Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age of Ultron

Could the sequel to one of the greatest, most entertaining blockbusters of all time ever live up to hype and expectations? The good news is Avengers: Age of Ultron does. The bad news? Not completely.

As a continuation of Marvel’s hit making movie universe the super team assemble once again. Since the first film, we’ve seen them only in individual titles such as Iron Man 3 or in adhoc team-up’s such as Winter Soldier. This time what brings them together is a threat of their own creation – the sentient artificial intelligence called Ultron (distinctively voiced by James Spader), who, no prizes for guessing, gets high on the idea of world annihilation. Stopping him would be difficult under any circumstance but it’s made all the more complicated when he enlists disgruntled twins Pietro (aka Quicksilver, also seen in last years X-men: Days of Future Past, albeit played by a different actor) and Wanda, a ruthlessly efficient psychic who gets inside the heads of the heroes causing all kinds of mental mayhem.

As a virtual, omni-present enemy, Ultron isn’t nearly as menacing nor A-list as Loki but director Joss Whedon still uses him cleverly as a sort of uncompromising, villainous Tony Stark alter ego. The script treads the usual familiar path of setting up the last act as a sense shattering, pull-no-punches, end of the world showdown but two things keep it fresh. First, the adept handling of the very large-scale action – you think you’ve seen every permutation of superhero infighting but Age of Ultron takes this to unprecedented territory when a very angry, very mind controlled Hulk faces a very bulked up Iron Man in what is known as the ‘Hulkbuster’ armour.

Secondly, even more fun than the superb rendering of the action is the scripts exploration of the personal aspects of nearly every member. A very early scene where the team unwinds during a party is characteristically reminiscent of the director’s witty, sharp way with dialogues (in full display in Whedon’s adaptation of the Bard’s Much Ado About Nothing). Less about humanizing these men and women who fight incredible battles, it serves to underscore the importance of everyone having a distinct, recognizable personality that makes them feel more real than just screen (or in this case, comic) archetypes. This is especially true about Hawkeye for example, to whom this film, though overstuffed with people, devotes a considerable amount of time exploring a background that no one knew existed and is probably the closest we will ever get to a Hawkeye film anyway. When a tentpole studio film as big as this does this to a character that isn’t even the main draw, you know the makers have more than box office conquest on their mind.

Though it’s still terrifically funny and often times very exciting Age of Ultron is ultimately a more middling film than the first. The usual trappings of a franchise sequel are all there – bigger, darker but also murkier and mildly scattershot. Because the first Avengers was 5 films in the making, it was also essentially delivering on themes, story strands and characters introduced in all those movies but with the added excitement of seeing them together for the very first time. With that novelty now gone, this film feels like a sequel to that first film, meeting expectations but not exceeding them and never feeling like something distinct. Marvel might be making it more difficult for future movies to differentiate themselves from the ones that have come before it by functioning around the same core premise. This needs to change and I suspect it will. Until that happens, Age of Ultron will more than suffice.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and wearethemovies.com