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Thursday, 30 April 2015

At The Fleapit: Avengers - Age Of Ultron (2015)


The key takeaway from Avengers: Age of Ultron is that, for Marvel Cinematic Universe fans, it delivers what it promises. However, if you're not already even slightly invested in the franchise this probably isn't a good place to start.

While the original Avengers movie felt like both a natural extension of the solo hero movies that had gone before it and a self-contained entity, Age Of Ultron is very much a part of a greater whole, with many of the sub-plots and Easter Eggs laying the groundwork for what is to come (particularly in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, 2018's Black Panther and the 2018/19 Avengers: Infinity War).

Having retrieved Loki's scepter from Hydra's Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), Tony Stark has a glimpse of the future where he is responsible for the death of the Avengers and decides, with the aid of Bruce Banner, to push ahead with the Ultron project to create an artificial intelligence to protect the world from future alien invasions.

Ultron has other ideas.

Age of Ultron is a truly comic book movie, with its ever-increasing cast of characters to its multiple sub-plots and story arcs. There's a lot crammed in here and it feels like a long movie - but in a good, value-for-money way. Even when writer/director Joss Whedon takes his foot off the accelerator for some necessary downtime, the film never drags.

Joss juggles a lot of balls here and most elements pay off really well (the running gag about Cap's attitude to the more potty-mouth members of the team is great, but rather fizzles out, while the team's playful efforts to lift Thor's hammer has a wonderful pay-off later in the film).

I was really pleased to see Whedon positioning Hawkeye as the heart of the team, but it did generate a nagging sword-of-Damocles feeling that maybe Clint was heading in the same direction as Wash (from Serenity).

S.H.I.E.L.D. also popped up towards the end of the movie, doing what "S.H.I.E.L.D. is supposed to do", which rather suggests that this all takes place some time in the near-future of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.

As well as introducing two new 'enhanced' characters, namely Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), without wasting time on 'origin stories' for the twins, the film gives us the most interesting new addition to the Avengers roster: The Vision (Paul Bettany).

With input from multiple sources into his creation, the android is fascinating personality and I can't wait to see how he develops in future movies.

There's also an unexpected romance at the core of Age Of Ultron, that works really well, being so well-written that it makes sense even if you never saw it coming.

On the downside, I was slightly underwhelmed by James Spader's Ultron, although he was the all-powerful antagonist you would have expected from a rogue AI, he wasn't the sinister evil the trailers had been cut to portray but rather a petulant child prone to bouts of Whedonesque snark.

The character itself felt like a bit of a fudge, as it's set up to be the first artificial intelligence (and certainly runs out of control as predicted in James Barrat's depressing and rather terrifying Our Final Invention). But Stark already has his long-established Jarvis program - which appears, to all intents and purposes, to be an AI working perfectly fine with its human counterparts.

This is where comic book reality clashed uncomfortably with attempts to inject some real world science into the mix.

Age of Ultron also, for some reason, adopted the darker colour palette of the DC Universe films. I hope this is a one-off shift rather than a major misstep in the wrong direction for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Minor glitches aside, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a magnificent continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe storyline as it heads towards the cosmic dust-up scheduled to go down in  Infinity War.

2 comments:

  1. I agree with you. I am surprised that they got a coherent movie out of the mix especially with all the se ups they have to do for future marvel films. Like Captain Amerca, Civil War and everything else on their schedule. I also lost some of the joy having become so familiar with the actors and the characters they are portraying. I liked the NEW look Avengers at the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean about the NEW Avengers - looking forward to seeing them in action... although I'm not sure which films they'll be popping up in next ;-)

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