Film Review: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

With its own universe, there’s lots of room to hide

Dir: Joss Whedon; US action, 2015, 141 mins; Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Rennner, Paul Bettany, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Aaron Taylor-Johnson


When Joss Whedon took on the first Avengers film, he used his skills as a writer, well-honed by years of popular TV (Buffy,Firefly – notably all of which are ‘team’ orientated), to craft a script not only tailored to his directorial strengths, but one that tackled the near impossible challenge of satisfactorily bringing several popular, ridiculously diverse characters and their story strands together into one film. Not only did he manage this with aplomb, but he pleased hardcore fans and hit historical paydirt for the studio. In short, he set the bar pretty high – for himself.

Corny turns stormy
This time around, we join the team – Iron Man (RDJ), Thor (Hemsworth), Captain America (Evans), the Incredible Hulk (Ruffalo), Black Widow (Johansson) et al – as they deal a deadly blow to the evil organisation HYDRA.

They then decide, having done so well, that they deserve some downtime – during which period, Iron Man, aka techno-wiz Tony Stark, and bulging bio-brain Dr Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk, but surely you knew that) forgo the beach holiday for some serious lab time. We watch as a musical montage shows the pair in several costume changes while getting closer and closer to achieving their goal of solving Stark’s niggling bugbear – the world’s vulnerability to attack from space nasties (which happened in their last outing). Stark wants to build an interplanetary task force of autonomous iron men robots with an AI he develops, forming a shield around the planet.

Obviously this goes wrong, as the plan backfires with the new AI ‘Ultron’ going mental and ultimately judging humanity unworthy of existence. Oops. The remaining running time features the team going about global damage control.

We used to marvel …
As a geek who was less interested in comics from Marvel, I’m surprised to find myself enjoying nearly all of the MCU (the narratively connected Marvel Cinematic Universe – Jon Favreu’s original Iron Man from 2008 and everything afterwards), but this time, something is missing. Has superhero fatigue finally set in? Perhaps, but it doesn’t help that the film is an uneven mess.

All the Whedonisms are there: lots of goofball wise-cracking between the heroes, the director’s signature blend of teamwork, action and heartfelt romance. Whedon tries to up the substance with several scenes dedicated to the love-lives of our heroes, but this time, all the shifts in tone feel like box-ticking and fail to hang together.

Going through the motions
What once felt zesty and urgent has become … routine. The actors, particularly Downey Jr and Evans look bored this time around, going through the motions – and frankly, after five films in their super-suits and several more to come, it’s difficult to judge them for phoning this one in.

Whedon too has seemingly slipped into auto-pilot with the writing, which resembles all those other films with super-beings or tall maniacal robots grappling with god complexes. It’ll spoil nothing to say that everything ends in monotonous smashing and booming as an urban landscape is levelled, with bricks, mortar and shards of glass flying into your 3D spectacles – this is the climax we’ve come to expect from every single film like it. Finally, even in the given company, Paul Bettany painted red and sporting a cape looks beyond daft. Enjoy.


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