Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)

What better way to return to my movie musings after what feels like a long, LONG time away from the keyboard, than with Joss Whedon’s latest stab at turning Scarlett Johansson into a cocktail waitress. (j/k Joss, we don’t really care enough to make a song and dance about it, it’s just a blockbuster, it doesn’t need to be morally righteous, after all, you don’t have to leave Twitter on our account).


Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: (deep breath, now) Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Samuel Jackson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany etc etc (oh dear, I really can’t be bothered)
Running Time: 141 Minutes
Rated: PG13

Looks real purty, right? Well, what else did you expect? This is Marvel’s cash cows all in one place (again) proving (again) the theory that in fact, the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts. As I lamented after the first Avengers collective was released, I wanted to see more Iron Man, and if I’m honest, I have to say I have that niggling feeling again here.

With the exception of Groot, Tony Stark is possibly the most accessible and engaging of the Marvel rosta, due in no small part to Downey Jr and his affable, smart mouth. As such, even with a testing running time of nearly two and a half hours, this still feels like it’s lacking something. Essentially, this is most of the scenes without Downey Jr in them.

We assume Marvel must know this, just by looking at the box office takes for all of their releases thus far and as if diluting their golden goose once wasn’t enough, they felt the need to do it again (and almost certainly at least once more for luck, if they can convince Downey Jr to join in), and what’s more, dilute it even further with the inclusion of barely used and seemingly pointless additions to their on screen character universe for what simply feels like a shop window advert for a newly-released product you never asked for and wouldn’t buy even if you got the cheapest one for free as part of the deal. I watched the movie for the first time four weeks ago and I’ve already forgotten the names of at least two out of three of the new characters featured in the imaginatively constructed melees concocted by Whedon here.

Still, what do we know? We’re just the punters that pay (more than once on this occasion. Alright, I have kids that are, post Guardians, suitably Marvel lunatics, so at least one repeated viewing is almost mandatory these days). Eat shit, a million flies can’t be wrong, after all. As a die-hard movie fan, rather than a lacklustre one that only gets excited when a movie comes out with a number after the title, I’d like to think I’m more difficult than most to impress. But Marvel aren’t interested, in the slightest bit, in my kind of custom. They want consumers that demand entertainment ahead of quality, whooping excitement over quiet, grim consideration. So perhaps they are too big to fail. If so, are they also too big to care?

Flirting with artificial intelligence just enough not to test the gray matter too harshly, Tony Stark accidentally stumbles across this singularity with catastrophic consequences, bringing the titular Ultron into existence. Voiced by the honey-throated James Spader, this initially well-intentioned plan to create a saviour of the planet decides all by itself  that the best way to solve the problem is to wipe out the same virus that got Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith into such a sweaty fluster in The Matrix. Destroy All Humans appears to be the order of the day and Tony Stark is left to dwell on his actions whilst being generally tutted at by his superhero buddies for messing with stuff he really had no business interfering with.

But not for long. Never a group to be accused of not clearing up their own mess, the Avengers set about sticking their collective fingers into the dyke of annihilation almost as soon as it sprung a self-replicating leak. And what does that mean for us, sitting in dark rows? Well, action, fighting, the odd joke. It’s all pretty standard stuff, almost criminally predictable and because of this, underwhelming and post-Guardians, just not good enough.

With a script that shows just how good Guardians of the Galaxy really was, the best lines invariably end up on the end of Downey Jr’s acidic tongue, with “go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep,” probably the best of them, which says alot more about the film than the script as a whole, or the words that come from the rest of the cast, honestly delivered though they may well have been.

We can’t argue that this is not entertaining, as it surely is. Those that like this type of thing and laughably call it ‘a movie’ as opposed to ‘continued thinly-veiled profiteering’ will leave the theatre stuffed to the point of biliousness with memorable eye candy and probably a very real need to go to the toilet. Edge of the seat it certainly is and despite my resolute refusal to watch it in 3D (twice), you could also argue that this might bring an extra special something to the experience for armchair adrenaline junkies everywhere.

For the masses (to which I have been accused of arrogantly not including myself, thankfully) this is the best part of a tenner well spent. You definitely feel like you have got your bang for buck ratio with even a little extra besides. Story-wise, this rarely challenges and often dawdles with punctuated moments of calm and exposition feeling pointless and forced (just get on with it already). The script dares not seemingly approach Guardians for smarts and even with the benefit of familiarity, these characters just don’t make you smile the way Starlord et al did before them.

In all, a perfectly acceptable addition to the Marvel catalogue but the immediacy of reaction everywhere tells its own story. This just didn’t feel as it should have done. I wanted to walk out of the screening feeling like I did when I finished watching Guardians for the first time. I was after something special but got more of the same as had been before instead.

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