Review – Avengers: Age of Ultron
The eleventh entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an entertaining compromise. Writer and director, Joss Whedon, is caught between managing a lukewarm core story while pleasing the demands of tangents associated with future Marvel blockbusters (and Marvel Studios head honcho, Kevin Feige, and his Disney overlords). Avengers: Age of Ultron is overloaded, but the spectacle is fun, Whedon’s witty dialogue pops, and the execution of intimate character moments shine in what’s essentially a bridging film in the MCU.
Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) starts a peacekeeping program using an unknown artificial intelligence program that becomes the villainous Ultron (James Spader). The Avengers swing into action to stop Ultron’s plot to destroy mankind.
The opening sequence is proof of Whedon’s skill at crafting action set pieces as The Avengers raid a compound of the evil organisation Hydra. Whedon frames each thrilling beat like it was ripped from the page of a comic book. His composition of each heroic feat is superb despite being mired by an overuse of digital effects and scrappy editing as the film progresses into an uncanny valley.
Whedon is a master at breaking tension with humour as a reminder of the ridiculousness of superheroes at play; it’s okay to delight in embracing the impossible when so many comic book inspired films aim for grit grounded in absurdity.
Ultron is a middling antagonist, proof the MCU still has a rogue problem. The evildoer’s plotting is constantly forgettable until it reaches the point of human extinction to demand you give a damn. Spader’s barbed monotone voice-work and performance-capture give the digitally enhanced character life but it’s another bland evil plan.
The mind games is where Age of Ultron allows for each Avenger to have their moment of doubt and vulnerability which surpasses the physical conflict. Most of these moments hinge on the interpretive nature of visions induced by Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Each Avenger hallucinates to see their greatest fear, a glimpse of the future or even a ghost from the past. It’s an excellent way for Whedon to muse on the current projection of each hero in a universe that continues to expand with each new Marvel film. By looking inward, Whedon can divulge what drives and terrifies each member of the team. Even if the main plot of Age of Ultron lumbers forward, the tiny moments of introspection propel these characters forward.
Age of Ultron serves to hint at the MCU plotted until the year 2019, which results in a little middle-picture syndrome, much in the same way as Iron Man 2 did on the path to The Avengers; it feels like a lot of talk about what’s about to happen without anything happening. This is why each little character moment is essential to Age of Ultron succeeding beyond its explosive side. It’s tough to consider this a criticism as we are only just getting used to how each film in the new franchise model Disney and Marvel have created services a much larger plan. Age of Ultron is sure to age well as the curtain is raised on future Marvel fare. It feels close in proximity to the significance of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a character piece that proceeds Raiders of the Lost Ark, despite Doom being released as a sequel (Doom is set in 1935 while Raiders is set in 1936).
Avengers: Age of Ultron has humility despite overextending itself as a cog in a much bigger machine.
The Popcorn Junkie