thu 18/04/2024

Avengers: Age of Ultron | reviews, news & interviews

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Inferior but lively superhero sequel

Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) assemble

Joss Whedon’s Avengers sequel loses much of the original’s exhilarating freshness. It begins in the middle, doesn’t really end, and regularly makes you wonder just how long the Marvel box-office bonanza can continue. The moment when its Cinema Universe’s exponentially growing complexity slams into entropic reverse, as happened to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original comic-book vision, is plainly visible on the horizon.

The franchise’s triumph is that its army of highly skilled and humane artists such as Whedon have kept these witty, nimble blockbusters away from that black hole as long as they have. Avengers: Age of Ultron may drag and creak during its 2 ½ hours. But it’s still often thrilling, briefly moving cinema.

A Bond-style opening sequence finds the Avengers assaulting the lair of Baron von Strucker (a Nazi opponent of the comics’ Nick Fury, here updated as a Balkan warlord). It’s a lengthy, dull business, till the twins being experimented on by von Strucker, the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, both pictured above), unleash themselves on the superheroes. The Scarlet Witch’s hexes drop each Avenger into dream-sequences of their deepest fears, convincing Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) that, to avert future catastrophe, he must build “a suit of armour around the world”: a digital super-intelligence able to defeat any enemy. Ultron, pictured below, both an army of armoured androids and a destructive, viral ghost in the internet machine, is the Frankenstein-style, unintended result.

Whedon is a philosophical writer-director, heavily steeped in comics when his Buffy introduced the medium’s long, intricate story-arcs to TV, where they're now so common. So he’s at least as suited to Marvel as JJ Abrams is to Star Trek and Star Wars, and knows the weight of lightly applied ideas its universe can bear. Artificial Intelligence is wrestled with here, often literally as the Hulk and co. try to smash Ultron, who envisages an Earth cleansed of the organic human pests he has evolved beyond. Whedon weighs the vices and virtues of Stark’s scientific imperative to, like Oppenheimer, go too far with more delicacy than Hollywood usually permits.

More intriguingly, Whedon uses the Avengers, their defence corporation-owning techno-wizard Stark and their CIA-style sometime employer SHIELD to symbolise US foreign policy. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver wish vengeance on Stark because as children they were buried and orphaned by one of his drones. The massive, tremendously realised showdown between the Avengers and Ultron in the twins’ home nation sees the superheroes sacrificially focus on saving civilian, “collateral” casualties.

Whedon also finds time for an unexpectedly affecting Beauty and the Beast/Geek romance between the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk/Bruce Banner (James Russo). As with Jeremy Renner’s gruff Hawkeye and Olsen’s exotically charismatic Witch, interest is found in the fresher, marginal characters. The special effects built around these actors are casually extraordinary in a manner light years beyond Marvel’s 2002 Spider-Man CGI, and Avengers: Age of Ultron is satisfying in the end. Brace yourselves, though. This weekend’s box-office will delay the real finale for some years yet.

Overleaf: Watch the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron

Artificial Intelligence is wrestled with here, often literally as the Hulk and co. try to smash Ultron


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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