(This post was originally published on 27/04/2015 on a previous blog.)
The Avengers team reunites for a second outing on the big screen in a movie that undeniably ups the stakes. But still falls in to many of the same holes that its predecessor did.
Age Of Ultron’s story revolves around artificial intelligence and the reformation of a group of heroes who are pushed to the brink of their capabilities. Even from the opening action scene of the movie it is clear that Age Of Ultron intends to one up Avengers Assemble, and the scale of the film throughout is undeniably impressive. However whilst the narrative is given more thought this time around, it still boils down to a story which makes very little sense and requires some major jumps in logic. This would be okay if the movie did enough to make these jumps un-noticeable, but major issues with pacing and tone lead to a film that has enough good ideas but never brings them together in a meaningful way. Once again, it is clear, that jumping from plot twist to plot twist is taking the place of a meaningful story here.
The two main story threads of the film struggle to work well together, The Avengers themselves go through a journey from major highs to major lows, but even at their lowest points there is a sense of unity and friendship, a feeling of hope and positivity. This directly contrasts the story of their antagonist, Ultron who, despite facing some struggles, goes from strength to strength. The two often feel disconnected and the constant jumping between these two angles of the same story feels messy and inconsistent both tonally and thematically. To top this off Ultron never really becomes the villain the audience want to see him be, instead he simply fits in to the template of “wise cracking but powerful bad guy”. And, despite the film making it clear he is omniscient and omnipresent at many stages, it does little more than to make him feel like a powerful but fallible leader, rather than an overwhelming force.
The returning characters are the best part of the film, their character arcs are much more rounded and the dynamic between them feels far more polished. Robert Downey Jr is still just as charismatic as ever but he is matched this time round by Hemsworth and Evans whose characters feel far more consistent and whose arcs are noticeably improved. The film also manages to maintain the balance of screen time given to each main character very impressively. Whilst the narrative focuses on a specific few characters, each of the protagonists gets enough significant time on screen (even if it’s just spent fighting) that almost none of the ten main characters feels pushed aside.
There is, however one returning character which is a major sticking point for the movie, Black widow. Scarlett Johansson’s character, despite having one of the most potentially interesting stories to tell, goes through a tour de force of every cliché possible for a woman in her role. From hopelessly in love to damsel in distress to parent issues to boob jokes, it’s all here and all of it feels tired and unnecessary. Whether it’s the boring parts she plays in the main story or some of the honestly embarrassing dialogue she is given to work with, the biggest thing I felt leaving the cinema was: Black widow deserved better than that.
The film struggles with many aspects such as contrasting story threads, inconsistency of its themes and tones, newer characters feeling less well rounded in comparison to their established counterparts and major issues in pacing. All of this comes together to mean that key moments in the film lack any form of narrative punch or emotional significance. Too often throughout the film bad pacing, and misplaced humour, (although it must be said that the humour is better written in this film than the previous) cut through moments where tension could have been developed. This leads to a finale where the audience breathe a sigh of exhaustion rather than a sign of relief.
Visually the film looks a lot more generic than the first with much darker, brooding shots detracting from the more vibrant colourful look of the first film. All of which culminates in a final battle which has incredible scope and scale, but looks for the most part to be constructed of dull shades of grey and brown. Compared to its peers the avengers is still a bright film, but it doesn’t feel quite as unique anymore.
Overall Avengers: Age Of Ultron is a better effort than the first Avengers film, generally more rounded characters and more balanced screen time make for a more enjoyable experience. The narrative has been given more thought this time around, but still not enough thought to avoid major jumps in logic and an issue of integrating hanging, inconsistent story threads together. The humour and action are written to a higher standard and are much more enjoyable but bad pacing undermines their effect on the story as well as their effect overall. On top of all this lazy writing means that a genuinely interesting character is left with boring, overused character concepts that leaves them flagging behind the rest of the film.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron is yet another “leave your brain at the door” kind of movie. unfortunately, it didn’t need to be.
Based on a 100 point scale I would score this film: 6.2/10