Movie Review: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015) – Burdened By Weight Of The MCU
‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ is the second part of Marvel’s culminating Cinematic Universe. ‘The Avengers’ sequel brings everything to the screen and does a satisfying job of blending humour, action and amazingly visual storytelling while drawing connections to the rest of the Cinematic Universe, although how successful they were in the larger scheme of things is yet another story. But despite the excitement and anticipation of Marvel’s Phase Two of films coming to fruition, there is something eerily familiar about this film, while lacking something that justifies the hype. The problem may lie directly in Marvel’s business mode, but more on that later. For now, read on for my spoiler free Movie Review of ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’.
‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ does a great job of establishing the tone of the film from the first frame. The movie opens with an extraordinary action sequence, meant as mindless pay-off for all the fans eagerly awaiting this movie for years, and it works wonderfully! The scene pulls double duty of satiating the audience with well framed and polished shots of live action superhero cool, while displaying just how far the characters have come together as a team from the first film. Mutual respect, a fluidity in their fighting skills, as well as inside jokes within the team is meant to show their efficiency and intimacy as friends. It’s effective in setting up the fun factor that’s always associated with a Marvel Studios movie. Especially when the main threat of the film centers around something inadvertently created by Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, one that threatens to destroy the team itself by pitting ideologies against one another, as well threatening to destroy humanity as they know it. Although this element seemed a lot more forced than happening due to natural circumstances.
While entertaining and incredibly enjoyable to watch on the surface, some slight scratching reveals some very familiar plot beats, which lacks any progression of the formula originally established by the first film. The movie does, however, make some strides in terms of character growth by hitting the ground running, and not having to worry about introducing them to one another. This results in great scenes between characters who have been fighting side by side for a while now, and are very well acquainted with each other, as shown by the party scene that has been featured in the trailers. The performances also one up the previous film, while maybe not being as emotionally effective, with Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye being the exception. Mark Ruffalo expands on his tortured soul portrayal of Bruce Banner/Hulk in this instalment, while getting a great story arc with the exceptional Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow. The three main leads of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor & Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, seem to take a back seat in this movie, allowing the other characters to shine given they didn’t get their own individual films. This is a smart move, as Marvel seems to be acknowledging the need to highlight newer characters, allowing them to establish the rotating roster of heroes as the comic version of The Avengers has always done.
Where ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ falls apart for me, has less to do with he movie itself, but more with Marvel’s model of this shared Universe. ‘The Avengers’ was a never before seen concept of multiple on-screen comic book heroes uniting for an epic adventure with far reaching repercussions within that world. This is not the case with ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’. Since the success of that experiment, Marvel has announced an ongoing slate of films to continue on into perpetuity with new characters and story arcs, with each movie building towards a specific goal. Given this new status quo, a movie with the first heroes reuniting yet again, leaves nothing to be excited about, and the story didn’t even provide a good enough reason for them to reunite, other than what was already previously done. Especially given that future films boast of even more new character appearances and story lines that give audiences something to look forward to beyond this movie. ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ felt more like an excuse to have these characters be on screen together again, replicating almost step by step the sequence of events in the first film, but with certain nuances modified. There are also parts of this film that have to set up the future of this franchise which, to me, feels like it prevented the film from being a standalone adventure that furthers the stories of these specific characters. Most of the exposition regarding the ongoing story arc from Phase 1 is rushed, along with an already convoluted and minimally explained plot twist in the third act. While James Spader voices the character of Ultron with panache and equal parts of humour and creepy intimidation, the siginificance and threat of that character diminishes as the film progresses.
While still enjoyable and effective in entertaining audiences with an action adventure story that is visually appealing and very much a comic book adaptation at its heart, which is exactly what can be expected of a Marvel Studios production with a cast as likeable and established as this. ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ however, doesn’t give us anything new, but rather acts as a color-by-numbers story that imitates the plot points of the first film, and rushes to expands its own universe, at the expense of a progressive story about these group of characters.