Avengers: Age of Ultron is the second film in the Avengers franchise, as written and directed by Joss Whedon, and stars Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark (Iron Man), Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Mark Ruffalo as Dr Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk, who probably had to be included, as no one would have wished to piss him off. (‘IF HULK NOT IN MOVIE HULK WILL THROW CAR!’) I am not among the target audience for this particular genre, but I attended with my son (22), which was useful, as I found it confusing — a lot of prior knowledge is assumed — and he was able to fully debrief me afterwards as to who was who, and where Samuel L. Jackson had suddenly come from, and who’s the funny fella with the red painted face? I don’t know what it is about the minds of young men such that they get all this but do not get picking up wet towels, or coming in at
4 a.m. and closing the front door quietly, but there you are.
I am not among the target audience, and neither am I an ardent fan of these films. I didn’t grow up on the Marvel comics, only Bunty, and ‘The Four Marys’, who never had to save humankind, and were too busy having midnight feasts anyhow. But I have not proved unwilling over the years. I enjoyed all the first of the modern superhero movies — the first Superman (Christopher Reeve), the first Batman (Michael Keaton), the first Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) — but now that the technology has moved on they all seem much of a muchness. That is, they seem to exist not as dramas, but as feats of cinematic engineering, so what you ultimately have is a surfeit of CGI bling, strung together by a few lame jokes and a few lame stabs at character and back story as the soundtrack pounds and as good as takes your ears off. (In this instance, I could even feel the sound pounding up my legs, if that makes sense, and my whole body was still jangling and throbbing two hours later.) And the main plot never varies, involving as it always does some evil alien force that wishes to destroy the human race. In this instance, it is Ultron, a robot with red eyes, as voiced by James Spader. Ultron thinks humans a disgrace because they are always starting wars with each other. So he starts a war against them? What kind of sense does that make? That’s what I asked my son, but all he would say was, ‘For God’s sake, mum, you sometimes just have to go with it, OK?’
OK. The film opens with a Bond-style pre-credit sequence involving much fighting in a forest so that all the Avengers can show off their particular powers prior to retrieving some kind of glowing sceptre. Back in the lab, Stark and Banner tinker with the sceptre, intending to use it to create an artificial intelligence being that will protect earth, but they mess up and instead create Ultron. In effect, the Avengers generate the villain they then have to fight, which made me think the world would be a safer place without them, but I did not want my son to sigh again, or write me off as uncool (I’m not) so I kept quiet about that one. But I should add that Ultron comes with two evil sidekicks: Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who is telekinetic (and also quite, quite mad), and her brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who is extremely fast. They both have Russian accents. Also, Ultron’s headquarters seem to be in Slovakia. I sometimes wonder: do the Americans actually know the threat of communism is over? Has anyone told them yet?
This is, I suppose, exactly what the fans of this genre want, as it’s a huge action picture packed with huge action set-pieces — with battleships, iron monsters, fireball explosions — which are impressive, if this is what impresses you, while featuring the kind of violence that has no consequences, so whole cities are razed without a single casualty.And it’s all fantastically fast. One minute we’re in Norway, the next in Korea, then Africa, and I never had much of a clue how we got there (or, to be totally honest, why; did Andy Serkis pop up at one point?).
But any true drama is entirely missing. There is no tension. Everything has to stop for the next battle. It is tediously repetitive. And the characters are all one defining trait. They’ve all been awarded back stories, but these back stories so shout ‘Lame Back Story Alert!, Lame Back Story Alert!’ that they defeat their own objective, don’t add to the character, and actually alert you to how weak the film truly is.
Afterwards, I asked my son what he’d give it out of ten, but he wouldn’t play ball. He would only say, ‘It is what it is’ and there you have it, I suppose. He then went off into the night to meet his girlfriend and I knew I would hear no more from him. Until 4 a.m....