Ever drunk from a fire hose? I’m thinking it feels something like this. If you subscribe to the “more is better” camp, you’re in good shape.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” opens at 100 mph, and continues almost without taking a breath for 141 minutes that turn interminable. Amid an excessive onslaught of action and gadgetry, it threatens the Marvel universe with collapse under its own weight.
Here we find the Avengers gathered in their battle to reclaim Loki’s scepter, and doing what they think is a fine job of it (and here we meet The Twins, yikes). When Stark lays hands on it, however, he seizes the opportunity to create a planetary defense system – without telling his teammates. Unintended consequences ensue, commence to chaos.
“Age of Ultron” offers an interesting premise (though arguably cursed by arriving on the heels of the brilliant “Ex Machina”), and explores two other plot lines which would have engaged extremely well had they been afforded proper depth. The cast showed up precisely as called upon, with newcomer James Spader perfect as Ultron, and Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson exhibiting their natural onscreen chemistry first seen in “Godzilla” (there spouses, here siblings, both effective). Given each’s considerable dramatic talent (check out “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Anna Karenina”), I’d love to see them in a non-action setting. Something from Fincher would be lovely…
“Age of Ultron”’s predecessor was a joyous experience, watching these individuals dovetail and bounce off each other (often literally). It didn’t provide equal screen time, but it granted equitable attention that resulted in a well-balanced, satisfying outcome for which each character was equally necessary.
Unfortunately, “Age of Ultron” falls prey to the same trap as “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”: it seems the team sat down, wrote every element that’s ever worked in any of the previous incarnations onto an index card, amplified it to its logical maximum, and then fashioned a script that made sure every single card was crammed there, no matter what contrivance was necessary in order to make it happen. It almost felt as though the primary goal was to prevent any apparently ten-year-old segment from hollering, “Hey, that guy got more attention than our guy!” with no regard to the integrity of the story.
When you’re giving equal time to six individuals who on their own suck up all the oxygen in the room, it goes nowhere good (the math alone doesn’t work). What was clever, insightful, pithy, and fresh in earlier iterations devolves here into shopworn jokes and retread preachy speeches.
I can almost hear writer/director Joss Whedon roar, “Are you not entertained!? Is this not why you are here?” and I don’t blame a single among them for wanting a way out of their contract (it’s becoming “And Then There Were None”). About five minutes after I conceded defeat in being able to believe a certain element despite granting it every latitude (which I’d been doing for an hour at that point), Whedon’s own hand penned its character’s words, “This is A, that is B, and I am C. It doesn’t make any sense. But I do it, because it’s my job.”
But all this said, judging from the screening audience’s reaction, Whedon clearly gives ardent fans what they want, and if you’re a member of that esteemed club, far be it from me to steer you away. For a casual fan it’s excessive and strained, but it may be just the blow-out bash you’ve been craving.
Story: When Tony Stark recruits David Banner into a secret side project gone awry, the Avengers must come together to save humanity.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi
Themes: Loyalty, Man vs. Man, Nobility, Purpose, Teamwork, Vengeance
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, James Spader, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Claudia Kim, Andy Serkis, Cobie Smulders, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, Hayley Atwell
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Running time: 141 minutes
Houston release date: May 1, 2015
Tickets: Check IMDb.com or your local listings
Screened April 27, 2015 at the AMC Studio 30 in Houston TX