Friday 24 April 2015

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" (Reader's Digest 24/04/15)

The Avengers reassemble for the second of writer-director Joss Whedon’s superhero synergasms. Success is inevitable. But is the film any good?

The trouble with these Avengers get-togethers, it transpires, is not just that they’re too big to fail, but that they’re almost certainly too big to function as drama. Swallowing up every last character, actor and dollar, the franchise has thus far manifested itself as the lumbering ne plus ultra of modern movie gigantism, while the Avengers themselves – the hall of superhero fame headed by Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk – remain the safest of bets, covering so many eventualities that their triumph is all but assured.

In pre-release interviews, writer-director Joss Whedon has cited this sequel as the hardest work he’s ever done, and you can bet most of that toil went on finding an antagonist capable of making any fight seem fair enough for an audience to reasonably cheer. Here, he’s settled on Ultron, which may sound like a brand of dishwasher tablets, but is actually an artificial intelligence (voiced by James Spader) with an army of robots at his disposal. It’s superheroes versus supercomputer, then; of human interest, there is little-to-nothing.

This tussle sends more computer-generated masonry flying than ever, which is an achievement of sorts, but the expensive kit and relentless set-pieces mask a playground-level goodies-vs.-baddies runaround. Proper actors are bought in to bolster the beef/cheesecake, yet the two-second appearance of arthouse muse Julie Delpy doing nothing is both a jolting incongruity and a suggestion that all resistance to this behemoth cinema might be futile. They can’t claim the script attracted them: Whedon’s drama is banal, his wisecracks composed of deadening snark.

By all means claim Age of Ultron as fun, but it looks very much like the kind of fun the suits want you to have – an utterly impersonal, corporate triumph. Watching these logo-simple characters (the starred shield, the arm-and-hammer, the not-so-jolly green giant), I wondered whether we weren’t meant to be cheering for the likes of Marvel, Disney, Google, Apple and Coca-Cola as they boosted their global market share. Put your pennies in these deep pockets, by all means, but my instinct would be to sit out any fight that is so obviously and expensively rigged.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is now showing in cinemas nationwide.

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