Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Dir. Joss Whedon
My brother said I got too excitable with my first review of ‘Age of Ultron’ (which you can read here). That’s not hugely surprising, I wrote it shortly after coming out of a 22 hour Avengers marathon, I hadn’t slept for a very long time and had just seen this hotly anticipated movie in a cinema filled with the most passionate of fans. So, now that many months have passed and I’ve seen it another two times under more ‘normal’ conditions, do I still feel the same way?
Essentially yes, yes I do! Though now with the benefits of reflection and sleep I can see that the film isn’t perfect, it still holds up very well for what it intended and needed to be. Joss Whedon stated that he wanted to delve deeper into the Avengers rather than just going bigger, and that he does, maybe with some varying levels of success. Key to helping achieve that is new team member Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) whose abilities include getting inside people’s heads and playing on their deepest fears. What comes to the surface in this film is clearly laying the foundation for what’s soon to come in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, even some foreshadowing ‘Thor: Ragnarok’. In that respect, Whedon is both developing the story he wanted to tell while having to tie it all in with the rest of the franchise and pave the way for subsequent films, not an easy task and an even harder one when so many threads and characters with their own lives and even planets are involved.
While Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s technological meddling is key to the plot, it’s Hawkeye’s unexpectedly developed role that bears most of the weight of the emotional heart of the movie. Clearly linked to Jeremy Renner’s annoyance at his character not being himself for much of the first Avengers movie, he reveals another side to himself that I didn’t see coming that beautifully grounds his character and others’ motivation for why they fight so hard to protect the world and the personal weight that rests upon their collective (and individual) shoulders.
Once again the Hulk really stands out, the nuances in his personality really come through and Mark Ruffalo is excellent. Without doubt he gets the best action scene as well, with the fight against Tony in the ‘Hulkbuster’ armour being visually spectacular, while also touching on a lot of the fears that Banner has about his alter ego, hence working with Stark to make something that could be used to stop himself if he ever got out of control. I don’t know where they would take a solo ‘Hulk’ film, reboots have been attempted twice in recent history, but I can see that if they were going to try again Ruffalo’s the man to try it with and it would have a good chance of success, not least because there’s an audience who are left wanting more from his appearances in the ‘Avengers’ films. He’ll be returning next year for ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and I get the feeling it’ll be a bit more than just a brief cameo appearance.
There’s at least one bit of the story that I can’t decide if it was re-written as a result of Whedon’s hand feeling forces by another studio’s take on the character, or if it was just him subverting expectations, either way it does avoid being too cliché. Most criticisms have stated they felt larger forces were at work on Whedon, under pressure to bring together threads from all the characters and setting up all of what’s to come in the next phase. I personally didn’t feel that was apparent to the detriment of the film, it’s completely to be expected in the MCU.
It’s believed that a huge amount ended up on the cutting room floor, and I expect alternate versions of scenes may be included in that. In fact, Amazon had to send an email saying they jumped the gun with their listing of the Blu-Ray special features, that they originally stated would include an extended cut, even they expected more. Though it seems unlikely the much-desired ‘Director’s Cut’ will ever be produced as Whedon has said this was sufficient.
I’ve seen it twice in 3D and once in 2D, I think the extra dimension adds very little, though certain shots look cool the film doesn’t lose anything without it and in fact 2D helps the high-speed motion look smoother while avoiding headaches for many. Last time I checked this was the 6th biggest-grossing movie of all time at the box-office, however the positions on that list are regularly changing, so while it hasn’t eclipsed the success of its predecessor, for Marvel this was a successful installment.
Is an extended cut coming? While it seems likely that the material for one could exist, Marvel Studios have never released one for any of their movies so far. It would be fantastic if they do but I’m not going to hold my breath. There’s definitely something on a cutting room floor somewhere that fans like myself would love to see though sadly I doubt that we ever will, so for now I’m content to watch this again and enjoy all the things about it that worked for this fan-boy.
‘Age of Ultron’ is available to buy in all the standard formats from all the usual suppliers.