Smart arses with dumb fast quips, sparring verbally for attention against the backdrop of another Armageddon. It’s a tired formula from Marvel and Joss Whedon, whose lightweight script left a bemused silence in Screen 17. There are only so many clunky wise cracks from handsome performers that can be endured. It’s fragmented and irreverent, not feeling like a coherent film with fully formed characters despite however many movies we’ve now spent in their various companies. It’s a series of punchlines and punched skulls with egos being massaged and managed. What tops it all is just how vacuous and in many cases unlikable everybody seems. Even Robert Downey Jr, whose Iron Man 3 is probably the highlight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe™, comes across as an irritating liability, with his plan to form a super artificial intelligence backfiring and producing the latest threat to humanity. It’s frustrating how this fascinating Frankensteian dynamic between brainiac super solider and his malevolent offspring is barely explored beyond the surface. The real question lingering in the background is just what makes these folks ‘heroes’ when their inflated egos simply cause more harm than good. They are heroes because we are told they are heroes. The films are funny because there appear to be gags. And there lies Marvel’s problem.
Early on, the entire team attend a party hosted by Stark, get wildly drunk which provides the fuel for a a string of Whedon’s trademarked wisecracks and friendly mockery in order to show how chummy our avenging oddballs have become. Not only does it seem a ridiculous risk to international security by allowing the world’s premier defence force to become simultaneously intoxicated but it’s also just a clunky way of showing the relationships these characters have with each other, almost akin to that elevator scene between Obi Wan and Anakin in Attack of the Clones. Scenes seem to be written with the direct purpose of telling us that these characters are friends, rather than feeding those relationships into the narrative. Through all this matey macho jesting there’s no warmth. These characters are situated in extraordinary situations, possessing incredible abilities but essentially they exist on earth. Through the endless wise cracks there’s no feeling of who they are and how they relate to the land they’re apparently trying to protect. Then there’s the usual talk of MacGuffin nonsense which will make no sense to anyone without at least postgraduate education in Marvel lore.
Age of Ultron suffers from a lack of stakes and often cringeworthy humour. As a side note, The Daredevil series on Netflix seems tonally fresh and creative from what I have seen, a lesson its larger properties would be wise to explore.
Review by David Rank
Avengers: Age of Ultron is out on now in the UK and US. Running time 141 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).