© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Germany GmbH

Avengers: Age of Ultron
U.S.A. 2015

Opening 23 Apr 2015

Directed by: Joss Whedon
Writing credits: Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Principal actors: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson

“This is not a drill, we’re under attack”! Marvel’s newest superhero comic-movie explodes on the screen. Action rampages for 140-minutes as fortunes reverse, allegiances are tested and fluctuate as pressures mount, escalating the stakes. The Avengers’ goal is to establish peace through Ultron (James Spader/voice), but technology’s leaps-and-bounds evolution takes them, and their rivals’ objective, to a new level. The core – key to inconceivable power – is the supreme prize, with Earth’s fate hanging in balance.

The twins – one fast (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and one weird (Elizabeth Olsen) – tip the scales; the team find themselves in an unexpected safe house. Retrospection requires probing. Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) surprise arrival carries weight: straight talk, honest appraisals, hard choices. Will they meet the challenge? Only a combined effort, whatever the consequences, can sway the outcome.

The ensemble cast wear their alter egos with ease: “the mad scientists” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr./Iron Man) and Dr. Banner (Mark Ruffalo/The Hulk), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson/ Black Widow), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans/Captain America), Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner/Hawkeye), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Jarvis (Paul Bettany/The Vision), and Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle/War Machine), Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), et al. We learn their secrets, fears, and hopes. Based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comic book characters whose perceptive familiarity and understanding of human nature enhances the tales.

Helmsman Joss Whedon, director/writer, is sure. Kudos to the myriad global digital visual artists, whose imaginative involvement embellish authenticity to this alternate world; lightly applied 3-D chiefly highlights the artificial intelligence aspects, so bear with wearing uncomfortable goggles for so long. The films planning and execution required is mind-boggling. Creative expertise oozes from Ben Davis’ cinematography, Jeffrey Ford and Lisa Lassek’s editing, production design (Charles Wood), costumes (Alexandra Byrne), sets (Sheona Mitchley, Richard Roberts, and senior 3D draft person Chris ‘Flimsy’ Howes), and music (Danny Elfman, Brian Tyler).

Take a leap into this realm of make-believe where well-placed quips based on past comics and contemporary culture – “give me a hand”, “I’m always picking up after you boys”, “beep, beep” – relieves nail-biting action with chuckles. Sit through end credits for a glimpse of the next archrival. (Marinell Haegelin)

Second Opinion

In The Avengers (2012) Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were brought together by the espionage and law-enforcement group S.H.E.I.L.D. to form an elite team to defend the earth from the machinations of an evil god. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the world has changed. S.H.I.E.L.D. has collapsed due to internal infiltration by the terrorist group Hydra, and the Avengers alone must protect the people of earth. When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to help by utilizing artificial intelligence to create a peacekeeping program, they will face an even greater threat.

The past several years have been excellent for Marvel Entertainment. With several highly successful movies and now also television franchises, superhero films are at an all-time popularity high. Unfortunately, despite the resounding success of recent films in the franchise (Captain America: The Winter Soldier [2014], Guardians of the Galaxy [2014]), Age of Ultron is a disappointment. The plot is weak (and almost incomprehensible if one hasn’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and hinges on a villain who has very little depth or reason for its evil actions. This would make little difference if the main characters remained as strong as they were in the first film, but in trying to create more drama, even this aspect of the film was weakened leading to poor results.

The overarching theme of The Avengers films is the team dynamics. In The Avengers, the focus was on bringing a group of strong personalities together to form a working team. Avengers: Age of Ultron focuses on how secrets and fears tear them apart. When one considers what is coming up next in the universe (for comic fans, the title of the next Captain America film, Captain America: Civil War [2016], explains all), this is a logical step to take. However, by going in this direction, the film loses the spark which made the first film so enjoyable. There is an attempt to keep some lighthearted jokes running, but they tend to fall flat. What is left is just an awkward tension between the characters and a distinct lack of joyful fun that is the trademark of Marvel films.

In order to detail the struggles of the team, backstories and further development of the characters were introduced which largely failed (with the exception of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who surprisingly had the best written role of the film). Perhaps the character who lost the most by this forced development was Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), whose main drama is focused on her forced sterilization as a young adult and her budding relationship with a member of the team. Just like many female characters, her strengths are overshadowed by relationship woes and ovaries. The other female character, the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), suffers from the typical Hollywood trope of being weak and hysterical in the face of danger, despite being a well-trained superhuman, and only reaches her full potential with a pep-talk from a man. In contrast, her twin brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has little issue with jumping into the fray. Imagining their positions reversed seems almost comical, and that’s the rub. Somehow, instead of strengthening the film by introducing character development, almost all of the characters remained stagnant or were weakened by the change.

Despite its inevitable popularity, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a weak film on multiple levels and will undoubtedly controversial among fans. Essentially its only true strength lies with its oftentimes beautifully rendered CGI. Nevertheless, this is not enough to make it truly memorable or endearing for an audience. As time goes on (and it has only been a few days) it has become more and more difficult to remember, and if that is not a damning criticism of a simple action film which shouldn’t be too difficult to recall, then I don’t know what is. (Rose Finlay)

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