Avengers: Age of Ultron
With Marvel's domination in film and TV, it's getting tougher for them to show us anything genuinely new.
Who isn't going to see Avengers: Age of Ultron? Since 2008, almost everyone has watched at least one movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this being the 11th. It's the TV approach to film, with an episode or two released each year. By now, we've all consumed enough to get hooked on superhero shenanigans.
Such a history might seem like a blessing, sending audiences to cinemas; however, it can also be a curse. Viewers know what Marvel excellence looks like; they've seen it, and they've laughed and cried along. They also know when a comic book adaptation doesn't make the grade. And, in good but not great efforts, they can spot the formula at work, see when a film is stuffed with a few too many characters, and recognise when it feels like it's going through the motions.
That's where Avengers: Age of Ultron lands, a by-the-numbers outing not without its issues, but still enjoyable. Everyone's favourite gang of better-than-average folks is back, and this time they're responsible for their new worst enemy. That'd be the titular addition to the fold, a program with artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in the name of world peace. Alas, after taking robotic form, Ultron (voiced by James Spader) has different ideas about how to protect the planet.
Basically, it's the Frankenstein narrative, as the creation turns against its creator and the uncaring masses. It's not an original story, but it remains intriguing, exploring Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) coming to terms with the reality of their powers, roles and ability to play god — and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), too, even though he genuinely is one.
Joss Whedon being Joss Whedon, the returning writer/director dresses it all up with more than a few complications — think ideological clashes and romantic subplots — plus comic touches. He's simply doing what he does, as fans of his television shows like Buffy and Firefly will recognise. He crafts scenes of spectacular chaos and continent-hopping carnage thankfully given time to play out, and wraps up the standard set-pieces and fight sequences in pithy quips. Yes, you've seen and heard much of it before, and yes, the film can never quite shake that feeling.
Instead, flitting from one drama to the next and giving everyone their moment, it relies upon the fact that you already know and love the characters, the actors and their camaraderie. While spending time with the bulk of the bunch and spotting other familiar faces is hardly a chore, veering off in different directions is certainly welcome, particularly when twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) — aka Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch — join the fold.
That's where the entertaining yet never game-changing effort shines brightest, actually: in setting up the next offerings in a long list of Marvel movies, including two Avengers sequels already slated for 2018 and 2019 respectively. Age of Ultron may not be the best instalment so far, and you'll walk out well aware that what you just watched was only the latest chapter, but you're still enthused for things to come. Next stop: Ant-Man.