Film: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Joss Whedon is probably the best thing that could have happened to The Avengers franchise. It’s his ability to step outside the comforts of genre film-making and test new styles and his patience to actually play with characters, rather than break entire cities and watch things go ka-boom, that has put the Marvel cinematic outtakes back on the blockbuster charts.
Three minutes in and Avengers: Age of Ultron hits you in the gut with all its got. A beautifully shot faux-single-take scene sees the entire Avengers team — Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) — blaze through a frosty forest, hunting down Loki’s sceptre, kept in Hydra’s super-secret hideout. We’re also introduced to two mutants, doing a sleek X-Men cross-over -- the Maximoff twins — Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quick Silver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).
While we’ve seen both these characters make cameo appearances in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Quicksilver character was portrayed by Evan Peters in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and will reprise his role in future X-Men movies. We personally prefer Taylor-Johnson to Peters.
Back to plot details. While the gang do manage to retrieve the sceptre, it’s probably the only huzzah the team gets before things start to unravel for the motley crew. In typical Tony Stark fashion, Iron Man manages to combine his mad-scientist tendencies with his rare humane moments, only to bungle up the entire exercise. While he tries to build a machine that should in theory help the Avengers fight further alien attacks, he ends up creating a monster, Frankenstein style. And thus, the Ultron (voiced by James Spader) is born. Mayhem ensues, and we know the drill.
Where Age of Ultron excels is in its excellent story-telling nuances and the way the characters ricochet off each other’s energies. Whedon sets up the little moments as well as the larger than life set-pieces with the same attention to detail and that’s what makes a two and a half hour long movie feel like much, much less.
It felt great to watch characters Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow get more screen time this time around. The twins are fantastic. And we have a few characters from the earlier Marvel movies making some hilarious cameos. We also get to watch Julie Delpy make a very, very short appearance. Even Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders) is seen wielding much more power in this movie.
And finally the movie finds its heart in its values. And not the Alok Nath variety of values, but values that make true human beings — kind, sacrificial and intrinsically motivated.
Where the movie falters is in its consistency. Whedon fails to integrate some of the characters’ emotional and personal upheavals from the previous films into the present one, making it feel like a stand-alone film almost, which it is not. And perhaps this is why, we’ll see the Russo brothers taking up direction duties in the next two Avenger films.