Apr 232015
 
Avengers Age Of Ultron Poster
Title: Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr.,
Chris Hemsworth,
Mark Ruffalo,
Chris Evans,
Scarlett Johansson,
Jeremy Renner,
James Spader,
Samuel L. Jackson,
Elizabeth Olsen,
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Genre: Superhero
Runtime: 2 Hours 21 mins
Music: Brian Tyler,
Danny Elfman
Studio: Marvel Studios
Certificate: US: PG-13
UK: 12A
Release Date: US: May 01 2015
UK: April 23 2015
See If You Like: Avengers Assemble,
Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Okay. It’s not BAD but it’s not GREAT either. And that’s the trouble with trying to follow up possibly the greatest superhero comic book movie of all time – it’s not good enough.

Hoping to bring about a positive end to the Avengers superhero team – where they don’t have to risk their lives to save the world anymore – Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., The Judge) accidentally creates Ultron (motion captured and voiced by James Spader, The Blacklist), an artificial intelligence with plans to wipe out the human race in an attempt to start over again. After wreaking havoc across the globe, The Avengers must reassemble to stop Ultron whilst at the same time deal with their inner fears.

I feel on being presented with what Mr. Joss Whedon considers a suitable follow up to the first Avengers movie, it comes across as a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong – there are moments where my inner child was propelled back to sitting in front of the TV and watching the perils of the Hulk & Iron Man which is where my love of the heroes portrayed here began. Seeing that Hulk going up against the ‘Hulkbuster’ Iron Man was my childhood coming to life, and it was magnificent. Despite a sketchy plot, there is more than enough thrills and spills of comic book action to keep anyone attentive for over two hours if you’re happy to turn the old brain off and for the most part it is extremely well made. The CGI never has a fluff moment at all with the character designs of Ultron and The Vision being a particular treat to see on-screen. The constant globe-hopping truly makes the Avengers a global force compared to the first outing where the legitimate critique of how in their world ‘New York was the most important place in the universe’ was hard to swallow.

The problems with Avengers: Age Of Ultron start when you realise that this film is already made superfluous as part of Marvel Studios’ masterplan to swamp the cinema schedule with every property they have in their pocket. I’m sure Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be great with where it takes it’s many heroes but we have a begrudged feeling about sitting through this final entry (or penultimate, if they can make their mind up about how Ant-Man fits in) of Phase 2 before we get onto more interesting events. This really should have been a film we’ve built up to, rather than a film we springboard off. Instead of the content within this film being remarkable, it’s what is coming next that leaves you more excited rather than anything here. Tony & Steve’ Captain America’ Rogers aren’t on the same page really at the end. Thor has had apocalyptic premonitions – and they’re not Earthly. Black Panther’s world is introduced. I guess shooting the gun about what is coming afterwards before releasing your next film is a bad mistake. Like imagine if Marvel said “hey guys, we’ve got Avengers 2 but after a month we’re telling you what we’ve got coming up next!” Way better than what we know has to happen to set up the next set of films after they’ve been announced.

I’ll point the finger again at Marvel’s disturbing chronic case of making their villains valueless too. Ultron’s voicework by Spader is luxuriously evil with a hypnotic, soft as Caramel allure and his multiple guises in different android bodies look suitably threatening but his character? Utter, utter bollocks. He gets access to the internet within two minutes of existing and drones on & on about God and yet you get the impression he never truly gets what he’s on about. A part of that is a messy script but at the same time we’re not given a full explanation of him apart from “He’s an evil android. He hates the Avengers and humans. Villain.” There’s hardly a revolutionary character at work here with complexities and traits. I know what Ultron is all about but thats from a background of reading comics myself. God knows what the average cinemagoer is going to make of him with the minimal set up he gets. Probably dull.

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With other new entries to the team, you expect them to make an impact but I wasn’t sold. The latest addition is the Eastern European mutant… umm I mean ‘miracles’ Wanda & Pietro Maximoff. Pietro, played by Kick-Ass himself Aaron Taylor-Johnson, does not match up to his Fox/X-Men: Days Of Future Past counterpart. He just runs fast and Whedon does not do anything exciting with this power apart from Mr. Excuse To Save People. The fact he’s written out forcefully at the end of the film is a blessing in disguise although it makes you wonder what was the point of getting him in anyway? Godzilla’s Elizabeth Olsen fares a bit better with Wanda. Her Chaos Magic powers have clearly been deemed too complex for the average cinemagoer though. With a waste of an interesting power set, she’s just deemed “weird” and shoved into the corner as Little Miss Plot Convenience who shoots red bolts and Argh! Mind warp! What a waste.

