You know that saying, “too much of a good thing”? This is how I felt as I came out of the cinema last Friday after experiencing Marvel’s latest film. Marvel has been an unstoppable force since it began churning out films with Iron Man, but it’s, in my humble opinion, starting to show some signs of superhero fatigue.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is Marvel’s 11th entry into what is called the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this big, interconnected world of superhero films and TV series. It also serves as a sequel of sorts to the original 2012 film The Avengers. That film was a bonafide success, both with audiences and critics alike, as it deftly balanced some of cinema’s largest characters, together on screen, and imbued it with great storytelling, incredible action set pieces, and, most importantly, a great deal of personality. All this stemmed from Josh Whedon’s strenghts as both a screenwriter and a director (he’s always been good at big ensembles), so of course the expectations for this followup, helmed by Joss himself, were sky high.
Our Avengers team is already assembled. The film begins and our heroes fighting together, happily and merrily. That is, until Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) decides to use crazy alien technology to jumpstart his Ultron program, a worldwide defense system which would make all other defence systems, including the need for the Avengers, useless. Of course, things go wrong, Ultron becomes sentient, puts himself in a robot body, and decides the only way to save humanity is by killing us all, creating his own robot army and causing worldwide chaos.
So our team has to go around the world to find a way of destroying this imminent threat, which takes them on a global adventure from the United States to Slovakia to Africa. Who’s in the team, you may ask? Let’s enumerate them:
Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)
Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America (Chris Evans)
Thor, AKA Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
Bruce Banner, AKA Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)
Natalia Romanova, AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
And that’s just the “starting lineup”. This film not only calls back smaller characters from the past, like War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the ever present Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), but it also has the audacity to include even more with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and The Vision (Paul Bettany). I’m exhausted just by looking at what I just wrote, and there’s so many I’m sure I must have missed one at least.
Here’s the thing. The action in this film is spectacular. The banter between our merry band of heroes is charismatic, funny, witty, and just plain memorable. The actors each bring something to the table, and all seem to fit in this crazy universe. There’s just so much going on, all of the time, so many storylines, plot points, plot twists, new faces, that is just incredibly hard to keep up with it all. To be fair, I’m not sure it could’ve been done better, but it still feels more like a movie made to make fanboy dreams come true (myself included), instead of being made as a good movie.
Ultron is played convincingly by James Spader, and it is a very welcome addition, though again, he’s just not given enough time on screen to truly shine (let alone, properly explain why he is so adamant on destroying us all). But still, it’s a great addition to the long list of baddies Marvel has introduced. Surprisingly, it’s Hawkeye the one who stands out the most. Given the short stick the last time around, he has more screentime, the funniest jokes, and the most heartfelt moments of the film. Sorry Hulk, last one was yours, this one is Hawkeye’s baby.
Truth is, I feel like I need to watch the film again. Problem is, the reason for that is because I missed out on things, not because of the films quality. It still stands as remarkable entertainment, but I’m worried about the future of Marvel cinema. At the end of the day, “smaller” films like last years excellent Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy (both Marvel properties as well) were, in my opinion, vastly superior instalments. Even the Daredevil series, out on Netflix now, is a superior product.
This isn’t a bad movie in any sort of way, as critical as I may be, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s just that the original Avengers was a contained masterpiece, and this one seems like it broke loose from those restraints, and suffers a bit for it. Though it is a necessity to introduce all these characters to keep the other movies coming, I can only be wary of getting too excited for the (already announced) next Avengers instalment, Infinity Wars. That title leads us to believe that there will be an even bigger mix of characters and plots, so let’s hope there are enough good movies in between to ease us in the upcoming chaos and mayhem.