Thursday 23 April 2015

Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Year: 2015
Director: Joss Whedon
Screenplay: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan SkarsgÄrd, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson.

Synopsis is here:

I found Age of Ultron to be a bit of an oddity. It’s a film in which, like a Chris Nolan feature, piles on a heavy amount of exposition and characters explaining themselves in the simplest of terms. Yet when watching the likes of Inception (2010) or The Dark Knight Rises (2012), I always find myself quite satisfied with those film’s final acts. I found myself befuddled by the last third of Age of Ultron. Near the very Tony Stark devises an improvised plan to save the world, and the other Avengers comply and react accordingly. Yet once our heroes put the plan into action, I can’t say I was able to follow it.

It’s difficult to explain. I “got” what was happening in the overall sense. However, I found myself staring at the screen glassy eyed through most of the film's finale. Then again, I felt that for much of the films slightly clunky action set pieces. I never fully got with the rhythm of the film. Joss does well to balance Age of Ultron as much as he can. This is no simple task. Whedon does manage to inform the movie with a decent sense of scale (it certainly feels bulkier and more substantial than the other Phase Two features). However, the vast array of characters and the tricky issue of what to do with them all, is starting to show. I’m not surprised the film concludes in the way it does.

All this makes it sounds like I sat in the cinema with a permanent grimace on my face. Far from it. Age of Ultron excels in its character beats and developments. Whedon’s screenplay gives the likes of Thor permission become more ponderous and investigative. Hawkeye is allowed to become the human heart at the center of the team. An unlikely romance blossoms between characters and it’s not only the most remarkable element, but also the sweetest. I’m not surprised that Whedon’s character beats are the most effective aspects of the film. As someone who limited their consumption of film’s buzz and marketing to only the trailers, it didn’t shock me in the slightest that the quieter, less excitable scenes, are the ones I was drawn to.

Whedon’s sense of humour has not succumbed to the same fatigue I’ve had for superhero movies as whole (thanks constant hype!). The screenplay's punchlines and witticisms push the film along at a lively pace. Whedon also gets the best out of the cast. Both returning and newcomers. Elizabeth Oslon (Scarlet Witch) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) gives far more ample performances than they did in Godzilla (2014). Original heroes Pine, Downley Jr and Ruffalo, all come out the blocks fighting. Johansson, Hemsworth and Renner have the chance to show the most growth and do so with gusto. James Spader gives a delightfully quirky performance as Ultron, the A.I. with a god complex. As with Avengers Assemble (2012), Marvel’s most entertaining villains appear to be saved for this sector of its cinematic universe.

It’s a shame that the film’s narrative buckles under the sheer weight of everyone involved. I’ve not mentioned all the returning supporting cast, new characters and other characters who’ve appeared in other Marvel films and are returning. Everyone is fighting for space and it shows. Two major plot revelations occur and did little to elevate the heartbeat. It doesn’t help that every blog and film site did their best to eliminate any element of surprise. However, there’s just not enough time for everyone to breathe. I’m sure there’s a few comic fans who are happy to see everyone stuffed into the films 141 minutes. But I did find myself contemplating how well established, some characters were compared to others. After reading just how hard Whedon worked in the cutting of the film to give it a sense of order, you realise just how well he’s done to keep all the plates spinning.

Yep. It still sounds like I have too many misgivings. But honestly, watching Iron Man don hulkbusting amour and go toe to toe with the green giant is a huge bunch of fun. As is the musings of Ultron in general. There’s still much to unpack in Age of Ultron. It does seem that I’ll be leaving that to the hardcore fanboy audience. Age of Ultron didn’t leave me with an immediate wish to watch it again like the first film. But I did leave with enough of a smile on my face.