Posted April 21, 2015 by editor in Film Reviews
 
 

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Review


avengers

And so the pay off for Marvel Phase 2 (and we are not counting Ant-Man) arrives in Joss Whedon’s follow up from what he started.  Avengers Assemble saw a team of exceptionally talented defenders of the earth come together to face off against a force of evil, fully intent on bringing harm to the human race.

The sequel – well… doesn’t seem like much has changed. We start off with the team already on a mission together – facing off against Hydra. The film quickly lets us know that this is the same team not just in front of the camera but behind it with some similar camera work and on screen antics from the team we saw them engage at the climax of the first Avengers movie.  Long camera shots that take us from one character to another, signature moves and glorious takedowns. So already it’s an improvement on the opening of the first film. And credit must be given to Whedon for opening the film as the last ended with a team united and fighting together in a display of well planned choreography as well as improvisation. Far too often a sequel can start on a downer; but Age of Ultron starts on a glorious high and in new surroundings as well.

But of course not all is as it seems as we are introduced to two new young siblings who we will come to know as The Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who decide to take their own battle to the Avengers.

Once the team are home – with some new found knowledge, Tony Stark decides to boot his global peacekeeping programme named Ultron. But whilst he and the team are off playing party, Ultron boots up, takes over all of Starks internal computer systems and seeks a physical form – so that he can set about destroying the Avengers.

Ultron takes on various physical robotic forms in the film, but is consistently voiced by James Spader. And before long our heroes are out on their end having to come up with a plan to put an end to Ultron schemes, but with The Scarlet Witch’s dark influence clouding all minds, it’s proving to be a bit more difficult.

This is a big, loud and bombastic affair. All your favourite characters are back, all with great action moments, all with a great joke or two to tell, and all with a fairly weighed up screen time allotment. The question may well me. What is not to like?

The trouble is that there is an awful lot of exposition about what we are dealing with that needs to be said, and said fast by characters in order to get us to where we are going.

There is also a lot of incidental action. Sure that ”Hulk Buster” armour looks cool, and the idea of Iron Man having to take on the Hulk in battle is a thrilling concept. But in reality what we have is not a fight where two seemingly unstoppable forces are in it for the long haul. Rather, that one party is trying to calm the other one down and avoid as much damage as possible. While we respect the plot mechanics of this interlude – it still at the end of the day is merely a big budget interlude to give fans something to gawp at. There is very little actual threat for the characters in this mid section of the film.

Which takes us back then to the constant fast chatter. It seems Ultron’s ridiculous plan that comes to fruition at the end is perhaps one that a child itself might have dreamt up – without then realising that there are better ways to destroy the planet. The logic in his plan seems tailor made so that the Avengers do in fact have the time, resource and space together to take on this opponent in a finale.

And we do have to be thankful I guess that so many characters are at least together at the end. Cross-cutting across the globe between almost a dozen characters might have been the sort of thing that would test even George Lucas’ patience.

We could talk all day about how messy the middle of the film seems, and how over populated it feels, and how strongly the filmmakers felt the need to focus on Hawkeye, purely it seems after being shafted slightly in the first film (But what we do learn about him? Let’s say that, whilst it isn’t boring, it is hardly something that should have been prioritised). There is also one cringe-worthy section of dialogue where he is questioned about whether he belongs on the team or not which pretty much feels like Whedon voicing fan opinion from the last movie. But – thankfully he is also given some truly strong moments in battle (one moment sees him, out of all the team, being able to disarm the Scarlet Witch).

The addition of the twins has pros and cons as well. Olsen is almost seductive in her role as the Scarlet witch and poses a true threat to the team which we see the effects off on pretty much all players.

The problem which Quicklsilver is that fans will undoubtedly compare him to the X-Men version we had last year. And whilst the two are very different characters; it’s clear that last year’s entry is the winner in terms of what he did on screen.

As for the head honcho himself, Ultron. We are very much placed with a CGI character, voiced in a brooding manner by James Spader. Spader seems to do all he can, but Ultron never reaches the level of malice that he had in any of the trailer campaigns. Instead he sometimes acts as an awkward jokester and commentator of what he sees as it is happening. Sure he does awful things, but there isn’t a strong enough balance in the character for him to ever rank as one of Marvel’s best villains. You know you are in trouble in these movies when you are suddenly on the lookout for a Loki cameo. And as for in battle – the Winter Soldier packed much more of an impressive punch. As Ultron can multiply – there is also, it seems, no end to how to end the character. And even in the end there are at least 3 or 4 moments where you think this is finally the end of him. And each moment could have been that well defined finishing move, only for him to continue breathing in another body moments later.

It is left to Paul Bettany then to make an impression as the Vision. A newly created being – important for reasons best left for viewers to discover themselves. But whilst he too is hampered with lengthy dialogue at times (particularly before they march off to their final big battle) he, though, is also granted some of the best onscreen action and is the clear winner of the film’s finest sight gag.

The work you can tell is all very much in earnest – and everyone is trying hard – but it’s still a bit of a mash up without some truly stellar drama for the story to cling to – instead we get episode dramas from each player. Everyone has their moments to shine, but it’s the threat itself they face and how it has been convoluted that poses the problem for the narrative. A few littered gags here and there don’t quite help save it from itself.

There is also very little actual conflict within the team. Sure a few raised voices at Stark for what he is up to. Sure, the loneliness of being the Hulk is spoken about. But ultimately it’s a team finding solutions and setting about them. Anyone looking for strong hints of what will come in Civil War next year are going to be mightily let down.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron then is solid summer blockbuster fun. But it’s not likely to get any “Best Marvel Movie” debates fired up like last years The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy did. But at least this isn’t as low as Thor: The Dark World either!

4 Stars

 

 

Steven Hurst


editor