A no-holds barred action movie, on first glance it would seem that this is another blockbuster in the making and as a die-hard Marvel fan (as has already been noted more than once), I was desperate enough to throw my money at a midnight showing to bask in the glory of the penultimate instalment of Marvel’s cinematic “Phase 2”.
Avengers, Assemble (Again)!
The second instalment of the Avengers franchise starts off, as one would expect, with a bang. Leaping straight into the action, the film barely pauses to let you take a breath for the first twenty minutes, trying to fill in with the odd line here and there what the Avengers have been doing as a team in the time since we last saw them assembled together.
As discussed in my previous column in which I picked through the Avengers trailers , the whole premise of this film is that Tony Stark wants to protect the world and, ultimately, make the Avengers – as they are – defunct and unnecessary. How does he intend do this? Ultron. Well, sort of.
In an effort to avoid too many spoilers, Tony messes around with something he doesn’t understand – with Bruce Banner’s help – and ends up making one of the most colossal mistakes of his entire life that decides it wants to wipe out the world. In a sense, Artificial Intelligence deciding the only way to create peace by destroying the human race is nothing new to us: it’s a longstanding fear that’s permeated numerous movies and TV shows for decades.
In short, things go wrong and the Avengers spend the rest of the film trying to fix a mess that is entirely of their own making. It’s exciting and exhilarating with a lot of action and special effects…
Unfortunately, that’s where things start to get a little woolly. There was clearly a huge action budget but other than that, there’s a definite sense that the film is trying to cram too much extra stuff into the story that maybe doesn’t quite fit there (i.e. Thor’s nightmare vision) just to try and fill the gap between Avengers Assemble and Avengers: Infinity War Part I. The film largely feels like filler and doesn’t quite stand on its own as a standalone item in the cinematic universe, nor does it feel completely cohesive with what’s already there other than to be a ‘stopgap’ because they can’t just jump straight into the Infinity War storyline.
Don’t get me wrong, the action scenes are good and there are some truly golden moments (which I will elaborate on in a moment), but overall it feels largely like the film isn’t quite sure what it wants to be or what story it wants to tell.
“He’s fast, she’s weird.”
The film does introduce us to a plethora of new characters: Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and the Vision are the primary ones, along with – of course – Ultron. They are fantastically handled and considering the legal loophole that allows Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to be in both this film and in X-Men: Days of Future Past tied Marvel’s hands somewhat, the backstory given (whilst being tragically under developed in my opinion) does give the audience the chance to sympathise with their plight and their motives. Both Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson do a very good job of playing the Eastern European (non-mutant) twins and slot into the established team of characters without being overshadowed.
The Vision’s introduction is somewhat less impressive in parts however taking the step away from comic-book canon in this instance was the right move to establish him as a character in his own right. The way in which he establishes his sentience is a touching moment that is in direct opposition to Ultron’s creation and the stark contrasts (pun intended) between the two AI characters allows the audience to really feel a sense of pathos for Ultron towards the end of the film.
But is it good?
For your average moviegoer, this is everything an action movie should be, and everything that a blockbuster requires in order to draw in the crowds. It’s got action and adventure, explosions and a lot of dead people at the end of it all (though relatively little blood or acknowledgement of the loss of life).
There isn’t enough exposition for the curve balls that are thrown with regards to certain events that unfold over the course of the film and there’s little to no character development that actually makes any sense (aside from Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and their growth throughout the film) and Joss Whedon has taken a very distressing step backwards in his representation of women. There was too much packed into the time the film had and the wrong things were focused on (again, Thor’s vision—what?) and developed to the detriment of other things.
That being said, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The action sequences are – as always – phenomenal and the way Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s powers were handled was very well done. The trademark humour was there in spades, from the scene in one of the trailers where everyone’s trying to lift Thor’s hammer (unsuccessfully) that is then built on later, to a constant in-joke where everyone’s teasing Captain America. There’s perfect levels of snark from Hawkeye that hark back to the comic and cartoon character that’s actually pretty well loved and there were times when, I’m not going to lie, I laughed out loud but there were also times when I sat there feeling a crushing disappointment and wondering just what Joss Whedon thought he was doing.
I was so excited to see this film that it was going to have been hard for it to live up to my expectations. Considering how much hype has been surrounding this since it was announced, it’s unsurprising that anything less than one hundred percent perfection was going to let me down. Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t perfect, not anywhere near it and when I left the cinema at 2:50am (ish), I went home and sat on my couch feeling a little betrayed and concerned about what this meant for the direction the next films would take.
Some of the character decisions and events that happen in the second and third acts of the film actually angered me – as a fan of the comic books and pretty much everything else that’s ever been done by Joss Whedon – and that’s not happened in a long time.
It’s worth a watch, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time I wouldn’t go and see it again. It’ll be a while before I think I could watch it again. If anyone wants me, I’ll be buried in fanfiction.