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There’s a certain level of expectation with Marvel Studio films. They’ve churned out hit after hit, and while fans have laid cash over fist for every effort, they still anxiously anticipate a potential dud each time. Once more, Joss Whedon has the unenviable task of helming film’s biggest superhero team for the second and final time in the joint-writer director helm. And thankfully, once more he swings for the fences and knocks it out of the goddamn park. Avengers: Age of Ultron is nothing short of incredible.
The film assumes you’re up to date with the other ten movies that precede it, allowing it to hit the ground running and speed through at a great clip. The plot is fairly simple: Tony Stark want to build a “suit of armour around the world” in the form of Ultron, a artificial intelligence safeguard that can do the Avengers’ job for them. Stark sees an endgame for the Avengers, but upon activation, Ultron “creatively” reinterprets this protocol and sets out to protect the world from those who would hurt it most: humanity. But the Avengers aren’t going down without several awesome fights.
While the first Avengers was kept squarely in New York, this outing has an international focus. This gives it the feeling that the entire world is in danger, and paints the Avengers as an extraordinary rescue operations group for global catastrophes; less Justice League and more Thunderbirds. These high stakes mean the film’s themes naturally revolve around global safety, and the true costs of keeping the world safe. The lip service and runtime paid to preventing civilian casualties in the super-fistfights is very much welcomed, and I couldn’t help but think it may have been a deliberate dig at Man of Steel, which was criticised at release for neglecting to show its hero looking out for the little guy. Look, up in the sky! Its a bird flipped in your direction, Warner Bros.
By now, all the actors have settled into their roles in the Marvel pantheon, and everyone gives it 110 per cent. Everyone from Captain America to War Machine gets a shot in the spotlight, almost exhaustively so. In the film’s quieter moments, Whedon overindulges the yin-yang of his characters and their potential to be either heroes or demons. It sometimes descends into melancholy, but thankfully it never stays there. The Marvel penchant for humour is never lost, as almost every other line is genuinely hilarious repartee, although fans who still aren’t on board with Whedon’s overtly quippy character writing may grit their teeth.
But if I had to pick an MVP, it would be Ultron himself, voiced and mo-capped by James Spader (Alan Shore from Boston Legal). Beyond the CGI wizardry that animates his eerie robotic frame, Spader’s Ultron is surprisingly affable for a robot. Spader smartly avoids the HAL-style monotone, instead giving him the emotionally charged malice of a true psychopath, simultaneously oozing good humour and disdain towards the carbon sacks he’s forced to deal with to enact his grandiose plans.
As a filmgoer and a Marvel fan, I am perfectly satisfied, but I have to take one star off for its length. People talk about the day where superhero movie fatigue will finally set in, but having seen this one I know it won’t be from quantity of films, but from quantity of running time. The sheer amount of content the film manages to squeeze in, from characters to action scenes to set-up for the sequels, is astonishing to behold, but fans and non-fans alike will be fatigued from the sheer emotional marathon of it all. And don’t forget, we’re getting a dozen more of these over the next half-decade. I don’t think my ARC reactor heart can take it.
In short: if you’re a Marvel fan, then you know I’m preaching to the converted. For those in the wings anxious to know if this film is worth your student allowance, rest assured, this is something to assemble for.