the weight of expectation placed on it by the world of comic book fans, Marvel devotees and critics looking for the chink in the Marvel armour. After seeing Avengers: Age Of Ultron, it looks like they have met the challenge with ease, the film taking everything people loved about the first film and ramping it up. More humour, more suspense and even a villain credible of their attention. Joss Whedon has delivered once more, commanding what is a potentially dangerous ship in the right direction once more. It will be interesting to see how the Russo brothers step into his shoes for Infinity War, but obviously there is a lot of ground to go before we reach those films. Lets talk about the movie at hand.
Age Of Ultron follows the story of Tony Stark’s unwieldy artificial intelligence engine Ultron as it takes its program of peace and looks to cleanse the world of the Avengers. Into the mix we have new players Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver who are results of Hydra experimentation causing havoc with the Avengers unity and focus. We up the emotional stakes as Hawkeye’s back story is developed, Black Widow and Hulk make googly eyes at each other and Captain America, Thor and Iron Man continue struggling with the power interplay between them. Ultron poses a severe threat as he takes the work Hydra and Stark Industries have done and wield it against his creators. What we have is a much more grounded film than the alien romps of the original Avengers, Thor: Dark World or Guardians Of The Galaxy and that bodes well for the film, allowing us to focus more on realistic action and the problematic questions of artificial intelligence and human self-destruction.
The action sequences run thick and fast, from the opening second we are dumped in a fire fight and there isn’t a page in the script that goes by seemingly without a gun or explosion reminding us that this is an action film before anything else. Huge set pieces are intertwined with stand off battles, each shot in a style Marvel has attempted to tie through all its films, a focus on CGI mixed with real life stunts giving it a fantastical but gritty feel. Once more we have been given a 3D film that probably didn’t need it, so if you aren’t a fan of 3D, save your money and see it in 2D. Age Of Ultron ups the comedy stakes as well, playing on our established knowledge of the characters we have the leads delivering lines as they saunter or fly around, frequently descending the cinema into laughs and even applause at one point. The comedy works as a necessary counterpoint to the darker tone presented by the setting, destruction element and emotional grounding of the tension in the film.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron focuses the plot development more on those characters who haven’t been developed in stand alone films which is important to not over-saturate the audience. We have Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye being fleshed out which is important as their more human struggles play well as the inhuman Ultron and godlike Iron Man, Captain America and Thor wax lyrical about ideas of peace and humanity above them. Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johannson deliver some chemistry not experienced in the Marvel universe before and it truly interests me how they will progress the story there. Newcomers Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor Johnson steal the show, their Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver stealing the show with both their impact on the plot but also their emotional drive and acting ability. The accents slip sometimes, but this is a superhero movie, suspend your disbelief. Linda Cardenelli and Andy Serkis provide depth with their cameos, each owning the screen in their various scenes.
The one shortfall in the characterisation of the film and plot is unfortunately Ultron himself. James Spader has done a wonderful job providing the voice and mannerisms for the hulking AI robot, but there is just something missing to my mind. Knowing the Avengers will be back on screen in a years time means there is very little tension to their safety at the hands of this supposed brainiac. His motivation is slightly glossed over, the assumption that the smartest computer program in the world given the objective of peace will instantly turn on its creator and even references themselves as evil is a bit much. In terms of damage, Scarlet Witch is a bigger threat to the world, Hulk caused more properly damage and every time Thor commands lightning you wonder why the film wasn’t wrapped up in the first 20 minutes and they all went for a kebab. They have infused Ultron with the same sneaky humour as Loki but failed to provide the same cunning menace and brutality that made him so compelling. Lets not forget though that Ultron is just a pawn in the movement of the series towards a much bigger goal.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron is a delight on the screen, any comic book or action fan will revel in the constant fight scenes, wry humour and character development. The film acts as another springboard for the future of Marvel but will easily stand alone as one of its best films to date, stepping up from The Avengers and expanding the audiences knowledge of minor Avengers. At this point Marvel can do no wrong and can guarantee my patronage despite personal DC preferences. It will be interested to see if they can deliver gold with Ant Man, but even if they can’t it is unlikely any film with take Avengers: Age Of Ultron’s crown as blockbuster of 2015.