Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Some two hours in, amid a lengthy, chaotic finale, one of our more human-like heroes in the Avengers turns to a newcomer to calm her. After all, this world of demigods and assassins and robots and hulks and rogue artificial intelligence plotting to annihilate the Earth can get a bit overwhelming.
So Clint Barton, who also known as Hawkeye and who happens to be the real star of this celebrity-laden, spectacle-heavy blockbuster to level all blockbusters, explains matter-of-factly what’s going on. ‘None of it makes sense’ he says, and that he is simply playing his role and doing what he knows to do; which in his case is shoot arrows with deft and destruction.
What he means is to say is, just embrace the craziness and live in the moment. Don’t ask questions; you’re here now, so go with it. That’s the sort of attitude to have with Avengers: Age of Ultron.
It’s surely what we’ve come to expect. Across some nearly 10 films, featuring some sort of combination of Marvel’s now mainstream super heroes, this dominating franchise combines the universal with the intricately nerdy, folksy humour with grave consequences, mystical stones and secret organizations and powerful gods with, well, comments by Hawkeye, who just accepts everything and carries on. It’s easier that way.
What this film and others have done well is balancing the passions of those craze comic book lovers with the more casual fans of mindless adventure. It’s never great – as always, there is some esoteric piece of ephemera that holds the fate of the world it its hands, as wells as some second act tangent that leaves your mind wandering and your eyes and ears tired – but it’s still rather extraordinary.
In this episode, we begin with our crusaders besetting a heavily-guarded fort in the fictionalized eastern European country of Sokovia, where two siblings with their own special powers are holed up (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron-Taylor Johnson). Once the action dies down, our heroes revel with drinks while pondering the future of the world; Stephen Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) are the pragmatist and the visionary, respectively. Stark, with the reluctant help of Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), tinkers with his secret Ultron project in the hopes of creating artificial intelligence that will protect the Earth so they can all retire.
Not surprising, the experiment goes wrong, ruins the party, shut down Stark’s other AI pal Jarvis (Paul Bettany), and quickly runs amok. Writer and director Joss Whedon, in his second and final stint in those roles, successfully albeit precariously balances the out of this superhero stuff with some interesting discussions about security and privacy. As always though, any thoughtfulness gives way to bombast, and so the Avengers, including Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Natasha, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) set to shut down the monomaniacal Ultron (James Spader).
It’s a bit exhausting just how much is happening in this film, not to mention the unnecessarily destruction of so many buildings and too-long action sequences. There’s a spark between Natasha and Bruce; Thor deals with questions about his home world; we meet Clint’s family in a pastoral escape; the Russian siblings known as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver seek revenge.
This entry tries harder than most to address that fact that every film basically levels a city, leaving a lot of people dead; that human toll so often plagues superhero movies, and is still a problem in Ultron, but nowhere near as much in others. Indeed, the entire finale deals with trying to evacuate a town, even if the entire conceit is utterly prosperous (the town is flying, and we’ll leave it at that).
It’s just such a carefully-crafted, meticulously planned piece of well-polished, humour-infused action-adventure that at its worst it’s some silly fun. The gravity and the whimsy don’t align easily, but whatever. If you allow this world to exist, if you welcome into your cinematic experience this massive superhero universe, then your expectations will be met in the form of a two and half hour diversion. As Barton might muse, just have fun with it.