The Avengers: Age of Ultron has all the A-grade action sequences you hope for, and some of the bad writing and banality you don’t, in a sequel to Marvel’s multi-billion-dollar mega-franchise The Avengers.
In Ultron, the “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” Tony Stark – aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) – makes a rash attempt to develop a powerful artificial intelligence which would run a peacekeeping force to make the world a perpetually safe place and do the Avengers out of a job.
This uncharacteristically stupid experiment, for a genius, results in the emergence of a sometimes menacing but bizarrely sarcastic artificial intelligence, Ultron (James Spader), which forms a conception of peace that involves the destruction of all life on Earth.
An implied link is made between Stark and Ultron, through their sardonic one-liners, but the good humour of the latter is hard to square with its arbitrary ideology and mechanical origins.
Divisions within the Avengers team – made up of Iron Man, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson), the Incredible Hulk / Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) – begin to emerge, and their personal nightmares become a reality as they fight to prevent the extermination of the human race.
New faces in the form of Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver / Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) add more complexity to rapidly changing relationship dynamics.
But the acting in this film is unremarkable, with the exception of Ruffalo, who delivers a searing performance in his Dr Jekyll-inspired Bruce Banner role.
The battle scenes which fill much of the film are eye-popping. And there are some moments of the same real wit in writer-director Joss Whedon’s sequel script as there were in the original. But some of the jokes fall flat.
Those familiar with decades of the Marvel comic books as well as the 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe films which precede and inform this one will applaud the extreme narrative juggling act Whedon has pulled off this time around to make dozens of interconnected – but not always causally linked – plot lines fit together for a second time on the silver screen.
Those with less understanding of the hyperwoven histories will still enjoy this exciting flick.
But we all know that Whedon and his cast can do better.
Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.Donate Here