Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
written by Joss Whedon
based on The Avengers comic books by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
directed by Joss Whedon
The original version of this review was published in the online magazine Examiner in 2015.
Do you remember that neverending climax from the horrid Man of Steel (2013) where Superman and General Zod fight with so much force they end up destroying most of Metropolis? Well, it was ridiculous. And in Avengers: Age of Ultron we get a similar balls to the wall fight, this time between the Hulk and Iron Man. The future of the world is in jeopardy, lives are at stake, and a whole city is leveled in the process. The good news? In the hands of writer/director Joss Whedon, the scene is exciting, potentially game-changing for the superheroes, and funny – all things that other filmmakers should think about when masterminding their next orgy of destruction (yes, you, Michael Bay and Zach Snyder). And never mind that throughout Iron Man is actually concerned by possible civilian casualties, scrambling to save people left and right. You know, like a superhero should.
Whedon knows that any film or TV show rises or falls on the strength of its characters. He has proven it at length on shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Angel (1999-2004), and the short-lived (but awesome) Firefly (2002). He also proved it on 2012’s rollicking The Avengers and does it once again on this sequel which pits the ensemble – Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye – against a rogue sentient AI named Ultron and its plan to destroy humanity. Whedon’s skill at stopping the action and letting the superheroes bicker, banter, and talk like human beings separates this stuff from crap like, well, Man of Steel and even other Marvel films such as The Incredible Hulk (2008). He’s never been as interested in plot mechanics as much as he is in establishing a group of people – even larger-than-life comic book figures – who must work together as a family to face insurmountable challenges: Pesky demons, interstellar skirmishes, high school. In the Whedonverse, wisecracks, comebacks, and trying to wield Thor’s hammer are essential elements for bonding.
Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t as good as Whedon’s first crack at the property. It has too many characters and action sequences, and you can feel Marvel’s meddling: The film is more serious, the battles are bigger and more confusing, and there’s just too much going on. You get the sense that some stuff may be missing (Whedon’s original cut was reportedly around three hours long). But it’s a testament to his skill as a filmmaker that he still finds the time to give Hawkeye a back story, Black Widow and the Hulk (well, Bruce Banner) a kiss, and Ultron himself (voiced by James Spader) a personality. There’s also some cool new additions to the team, including Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and specially Vision (Paul Bettany), an android with a conscience who philosophizes that “…a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.”
And it won’t. The next film in the series will be the two-parter Avengers: Infinity War (2018) / Avengers: Endgame (2019), and Whedon has decided to leave the directing duties to someone else. We’ll miss you, Joss. But hey, maybe it will give you the space to work on a new TV series. A reboot of Buffy is certainly in order.
Carlos I. Cuevas | Good