Review: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON Suffers From Its Strongest Asset
Despite the avalanche of comic book adaptations, I was kind of looking forward to Joss Whedon's second time around with the Avengers. The first film proved to have great entertainment value and Whedon managed to approach each superhero equitably and cleverly. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about Avengers: Age of Ultron.
It's saddening to realize how the film makes a weakness out of its strongest asset - that is its team of superheroes. While the first film managed to leave enough space for each character to build and affirm themselves, the second one drowns its protagonists in an overabundance of elements and characters. Of course, the task was easier for the first Avengers as the team building was the narrative core of the film, but the operation also managed to succeed thanks to Whedon's writing skills.
Over the past decades, Whedon has shown such a masterful talent in creating characters and in building their interactions (watch Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Firefly or even Dollhouse) that one cannot feel but disappointed by what he hasn't achieved in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Not only does the character development suffer from many weaknesses, but the main structure of the film sometimes fails to be convincing and only skims through some of the themes.
Despite rumors about an extended cut supposed to be clocking in at 3 hours and 30 minutes (which would be more than an hour longer than the theatrical cut), the final version depicts bits and pieces that are ultimately sacrificed. In order to avoid spoilers, I won't name the major disappointments - you'll notice them yourself - but some sub-plots appear to be terribly pushy and often lack subtlety in their treatment as they need to exist among all the narratives deployed (see the Maximoffs' explanation of their hatred toward Tony Stark or the Avengers' nightmares created by Scarlet Witch).
Also fighting to exist on screen, all the jokes and puns no longer really carry Whedon's trademark wit, but continue to attempt to seduce the audience. Avengers: Age of Ultron does have its funny sequences (the alpha males trying to pick up Thor's hammer) but it's mostly attached to specific characters, such as Thor and Captain America. Sadly, this missing wit sometimes makes the film sink into ridicule. I am not talking about cynicism - Whedon respects his material too much to lower his perspective towards this kind of distance - but rather I am talking about a glorification of clichéd values and situations that the director would usually have defused (Hawkeye's narrative arc).
Devoid of any personalization, everything seems to have been calculated to be the perfect mass product : big action scenes every now and then, constant joke-dropping, lots of super heroes and huge special effects. The non-stop explosions and mass destruction provoke a feeling of saturation, which is reinforced by the fact that the Avengers look more like sitcom characters rather than half Gods.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is not a bad film, it's just a dull and uninspired sequel. The opening is a perfect representation of this, with a massive action sequence involving the whole team in which there's a long take very similar to that of the finale from the first film. The viewers are thrown into this insipid reproduction without any existing issues and as such can't help but feel blazed about the whole thing.
Let's hope that Marvel will soon stop aiming at bigger and louder and start developing more carefully its universe - but hey, who am I kidding?
Avengers: Age Of Ultron opens in many regions of the world starting April 22 & 23, and in North America on May 1.