In any other year, Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) would be the biggest release by far. This year there is another franchise looming large on the horizon that comfortably takes that honour away. But an early-ish release date on the calendar and a close to perfect Marvel track record has expectation sky high for this one.
Unlike the first film, there’s no easing in to be had here. Instead, we find the crew already together, mid-battle in Eastern Europe. Being thrown in the deep end engages straight away, ramping up the exhilaration. However it also takes away a lot of the charm that was in The Avengers (2012) as the new characters were introduced and relationships established. Obviously that level of origin story grounding was never going to be required in this film. It suffers as a result though and perhaps it would have been better to have some new members of the gang to introduce from the start. In addition to the action, the overwhelming take away from the first sequences is that this will be a fun film. The gang are all cracking jokes and taking the piss out of one another. The packed screening lapped up basically every one-liner, drawing at least guffaws and on occasion applause. In the end, I actually feel this film has too many quips and jokes for its own good. Particularly toward the end, this element of the film takes over and tonally what should be a tense action packed payoff instead feels like a buddy comedy, which can’t help but lower the stakes. Ultron is a very strong villain. Even when he looks like a knock off Iron Man, the robot has a chilling presence. Following the character’s creation, the film inevitably shifts its focus elsewhere, which leaves the villain a little undercooked and the film a little slighter as a result. A similar criticism can be made of the film’s thematic focus. Stark’s creation of Ultron recalls the depth of Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), but that is all too quickly done away with for buddy fun and the LOLs.
In comparison to most Marvel films, the action in Avengers: Age of Ultron is exceptionally fast and kinetic and not just when Quicksilver is involved. There are a bunch of great, big action sequences here and for the most part, everyone gets their chance to show off and shine a little. However, it is strange to pinpoint why Whedon chose to accelerate the action like he did, because it makes a lot of it difficult to follow. Indeed right from dropping the audience in from the get-go, the film doesn’t let up, with a huge action set piece teased in the trailers coming remarkably early. It’s a little too much, which is why when the film slows down to actually bother telling some story, some of the best sequences of the film arrive. In particular one sequence focused on Hawkeye revealing a secret side is a definite welcome change. Actually the increased presence of Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye is a major plus for this film over the first one. He brings a very human vibe to a superhero tale and his self-deprecating humour stands apart in a sea of zingy one-liners. One of the other standouts is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver, probably outshining Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch to some degree. It’s good to see Johnson returning with a little of the charisma and charm that his Godzilla (2014) everyman was totally devoid of.
Verdict: In the end, Avengers: Age of Ultron works well as fun geek fan service and as a continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it’s no more than that from a studio that we have come to expect more from, as the more interesting ideas (politics, bold sci-fi plotting) are dispensed with too quickly. Stubby of Reschs