an entertaining roller-coaster ride
For the average sci-fi fan, Marvel’s ambitious 2012 effort, The Avengers was one hell of a marvellous film that brought Earth’s favourite and mightiest heroes together on the forefront, had them fighting united against a formidable army and occasionally, bickering at each other in a comical fashion. But most importantly it introduced the viewers to an eclectic mix of characters from the Marvel pantheon. If the result was groundbreaking, the much anticipated, multimillion blockbuster sequel is all that and slightly more.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron rides smartly on the success of its predecessor, laughs unashamedly at its own follies and has the word “dysfunctional” written all over. The long drawn-out flight-or-fight sequences are injected with a fresh dose of wry and self-parodying humour, the sweeping cityscapes and stunning laboratories have been revamped with state-of-the-art CGI and the characters battle and bicker with renewed enthusiasm. Think of Avengers as a trial software and Avengers 2.0 as the new updated edition.
Director Joss Whedon once said that he writes every character as the lead guy, and to that end, has taken the iconic traits of each superhero and highlighted them to perfection. Thus Iron Man is snarkier. Thor still speaks with highly archaic politeness, and Captain America is at his chivalric best. Meanwhile new dimension and background history is added to the other members with the sassy assassin Black Widow and The Hulk finding themselves in the middle of a possible love affair.
However in the middle of all the intricately-rendered 3D battles and uproarious goof-ups ,Avengers runs steadily on a plot that’s somewhat loose, predictable but still effective for most of the almost-two-and-a-half-hours viewing experience. After securing Loki’s sceptre from a high security HYDRA centre, Tony Stark and Dr.Banner carry out an experiment that goes devastatingly wrong and culminate in unleashing an artificial intelligence called Ultron with machinations for (duh) mass genocide and world domination.
While robotic villain Ultron and his hideous minions are reminiscent of apocalyptic alien movies, Ultron himself fails readily at being a successful bad guy(pun intended). Perfectly evil, and perfectly grotesque, he is a far cry from the deliciously mischievous and ever so charismatic Loki played with impeccable precision by Tom Hiddleston in the first movie. If Loki was Marvel’s toned-down version of the Joker, Ultron is a more uglier and dim-witted Bane from the Dark Knight franchise. Maybe, Whedon simply wasn’t that keen on writing an engaging villain because he didn’t want to lessen or distract the viewer’s pleasure from watching the bad guys getting bashed up(repeatedly) by the Avengers.
Another interesting deviation from the first film is the introduction of the Twins, the super-fast Pietro and mind-manipulating Wanda Maximoff-the result of Hydra’s finest experiments. Meanwhile Barton fans get a sneak-peak into his family life and a tour around his rather alarmingly peaceful home. Nick Fury and Erik have delightful cameos and a new superhero called Vision joins Marvel’s already crowded arsenal. And while the occasional Tony Stark party is pretty snazzy, the frequent battles are snazzier.
For the more dedicated Marvel fans up to date with their MCU jargon, this film is a turning point for Phase Two. The Infinity Gems are properly referenced and Thor’s vision in particular is obviously a build-up for the upcoming Thor 3 movie. And though unlike the first movie, the good guys don’t end up having shawrma together, do sit back during the end credits for a Thanos teaser.
With too many characters, converging(and diverging) storylines, a cardboard villain and extended fights, Avengers: Age Of Ultron almost, almost crumbles under the weight of its own grandiosity but Whedon with his cinematic common sense still manages to steer the thing to a safe harbour.
Perhaps what one takes away from the film isn’t the memory of flying cities and adrenaline-pumped action, but the hilarious quote-worthy one-liners. And maybe it’s Marvel’s penchant for bathos that guarantees Avengers: Age Of Ultron unadulterated commercial success by giving it’s faithful audience slightly more than what they paid for. Works for me.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron(2015)
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Produced by: Kevin Fiege
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner
Please let me know your thoughts!
(Previously published in Voices,The Statesman)