Arguably one of the most anticipated blockbusters of the year, Avengers: Age Of Ultron not only has to live up its much beloved predecessor, it also has to connect the dots between phase 2 and 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A task that seems nearly impossible to execute, unless your writer and director is Joss Whedon. His tremendous respect for the source material and well-balanced overview of the franchise was the sole reason that the 2012 ensemble piece came together as coherent and seamless as it did. The question we now ask ourselves is, can he do it again? Or more importantly, can he do it better?
The events in Age of Ultron take place years after the invasion of New York. Tony Stark has been scarred by his dangerous act of heroism, dealing with the emotional trauma by developing a global protection system called Ultron, whose job is to defend the earth from outside invaders, so that the Avengers can go back to living normal lives. Unfortunately, the experiment goes horribly wrong when Stark injects artificial intelligence into the mainframe, creating a being hell-bent on saving the world by destroying all life on it.
Let me make myself perfectly clear. If you are not already a fan of the superhero genre, this is not going to push you over the edge. It’s not the kind of film that transcends its genre in the same way that The Dark Knight did. No, this is strictly for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just to put it out there.
That being said, if you loved the first Avengers, there is a pretty good chance you’ll enjoy the hell out of this, if not more, then at least as much. The plot is fairly similar to the first movie. It’s a straight-up fight between Good and Evil and that is the main focus from beginning to end. Each of the characters get their moments to shine, just like last time, but they also don’t undergo any massive development. Think of it as the NFL season finale for comic book geeks. The individual games build up tension and excitement, which is then released in the final showdown. Age of Ultron is the end game for phase 2, and I would almost say it’s crucial at this point to have seen all the other entries in the universe. If not, you will have a very hard time connecting all the dots, not to mention staying on the ride. Because after all, this is not a stand-alone film. It deeply relies on prior information and investment, and so if you’re going to have any chance of tagging along and actually caring about what’s going on, there’s no way around it; you’ll have to watch the previous 10 instalments.
As far as the film goes, there is only one word to describe it: Marvellous. It is remarkable how well it all comes together, even though there are a billion things going on at the same time. Easter eggs are snug in everywhere, relationships are being intertwined from all angles, and despite that they still have time to spit out one amazing action set-piece after another. And the best part about the action here is how well-framed it is. It’s pure carnage, but it’s a good kind of carnage. You can actually see what’s happening, and you always get a clear sense of where our heroes are in relation to their surroundings. No sickening shaky cam to be found here, and thank god for that. The last thing we need is another Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Now, some people will undoubtedly tell you that the filmmakers either crammed too much into one film, or that they simply failed to touch upon everything desired by the hardcore fan-base. No matter which way you look at it, not everyone is going to be pleased. It is practically impossible to fit that much mythology into a singular unit, unless it was over 4 hours long. Funny enough, Joss Whedon’s original cut was nearly an hour longer than what ultimately ended up on screen, so that should give you a pretty good idea of just how difficult it is to decide what to leave out of the equation. I’m not denying that the movie has its faults, because it certainly does. The pacing is off from time to time, subsidiary characters seem kind of wasted, and there is an obvious lack of logic throughout it all. A lot goes lost in translation, which is something that a superhero epic like this just has to deal with. It can’t be as grounded as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, while also taking on an army of killer robots. Not to say that there isn’t room for improvement, because there is. But the fact that it even works at all is an achievement all on its own, and a true testament to Whedon’s immense talent when it comes to creating relatable, smart, funny and interesting characters. For him, the most important thing is to tell a good story and mirror it to our own society. In that regard, he succeeds with splendour, providing entertainment of the highest caliber.