In the latest Avengers film the eclectic group of superheroes face off against Ultron, an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner with the intention of replacing the Avengers. This does not go to plan.
This review does not contain spoilers, apart from a slight hint of one in the very last paragraph. You have been warned.
There are few people in the world who have earned the amount of good-will accumulated by Joss Whedon, writer and director of this and the first Avengers movie. He has a serious addiction to creating my most beloved television shows, with Buffy, Angel, and Firefly being the holy trinity of things that make me very boring at parties because I don’t know how to talk about anything else. Then you add to the equation that the man wrote mother-fudging Toy Story and I start getting weak in the knees.
I say this because it’s impossible for me to go into a film with Whedon’s involvement without being already inclined to like it. Luckily, this film did not need that additional advantage. It’s a hoot. It’s a whole parliament of owls worth of hoots. It’s fun and colourful and full of life, and is a fitting end to Whedon’s stint with the franchise. It’s interesting that in interviews Whedon has repeatedly stated that the character of Ultron holds the greatest reflection to his own personality, which on the surface is worrying as up to now we have had no reason to suspect Whedon as a merciless death-bot. It’s a comparison that makes sense when you consider the very tired robot who just wants to end it all to the exhausted director who has been working on these films since 2010.
For those playing along at home the story so far has left the Marvel universe in some disarray. The spy network of S.H.I.E.L.D has been disbanded after being riddled with Hydra, the chlamydia of secret organisations. The Avengers are now the only group on hand to stop any Big Bads that show up, and the team are understandably worried. It must be said that those who have not seen the previous films in this franchise will almost certainly be a little lost, as many twists in the plotting rely on your knowledge of characters and events not explicitly recounted on screen.
Apart from the heroes we already know, newcomers Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are introduced, along with the delightfully preposterous Vision. Where a lesser film would become unstuck from juggling this many characters, Whedon’s years of television work really pay off. Each character has their moment to shine, even if they aren’t the focus of the drama. Everyone gets a good gag. The joy in the melodrama is seeing these great, ridiculous people being confined in the same space and the same logic works for the action sequences. The way that each person’s power combines with those of others is ceaselessly imaginative, and a running-joke about who can and can’t wield Thor’s hammer is an absolute delight.
The heart of the first Avengers for me was always Bruce Banner, and Mark Ruffalo’s pitch perfect performance of a character that no film before had been close to getting right. In this film the focus is on his relationship with Black Widow and their blossoming romance. It’s a deft move purely on the basis that Ruffalo and Johansson are the strongest of the actors, and their dramatic moments by far carry the most impact. There’s a quiet moment between the two of them where they reveal that neither is capable of having children that is stunningly played, and the calls for a Black Widow solo outing will now be undoubtedly all the louder.
Once the dust has settled it must be said that this doesn’t reach the same heights as the first Avengers. It’s a little messy and the moment to moment interactions aren’t quite as iconic or exciting its predecessor. Scenes have also evidently been cut to save on running time but this has left jarring holes in the structure of the film. I won’t give anything away, but a scene involving Thor and a rock pool suffers the most from explanatory scenes being cut.
It’s still a film that has been lovingly made and is easy to love in turn. Once the story reaches its conclusion and members of the team wander off, broken and lost, there’s a real feeling of closure. This film marks the end of what Marvel have termed ‘Phase 2’, and I’m genuinely excited by what’s to come. There’s a lot of rumbling going around about the number of superhero films out there, but these are the kind of blockbusters I always dreamed of there being. Huge, vibrant, ludicrous stories made by people who care.
Image Credit: Darth Kraken Via Compfight
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