Superheroes have been a summer staple for some time now. Marvel, who have released a staggering ten films, over the last seven years – and that’s discounting films like X-Men, which take place in a seperate universe – have been the go to studio for big, blockbusting spectacle. Their business model – to construct a vast cinematic universe, that turns every comic book geek’s wet dream into a visual reality – has proven hugely successfully, critically, and commercially. With the success comes a price though – an overly familiar schematic that, whilst sturdy, still has cracks of unoriginality.
I would argue that Marvel are aware of this, as they admirably branch out to different worlds, and in doing so, different genres. We’ve already had Guardians of The Galaxy; a silly, pulpy sci-fi, and next up is Ant-Man, which looks like it embraces its own absurdity. Soon, Marvel will introduce us to its first black, and female superheroes, to get their own big-screen outing with Black Panther and Captain Marvel – a sign that the studio clearly want to keep things fresh.
Yet, the long awaited sequel to Avengers Assemble – subtitled Age of Ultron – feels stale and samey. Set a few months after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron wastes no time in throwing us into the action, dispensing of unnecessary introductions, by assuming its audience is all up to date. Earth’s mightiest heroes have reunited to take down Hydra outposts all over the world, in the hope of finding Loki’s staff.
The opening sequence – one of many ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ set pieces – sees the team infiltrate a Hydra stronghold, where Tony Stark is presented with a dark vision of the future. Determined to prevent his vision from becoming a reality, he and Bruce Banner create Ultron, a form of artificial intelligence, whose sole purpose is to be a suit of armour for around the world. The goal is for it to replace the Avengers as the protecter of mankind, but it wakes up in a very bad mood – like me on a Monday morning – and decides that mankind needs to be allowed to evolve, instead of being protected. This can only mean one thing – the extinction of the Avengers.
There’s no denying the popcorn movie credentials of Age of Ultron. Special effects? Check. Explosions? Check. Comedy? Check. Action? Check, check, check, check, and check. The film is bursting at the seams with organised chaos, and boasts a thrilling, albeit familiar, climax. The stakes are considerably high, as a sense of impending death and destruction, is set up throughout the film. Fortunately, writer/director Joss Whedon follows through with the promise of a darker ending, although the film itself is nowhere near as dark, or physcological, as some people have made out.
Herein lies the main problem with Age of Ultron. Whilst entertaining, it’s very much the case of ‘been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt’. As much as Whedon tries to inject a darkness into the story, the fact remains that we’ve already seen Age of Ultron many times before, but in different packaging. The team fight the baddies, and each other; buildings crash to the floor, whilst people fly through the air; bullets, fist fights, jets, robots – it’s all here, much to the pleasure of most people.
I’m not saying that the above is boring, but it is exhausting. I left Age of Ultron with my senses beaten to a pulp, as if I’d just been in a fight with the Hulk. For many, this is exactly what they want, and seven years ago, it may have been exactly what I would have wanted. However, having seen how imaginative and interesting Marvel can be at times – even Winter Solider has a cool paranoid thriller vibe to it – Avengers: Age of Ultron lacks any kind of originality, or purpose, other than to set up future films.
There’s some sacrifice, there’s a little darkness, but this isn’t The Empire Strikes Back, or The Dark Knight of the Marvel world, in the slightest. It’s sure to please the fans, and there’s nothing really to dislike about it, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting a little bit bored of the same old thing. Avengers: Age of Ultron, may be entertaining at times, but it’s still more like Avengers: Age of Tedium.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com