In fact, there’s another trip and fall from Age Of Ultron – it gives the impression that it wants to be something bigger, something grander, than it’s stature but when it gets up to a height it falls off. I’m sure at some level we’re meant to assume that Ultron is “the dark side” of Tony Stark but then we have Tony for that himself as the film hints at also. Whatever. Anything to go deeper right Joss? What this film should be doing right, it doesn’t even do that well. Those big superhero action sequences where it feels literally like a comic book coming to life? You don’t get that feeling on this merry-go-round. Outside of a stupendous castle raid to open the film and the most part of THAT Hulk vs. ‘Hulkbuster’ fight, the action doesn’t touch the right pulses. For some reason, Mr. Whedon decides to answer that one question from Man Of Steel (yeah I know it’s weird…) that everyone and their dog moaned about “oh why doesn’t Superman save everyone in the middle of the skyscrapers and disasterporn?”

Well I’ll tell you why – BECAUSE IT’S DISTRACTING AND BORING! Okay you can label me for having an ADHD mind there for not wanting to see superheroes be superheroes but when we’re at the final act we go so far out of the way to show the Avengers saving literally EVERYONE and when the movie pulls a Deus Ex Machina out of nowhere to evacuate a bunch of civilians (honestly – how the hell did Nick Fury manage that one? Isn’t he meant to be in hiding?), it’s simply not the right time and falls flatter than a pancake from on top of Avengers Tower. Anytime heroes fight a villain, there maybe some collateral against innocents – it’s part and parcel of the job. In the first Avengers, you can’t tell me that there wasn’t anyone who did not get killed off-camera by the aliens there. It’s fine. We accept it but the good the heroes did that day far outweighs the bad so fine. Here, the effort to make sure everyone is tucked away safely is far too much bollocks to swallow and distracts from the finale. It dilutes the action very much so and you have to wonder what the point was. What’s worse is that Ultron is raising a whole city into the sky to drop on Earth in an extinction level event – there’s way more pressing matter to deal with instead of making sure Little Yurnoff doesn’t eat Ultron droid plasma. Also, one or two times, the film gives the impression that there is more interesting events happening off-screen. The media is not happy with the Avengers after a possessed Hulk rampage. Oh Ultron is using his drones to steal stuff. Well show us then! It feels like a massive shortcut to be honest. I know Mr. Whedon has moaned about how this film pushed him to the limit and it started to affect him. Well in that case, if you feel you can not put 100% into putting the best damn superhero film you can, you should quit with grace rather than achieve a mediocre product.

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I think that’s what Avengers: Age Of Ultron does well though – it’s well acted. Okay we’re talking about a comic book movie here and not Schindler’s List or Birdman but everyone acts the part. Downey is superb still as the dick hero who tries his best but constantly buggers up. Chris Evans (Snowpiercer) does great as the straight edge, simplistic man out of time. Chris Helmsworth (Blackhat) loves being the larger than life Norse God Of Thunder. Whilst the lesser character stuff feels a bit forced – Hawkeye had a secret family the whole time and constantly rebuilds his house to unwind & they pull the trigger on the Banner/Black Widow romance which we know can’t really work – everyone looks like they want to be here and they all put in 100%. It’s far better than when Downey took creative control on Iron Man 3 and wrote himself out of the suit for 95% of that movie. I feel that the performances at the end of the day ultimately propels this film into good territory, rather than being dragged down with it’s failings.

In the end, on the grand scheme of superhero movies,Avengers: Age Of Ultron is far from being a criminal act on cinema. It feels like another worthy adaptation of the Marvel comic book world and inspires some awe. However the self-sacrifice of itself so we have some movement in the next phase of Marvel’s beloved Cinematic Universe is a cost to how irrelevant this feels by the time you finish watching it. I’m sure Mr. Whedon did put some effort into attempting to top his masterpiece in the first one and he does get the whole cast to bring their comic book counterparts to life, but the feeling is with this sub-par product that he should have stepped to one side for someone who could manage the job. The action peaks & lows but at the end of the day this is a fine entry into the genre which could not possibly top the standards set by it’s predecessor.

Terry Lewis@lewisonlife.