Avengers: Age of Ultron Review
Avengers Age of Ultron is, undoubtedly, the second greatest movie release of the year (for those under a rock, Star Wars comes out in December and is already breaking records). Age of Ultron is the culmination of the second phase of the Marvel cinematic universe that brings together it’s biggest brand name superstars (and brands too actually, oh hi Samsung) for near enough 2.5 hours of unadulterated fun, but the question is, is it any good? This is, for everyone’s sake, a spoiler free Avengers: Age of Ultron Review.
Every fan going in to this film is going to be wondering if we are going to be getting more of the same from the first Avengers, or is it a bold new direction for story telling? To be perfectly honest, this was not something new. There was high octane action, excellent set pieces that boggle the mind and are plastered with the best special effects that you could possibly imagine and it all comes off looking slick, polished and as though you can feel every punch, bullet, arrow and Hulk Smash on screen. It is, in that respect, a pure delight. But, frankly, it isn’t all about action. Rather, we have a lot of characters to be dealing with, both good and bad – how exactly is that pulled off in Avengers: Age of Ultron?
To remind everyone about what we already know, we expect Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye, The Hulk, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver alongside those with their own franchise films; Thor, Captain America and Iron Man. Plus that new, titular bad guy everyone is dying to see in the, errrr, flesh – Ultron. That’s a lot of people to share screen time, and in attempting to do them justice, Whedon has naturally had to shift focus slightly to those denied their solo screen outings in order to develop them further. As a result, you don’t get your fan favourites and big guns doing all the work. Thinking back to the first Avengers movie, the best scenes were where they were all on screen together, mixing it up, laughing, arguing, fighting, punching Thor in the face… And once again the audience gets more of what it wants with this, but, as was mentioned, with the more developmental focus on the other characters being greater.
There is one wholly new character, and two who have been briefly teased before to get to know, and the fourth is essentially a background character who has always been there. Naturally, Ultron got a lot of screen time, and James Spader as Ultron was absolutely fantastic, his voiceover acting dripping with charm, charisma and a malevolence you just can’t quite pin down. On the flip side, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch felt underused and under developed, with little emotion being tied to these characters as a result. In fact, we felt far better about the quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past than we did about the version of him in Age of Ultron. Vision is both an exciting and intriguing addition to the line-up, and without giving anything away, he provides a really interesting character study in both looks, behaviour and abilities – alas, we don’t see much or have much explained about Vision. Perhaps the one surprising character to get the most screen time was Hawkeye – but in actual fact this worked wonders as the non-super powered superhero put in a fairly accomplished performance that elevated him above a daft bowman. The best lines of dialogue were shared out between Thor and Ironman of course. Can you get too much of a good thing? Perhaps that’s the thought behind limiting these interactions quite so much?
We are unbelievably huge fans of Marvel on the page, small screen and big screen. So, can we judge Avengers: Age of Ultron objectively as fans? Maybe we struggle to pull ourselves back from all that hype from the many, oh so many, trailers and images that were published in what felt like a 3 year campaign of advertising. However, Age of Ultron felt like what it was: a sequel struggling to find its own identity, whilst attempting to set itself up for something bigger as a part of a now much wider universe.
When Avengers came out, it was an end to a movement, representing a culmination of events across several films that felt like the end to phase 1, rather than simply the beginning of phase 2. It was novel, it was exciting, everything it was doing felt so grand and stupendous. Multiple, slack jawed viewings were not uncommon in our offices back then. Age of Ultron is a precursor to what we already know is lurking out there, Thanos, and those finicky infinity stones. Every individual movie now has been leading towards these, but rather than provide a succinct end to all that build-up, it just helps tie a few threads together and tease a few new ones. It’s more like a season finale rather than a movie extravaganza. It has all the hallmarks of a finale, and even the story it tells is pretty grand, but at the end, doesn’t feel world shaking like the events referred to as “New York” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Instead, it felt there were many forced references, things hidden on shelves, on passing billboards and in coded dialogue that hint at all those movies Marvel have planned.. The Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t allowed to be self contained.
Hold on one damned minute though. This sounds negative! It sounds like the movie was a damp squib. A piece of a puzzle that, although you probably need, isn’t the be all and end all, the great part you thought it was? Well. It both is and it isn’t. Age of Ultron, on its own, has some moments of sheer absolute brilliance that will remind you the cinema is a place you can go to be wowed, overawed and that Marvel are probably the only guys out there right now who can make you feel so damned excited (apart from the LEGO Movie). This film had emotion, it had action, it had humour, it had scenes of excellence and some really good acting. You could sit and watch it several times and feel equally pleased and happy and wonder how on earth you just lost those 2.5 hours?
Where do we stand on it all? Putting together Avengers: Age of Ultron must have felt a colossal task, with so many characters to bend to, so many other films leading in to and the out of it, and not to mention its own story to tell! It does this fairly well, and ultimately, is certainly a joy to watch. There’s plenty of chuckling to be had throughout, with hilarious one-liners, sucker punches, clumsiness and ‘cheeky banter’. There’s action coming out of its ass. There’s a story with real emotion behind it. There are some accomplished performances that tie it all together. Sure, because of all the weight it has to uphold, it lets you down here and there, but there is an overwhelming abundance of joy to the movie. In spite of it not having that novelty factor anymore, that keep it up there as easily one of the best films of the year (but not better than the first Avengers).
Oh, and two points of note. There is a mid-credits scene, but no final credits scene (like that Spiderman window washer reported elsewhere). Finally, the movie contains a fantastic historical shout-out to Great Britain’s own Prime Minister Neville Chamberlaine (1937-1940), who famously came back to England having held talks with Adolf Hitler himself in 1938, proclaiming “Peace for our time” – less than a year before Europe was at war. Remember that.