The Avengers: Age of Ultron is like the Greatest Hits album of a band that weren’t very good in the first place. All the famous Marvel heroes star in this bland, tired effort to cash in on previous successes. This time, the villain is Ultron, a sentient being of Tony Stark’s Earth defence program, who thinks he must eradicate humans in order to save the Earth.
This Avengers sequel proves that the superhero genre is artistically dead. This sequel – to a spin off – of several movie adaptations – from old comic books – is like an inception of pure profit-driven nonsense. Explosions, gunfire, punches and collapsing buildings reel off like an expensive slideshow to an audience that is treated like gormless idiots. Watching it, you are reminded that the blockbuster has descended to ‘build it and they will come’ efficiency. They know millions will flock to see it, so why expend any thought on small matters such as story or characters?
To cater for mass audiences, violence is treated in an incredibly childish way. Some of the set piece scenes would involve thousands of civilian casualties and yet you never see a dead body. Just rubble. Directors like Tarantino have been heavily criticised for their graphic violence but at least he has the stones to demonstrate the cause and effect of a killing. Here, Joss Whedon doesn’t want to alienate the young people so he supplies them with unbelievable amounts of violence and destruction without the guilt of seeing anybody die. He wants you to smile, fist pump, and tell your friends how cool it was when some evil guy blew up a city.
Sure, Age of Ultron is escapism, plain and simple. But superhero movies, with a few exceptions, have been exactly the same for fifteen years. These films are no longer challenging or interesting because they follow the same structure with the same characters. A goodie tries to stop a baddie from destroying the world. That same movie has been made dozens and dozens of times. Is nobody else bored?
The Avengers: Age of Ultron though, suffers from some unique problems too. First, the script is full of these silly little jokes and the whole thing feels like one long, neglected SNL sketch. At the most inappropriate moments, someone comes out with a Will Ferrell style attempt at quirky humour. Like when Vision uses Thor’s hammer to kill a bad guy, he says how good the weight distribution is and Thor explains he made it that way so he could get a better swinging rhythm.
And then there’s this woeful attempt at romance between Bruce Banner and Romanoff. The sexual tension between Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson is about as steamy as a broken kettle. But then again, there’s always that weird romantic subplot in a Superhero film. The fact it’s not convincing shouldn’t get in the way of sticking to rigid genre stereotypes.
The most depressing thing about Age of Ultron is that it reminds you that filmmaking must be a job like any other. You can imagine Joss Whedon looking at storyboards, wondering what he’s going to have for dinner later. You can see Robert Downey Jr sitting in his trailer, desperate to finish his scenes so he can get home to his family. The Executive Producers view the final cut, content with a job well done, and wait for the receipts to come in so they can pay off that mortgage on their fourth home. Meanwhile, Aaron Taylor-Johnson insists he did this for its artistic excellence, and the whole world laughs.
We pay for our ticket. We watch it. We go home. We fall asleep.