The original line-up of the Avengers are back for one last go: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow and a whole bunch of new unofficial heroes in Joss Whedon’s final turn in the director’s chair for Marvel’s ensemble franchise. In the wake of Loki’s attempted invasion of New York City, Tony Stark attempts to create an artificial intelligence whose sole task is to protect Earth against future threats. Of course, this backfires and the Avengers end up creating their deadly enemy, Ultron.
What I liked best about Age of Ultron was the fact that all our favorite heroes get equal screen time to show of what they can do. Although the action scenes are great (Iron Man in the Hulkbuster versus Hulk!) the thing that really makes this movie work is the interaction between all the people involved, plus the humour (laughed my ass off a couple of times). Stark and Banner, Banner and Black Widow, Hawkeye and Black Widow, Thor and Captain America… like in real life you can see with whom each of them get along best. It’s also nice to see that Hawkeye gets a lot of screen time. He even gets the most interesting background story of the bunch.
Only when it comes to matching the sheer jaw-dropping spectacle of its predecessor does this sequel become a victim of its own success. Despite hopscotching across the globe from Europe to Africa to Asia and back (culminating in the fictional East European country of Sokovia where it started), Whedon never quite achieves the same feeling of ‘wow’ that we had watching Loki take out S.H.I.E.L.D’s airborne headquarters or unleash hell from the sky onto New York City. Whedon manage to replicate that feeling of astoundment in the much- anticipated Hulk-versus-Hulkbuster sequence, but the next to follow set in and around downtown Seoul is a major disappointment for blurry CGI and bad continuity. And though he tries to replicate the exhilaration watching the whole Avengers fighting together as an entire team, Whedon doesn’t quite get our hearts leaping during the final standoff against hordes of replica Ultrons.
My biggest problem with this film was creating a romance between Black Widow and The Hulk, it wasn’t so much that it was done badly, or wasn’t believable, it just felt unnecessary. This also brings into focus the other central weakness of the movie: namely too many characters and not enough screen time for each one to be fleshed out. The movie not only serves as an origin story for Ultron as well as new Avengers Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and the Vision but it ends up making the story a paper thin pastiche of short character building vignettes around huge swirling chaotic battle scenes- many of them too enamored with fast editing to the point that they are almost too quick to follow with the mind’s eye.
If the finale lacks the emotional payoff of the first movie, that’s also because Whedon had set himself up with a near impossible task in the first place. That probably explains why the ‘Age of Ultron’ is at its core a very different movie from the first ‘Avengers’, not just because of how our superheroes evolve in the face of imminent destruction precipitated by one of their own but also because of the complex psychological themes that Whedon explores here. His ambition is certainly admirable, but it is inevitable that those looking for the same straightforward thrills as its predecessor will be at least slightly disappointed.
Avengers: Age of Ultron gets a 7.5/10.