Avengers: Age of Ultron (dir. Joss Whedon, 2015) – The first signs of divisive ideals loom, as Tony Stark’s peacekeeping agenda engenders an intimidating threat against the Avengers initiative.
Familiar faces and colossal destruction continually entertain, even if the explosive universe is starting to tire.
In Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) trods a fine line between war profiteer and peacekeeper. Manufacturing weapons that killed the very people it sought to protect, his conglomerate reflects the irony of humanity’s attempt at peace with war.
Similar interesting themes emerge in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Stark’s endeavour of a defence system instead births the titular threat. Things go awry, when artificial intelligence Ultron (James Spader) sifts through history and deems humanity a menace. He commandeers Stark’s drones and sees to the race’s extinction.
As victims of war made possible by Stark Industries weaponry, the Maximoff twins (Aaron Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen) find themselves inclined to join Ultron’s quest. Thoughtful motifs of warfare underlie their mission to dismantle the Avengers initiative.
The strong set-up aside, this remains an entertainment blockbuster at its core. Having assembled the team just three years ago, the sequel fires right into the fun part, and does so with lavish generosity.
As with what we have come to expect of Marvel, the setpieces are massive. From petty fights to giant clashes across the globe, the barrage is ceaseless. Aided by limited choreography and copious computer-generated imagery, the Avengers breeze through rote missions of almost assured victory.
Lacking peril is a bugging issue, but not the only one. Over ten Marvel films (and two TV series) later, the expanding scope seems close to hitting its limit. This is only the second Avengers film, and the sequences already verge on overkill. Whilst initially entertaining, consecutive destruction starts to feel exhausting.
This is especially so when hasty and fleeting cuts prove more disruptive than exciting. Unsurprisingly, more time is spent with debris and wreckage than characters. An overcrowded ensemble cast, complete with cameos, strains to find room in both the poster and the film.
Competing with one too many subplots, villainy is undercooked. Ultron appears lesser than a worthy opponent, as he harps on his mundane motive of world annihilation. With unconvincing albeit sometimes amusing one-liners, James Spader’s appropriately minacious diction largely goes to waste. His partnering twins did no better, characterised by not much more than vengeful angst and enhanced abilities.
While Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) finally gets a meatier story, it is an unwelcome one that dismantles everything we learnt about his mysterious archer in the first movies. On the other end, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is thrown into an awkwardly shoehorned relationship with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). Cast performances fortunately made up for the shortfalls, bringing charm to otherwise underwritten roles.
On occasion, Joss Whedon’s humour comes as a welcome affix. Along with punches, the Avengers deliver great self-referential jibes. Some of which fell flat, but most turn out genuinely funny.
Quips evoke the striking personalities of the heroes and lighten the mood, though at a slight cost of gravitas. This is a tad bugging, especially for a film exploring the divide in ideals between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in their means to peace, which will ignite the first sparks to Civil War (which by the way, will be amazing – I’m calling it).
All flaws considered, Age of Ultron is still a beautiful mess that should be seen on the silver screen. Any unabashed enthusiasts of big, goofy movies will be pleased by its gloriously extravagant super-heroism and the extremely likable cast. Fans will also be spoiled, with the final revelation of the wonderfully unexpected roster change. How long do we have to wait to see [redacted] in action as an Avenger?