Monday, 11 May 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Those of you who have been paying close attention to my Twitter for the last 12 months will know that I've been fucking excited about Avengers: Age of Ultron: it's been my not so secret obsession since James Spader was announced as the voice of titular nemesis. As it happened, it took me a week after its release to finally get around to seeing Age of Ultron and I did so well at avoiding spoilers regarding the shocking ending. That was until the day I had arranged to see it when my fucking dick of a colleague ruined it for me. I haven't yet forgiven him and its not an exaggeration to say that I probably never will. He fucking knew I was scheduled to see it but still he blundered on, determined to ruin my viewing pleasure. This meant that I was a little underwhelmed when leaving the cinema because I saw through all of Joss Whedon's intricate plot weaving to the closing act that I knew was heading my way. It was a fucking travesty. However, in the time since my viewing, I've had time to calm down and reflect properly on the latest massively multiplayer Marvel movie.

Age of Ultron doesn't waste any time getting us right back into the action. It's been 3 long years since the World's Mightiest Heroes were last seen out together and we pick up right in the heart of battle. Yes, no slightly tedious semantics about how the team pair up again in this sequel: we know who everyone is, what they can do and, in many cases, what they've been up to in the interim. So fuck the heart-warming reunion; let's pummel some bad guys.

Following on from the aftermath of Winter Soldier, the Avengers are trying to breach a Hydra research facility to get back an all too familiar mind-control staff. Taking place in the fictional eastern European city of Sokovia, the opening action scene is, quite frankly, fucking incredibly. I didn't even mind the awkward inclusion slow-motion and 3-d friendly visuals. The scene works well by moving between the team one-by-one, neatly allowing each to do their thing before moving along to the next.

The opening sequence also gives us our first real look at the twins, first introduced to us in the credits of Winter Soldier, and their freaky superpowers. Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) uses his immense speed to expertly fuck with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scarlet Witch (Emily Olsen) uses her psychic powers to just fuck with everyone's head. As villains go, they have an awful lot of potential to actually beat the most powerful group of heroes in the world.

Out for revenge against Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in particular, Scarlet Witch implants a vision of death and destruction in Iron Man's head and leads us all on the road to ruin. Wishing to put “a suit of armour around the world”, Stark and physicist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) begin experimenting with artificial intelligence: a seriously dangerous move that could have been avoiding if anyone in the Marvel Universe watched a fucking movie from time to time. As such, Ultron (James Spader) is born and he's not happy with his creators.

With more than a few knowing nods to Frankenstein, Ultron is born due to his creator's out of control ego and takes on many of the worst aspects of Stark's personality. With his tough robotic body, Ultron makes it his mission to destroy the Avengers and bring about “peace in our time”: unfortunately that peace can only be found once mankind is wiped-out. Picking up the Maximoff twins as allies, Ultron looks set to become a real threat once he gets his nifty new body.

As we have come to expect from Whedon now, his emphasis and his strengths lie in his characters. He understands the people that he is presenting on screen and ensures that they are all realised correctly no matter what is happening at the time. They are also well written characters: we see all sorts of parallels emerging between all factions and joyous new sides to existing characters. Hawkeye, so criminally underused in the first film, finally gets some decent lines and a real chance in the spotlight. We see a human side to both Black Widow and Banner/The Hulk thanks to their emerging romance. It's nice to see Scarlett Johansson get even more to get her teeth into here: she's too good an actress to simply become the model of a Lycra catsuit.

Age of Ultron just seems more sure of itself than The Avengers ever did. Something that can be seen within the numerous action sequences. The visual effects are fantastic and the way the action moves between each member of the team is much less chaotic than in their previous outing. As further proof that we're on surer ground here, the fight choreography brings greater emphasis to the group's teamwork. It finally feels like we're watching a real unit working together to save the world. There is a real sense of camaraderie oozing out of every scene and its a fucking joy.

Something that is even more apparent in the script which features the traditional Joss Whedon style quips and banter that so wonderfully juxtaposes the ensuing mayhem. Everyone gets a chance to make with the funny but in the Whedonesque way that never breaks up the tension or the action. Like The Avengers before it, the film is so much fun that it almost feels wrong. Whedon's greatest asset will always be the way in which he throws himself into every project with such joy, energy, and care. It's impossible not to get swept away by it.

Although, Age of Ultron does have its flaws. Just as The Avengers was the first step into Marvel's Phase Two, the sequel has the daunting task of helping to prepare us for Phase Three. As such, Marvel crams so much extra stuff into the film that it often feels a bit too bloated. We see references to a fucking cavalcade future Marvel films: Captain America: Civil War; Thor: RagnarokBlack Panther; and the two-part Avengers: Infinity War. The Ultron plot was enough for the audience to get their head around without glimpses into the fucking future clogging their brain space.

Still, Whedon manages to bring his unique style and vision to the film and ensure it never fails to deliver on the one most important thing for a comic book movie: fun. Despite my spoiler-inspired negativity post-credits, I'm happy with the way the film worked out and am happy with the newly faces to the Avenger's line-up. 

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