Avengers: Age of Ultron
Extremely enjoyable, if not expectably mighty.
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Robert Downey Jr.
Stan Lee (comics)
Jack Kirby (comics)
What to Expect
Marvel’s The Avengers made probably one of the most memorable arrivals on screen in 2012. It’s quite obvious that Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) was a powerhouse inclusion in the mix, what with his exceeding creativity within the art of being self-aware, mixed – of course – with the important act of giving our beloved Marvel superheroes all the heart they deserved, proving extremely cathartic toward the audience.
But then I have another theory as to why The Avengers worked so well: this was possibly one of the first phenomenons, marking Marvel’s ascent into motion-picture making, and its attempt to connect all pieces of their universe cinematically. Additionally, it brought the whole bunch of superheroes in one frame: a conceit that worked marvelously primarily because of how unique it ended up being. And now with the impending end of the universe’s second phase, we may all have begun to realize – bit by bit – that the trick might not be as unique anymore.
The expectations prior to the viewing of this undeniably anticipated second installment for this writer particularly then weren’t exactly as high-fueled when the trailers came out, mainly due to the obvious déjà vu there. Everything the marketing team did to pull off the excitement was pretty good, without a doubt. I could see all the pointers that would normally get me excited enough for a big screen experience.
Except, there wasn’t much to anticipate, save for some high-end action and the camaraderie between our beloved super-protagonists getting a stronger narrative heft.
The surprise element is – admittedly – gone. What remained to be seen is what I hit the cinemas to watch.
What’s it About?
When Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.; The Judge) innermost fears are deliberately nudged, he decides to secretly lay down the basics for a peacekeeping program he’s been harboring this while, codenamed Ultron. But when Ultron dangerously malfunctions, the Avengers must give their all to fight it – and their own demons – to save the world from seemingly inevitable destruction.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The problem with this film isn’t that it’s half-baked (or even like Affleck’s Daredevil, so breathe easy, y’all); it’s that there are a lot of these extremely hefty pattern recognitions that one will easily be able to decrypt. There’s a lot of check listing done here, and for a crackling talent like Whedon, that’s a tad bit underwhelming. Add to that the film feeling a bit overlong and overburdened in all its eagerness to reveal it all and pitch everything in one place – something that was easily handled, despite the fears of the whole bunch of characters potentially stuffing the film up – and you’re definitely left feeling slightly underwhelmed.
The film’s savior is definitely the extremely powerful antagonist; working on the gripe many a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan must have had. Ultron works not just as a heady force against nature, it also works in subtext as the demons that form when your worst fears slowly become an unavoidable – albeit intangible – reality. The metaphors worked into the antagonist is precisely how well it bodes off in the film, and inevitably against the protagonists, who themselves are surprisingly deep here in terms of character arcs. It’s very nice to see Hawkeye and Black Widow get more leeway than was present in the first installment. Ruffalo’s Banner/Hulk and his feelings for Romanoff don’t look too gratuitous. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch start off on a dry note, but manage to emotionally grow on you by the end of the film.
It’s a different thing that the antagonist doesn’t hold up like Loki did, growing on you like fine wine. While there’s ample justification for coming into power as quickly as he does, the very pace makes us feel disconnected with its origins in more ways than one.
Boasting of extremely strong visual-effects compositing, the film boasts of a technically wrong collaboration, with each consecutive shot looking consistent to each other in color, composition and continuity, courtesy Ben Davis’ (Guardians of the Galaxy) focused cinematography. The production design makes the film all the more visually breathtaking, what with its attention to detail within a lot of elements bringing out the visual symmetry pretty well. Brian Tyler (Furious 7) and Danny Elfman (Fifty Shades of Grey) team up for the well-functioning music of the film, which ends up a tad loud and clutter-heavy in many a scene and set-piece. The same can occasionally be said of the sound design, which fits too many layers into a mix, messing up the emotion a whole lot. An additional gripe would be how generic and trope-y the score actually sounds throughout, not boasting of reminiscence but bothering one with a been-there-heard-that in many a superhero flick, courtesy the very easy choice of instrumentation in places.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Robert Downey Jr. does a fine job of keeping up the Iron Man swagger. All the quips, passive aggression and attitude are rightly in place, making you enjoy him as much as you usually do. Embodying Tony Stark with his all, he makes it work. That wasn’t surprising though now, was it? Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans come a close second in the rather effortless display of confidence and vulnerability. Scarlett Johansson is excellent, and more so because she gets an ample chance to work on her character unlike in the last few films she’s been present in as Natasha. It’s kinda nice to see Julie Delpy’s (Before Sunrise) inclusion in the film, howsoever short. Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders are fun, as usual. Jeremy Renner (American Hustle) too gets an opportunity to expand on his character, and does quite some justice to it. James Spader lends a surprisingly exceptional emotive heft to Ultron. Elizabeth Olsen is wonderful as the Scarlet Witch, while Aaron Taylor-Johnson isn’t as consistent. The star of the show, however, is Paul Bettany – also the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. – who now essays the Vision with terrific confidence. The others are great.
Avengers: Age of Ultron, might not be as majestic as the first installment. While there’s quite the bunch of déjà vu in the film’s narrative pattern, with a lot feeling more overcrowded than overwhelming, there’s fortunately still a bunch of fun to be had throughout the runtime. Suffice to say it’s a definitively enjoyable, if not entirely effective, film from the director.
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