Age of Ultron: when an explosion is just an explosion
Three years ago, the first Avengers movie arrived, smashing both box-office records and audience expectations. The Joss Whedon-helmed blockbuster brought the Marvel cinematic universe together in a fantastically fun, action-packed, comic-book spectacle.
Since then, Marvel has been riding high and continues to churn out film after film. The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble, as it was billed in the UK) was a near-perfect example of how fun and intelligent a comic-book blockbuster could be, with its heaving cast of characters given enough run-time to develop and impress while punching people and blowing things up in the process.
Avengers: Age of Ultron for the most part serves up more of the same. It brings back the core cast of the first movie, along with a few new characters – and a shiny, new villain – to spice things up. This time, the Avengers are up against a Tony Stark-created rogue robot named Ultron, portrayed superbly by James Spader. Ultron was created by Stark (Robert Downey Jr) to protect the world, but instead it develops an overwhelming desire to eradicate the human race. Whoops.
So, will Ultron be the greatest threat the Avengers have ever faced? Well, no, it would seem not. The main problem with Age of Ultron is the severe lack of urgency or threat. None of the characters seems particularly perturbed by what is happening. They constantly find the time to make jokey jibes at one another. All of this undermines any dramatic tension the film might have had. Avengers Assemble was hardly Citizen Kane, but its great strength was that it provided a bit of drama to go along with the fun. And that is what is sorely lacking from this second instalment. If the characters don’t seem concerned about what is happening, then why should the audience?
Age of Ultron is by no means a failure. The action sequences whiz and bang with aplomb, while cast members continue to impress as their comic-book counterparts. But, if the history of action movies teaches us anything, it’s that, without any emotional resonance behind it, an explosion is just an explosion.
Jon Fuge is a writer based in London.
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