Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015)
Millions of Marvel fan boys around the world have been awaiting Avengers: Age of Ultron with bated breath, and most likely they will be creaming their jeans in delight at what has been served up for them on the silver screen. For the rest of us, it’s just another superhero movie, though possibly better than most.
In the latest instalment, Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) works with Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to create an artificial intelligence that will safeguard the world – right on, superheroes! Except they stuff it up and create the villainous Ultron (voiced by James Spader), pissing off the rest of the team in the process, which consists of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Captain America (Chris Evans). After some light bitching they remember they’re a team, yo, and band together to defeat a common enemy.
There are pros and cons to bringing together so many major characters in the one film. There’s not a hell of a lot of time for character development, although anyone invested in the Marvel franchise presumably has more than enough background knowledge to make this a moot point. For the less initiated, the multitude of characters makes for a consistently entertaining film, and the small insight given into each of them is sufficient. Iron Man is far and above the most entertaining, whereas I struggle to see how there can be three Thor films. Yeah his biceps are massive, but I’d rather watch Magic Mike. And don’t even get me started on Hawkeye a.k.a. not even a superpower.
For some reason, Scarlett Johansson who I usually like, annoyed the absolute shit out of me here. I’m still not entirely sure why, though she did seem to be the weakest character, which is disappointing considering how heavily gender-biased the Marvel universe is already. Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch was more enjoyable to watch, although her and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Russian accents were a trifle awkward. The cast is chock-a-block full of names, with Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, and Paul Bettany in supporting roles. It’s a shame that we only get to hear James Spader because even as just a voice he is delicious. Robert Downey Jr., however, kicks everyone else’s arses in the entertainment stakes. Even The Ruff’s, and he is usually unbeatable as far as I’m concerned.
The action sequences are spectacular, with one in the final stages particularly awe-inspiring. But what really makes the film is the light-hearted humour that is spattered throughout. While this is partly due to the performances, credit should go mostly to Joss Whedon, who writes funny, unpretentious dialogue which highlights the human side of an extraordinary bunch of characters.
The story isn’t particularly interesting for those outside Marvel fandom, though the comedy and visual effects get Avengers: Age of Ultron over the line. It’s one of the better superhero films I’ve seen (with the exception of The Dark Knight trilogy which is in a league of its own), even if I don’t quite share the enthusiasm of the many Marvel geeks in the audience (who were literally sitting on the edge of their seats). If you’re after some blockbuster entertainment, this is worth the ticket price. And if you’re a comic book devotee, even better, because this was made just for you. Prepare for multiple nerdgasms.