Another year, another phase. Indeed, Marvel has well and truly cemented their place as the cinematic juggernaut of this generation, with DC only just starting to mount a charge towards what it hopes will be similar success.
Still, Marvel finds itself, if you’ll pardon the pun, realms beyond any of its competitors, and so with Avengers: Age of Ultron, it would be easy to take the foot off the gas and still coast to earnings of around $1 billion.
However, Marvel refuse to let up, providing a film that’s sprawling in scope and breathtaking in its action sequences, while also attempting, however unsuccessfully (more on that later), to delve into the psyches and emotional centres of its central characters.
Such attempts are perhaps no more evident than in the introduction and development of Ultron, who, being created primarily by Tony Stark, reflects, albeit in a warped way, the ultimate goal of The Avengers’ forays into battle upon battle. “Isn’t that why we do this, so that we get to go home” Stark pleas, his misguided optimism blinding him to the fact that Ultron intends for there to be no home to return to at all.
Ultra’s dialogue is crisp, combining deliciously devilish ambition with a surprising amount of humour. James Spader is, as expected, flawless in his voice acting role, managing to provide Ultron with true life as a character as well as a chilling voice (his intermittent recitals of Pinnochio’s ‘I’ve Got No Strings’ make me want to run to Papa Giupetto with my tail between my legs).
In terms of spectacle, it’s difficult to recall the last big budget action film that was so wide-spanning geographically (Interstellar doesn’t count), with filming taking place in locations like Bangladesh, South Africa, Italy and England, just to name a few. Similarly, Marvel’s ever growing cash pile (Phases 1 and 2 of Marvel’s superhero franchise have grossed around $6 billion) has been put to good use, with the special effects grandiose enough to make even Michael Bay tremble. Also, the scale is truly utilised, with cinematographer Ben Davis making it feel like the world is truly on the line.
Of course, in a film where the majority of its 144 minutes is taken up by an ‘all guns blazing’ approach (quite literally), there will always be some amount of intimacy that’s sacrificed. Try as it might to make him seem unique, the titular villain is for the most part the stereotypical superhero villain, with most of his threats and ambitions never becoming fully realised. Furthermore, some of the Scarlet Witch induced nightmares felt quite strained, with at least two of them not truly gripping, and could quite easily have been left on the cutting room floor.
Also, in a film belonging to an interconnected universe, there will always be attempts to set up battles to come. This is perhaps no more evident than in the tensions between Iron Man and Captain America, with the groundwork clearly being laid for 2016’s Civil War. Their conversations are gripping, it must be noted, but it’s a thread that’s left hanging (albeit intentionally).
Perhaps the greatest element of the film is its introduction of Vision, with the familiar voice of Paul Bettany finally given a chance to accompany a face. His introduction is tense, and there’s one particular feat he accomplishes that had the crowd simultaneously gasping and bursting with laughter.
Humour of course, is part of Marvel’s appeal, and it’s on full display here. Although not as much as 2012’s The Avengers, there is plenty of Tony Stark’s sarcasm, Captain America’s antiquated values, and Bruce Banner’s deadpan to be enjoyed.
Overall, The Avengers: Age of Ultron is, whether Marvel intended or not, more of the same from Joss Whedon and Co, which isn’t necessarily bad at all. The set pieces are breathtaking, the scale awe inspiring, Vision more than satisfying. Sure, it’s no Godfather Part II, but its lack of true interpersonal drama is certainly not due to Marvel’s unwillingness to try and create it. Now (inhales deeply) for Phase 3…
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Release: 23/4/15 – Australia 1/5/15 – America
Stars: Robert Downey Jnr, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner