“The twins, the fucking twins.” So goes Super Hans’ line in C4’s hit sitcom, Peep Show. It pretty much sums up the first half of Age of Ultron, too. As the ‘eastern european’ super handily charged new additions: Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and super sibling, Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) make their debut. The product of some Varoufakis looking bloke, they nearly split the Avengers apart.
Meanwhile, the stocky stalwarts hold firm as tin man meets UN peacekeeper Captain America (Chris Evans); Sydney surfer and dashing Etonian cabinet minister, Thor (Chris Hemsworth); the cash flash, venture capitalist masquerading as Nobel, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr.); cat woman in not quite PC leather disguise, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); Robin Hood swaps Nottingham for New York, Barton (Jeremy Renner); never let a biochemist take off his glasses, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Samuel L. Jackson’s Fury make a comeback.
The problem is that this is beginning to be a character list of biblical proportions. The Call of Duty style zombies scene at Ultron’s conclusion is raw hilarity; as all circle the citadel, losing Thor’s Mjolnir like mint in a mojito. The actors are fighting each other for sacred screen time, as each battle long and hard to satisfy those surely seven digit salaries (Downey Jnr. is clearly winning this game). It is a tough life, earning your keep. Fans of the franchise must be secretly smiling at the demise of Quicksilver. With one less in the tank, the coy carp of the super hero world are less likely to bicker over their camera credentials.
And my god, bickering is just the order of the day. Paradoxically, director Whedon manages to make this a more lavishly set pieced action extravaganza than its predecessor, but also slower and more reflective. Attempting to engage the humanity behind the hero, we even venture to the safe house that is Barton’s humble, bumpkin home, like Bond’s Scottish Skyfall before. In pastoral climes, we see Iron Man chopping wood with Captain America, Black Widow slowly seducing the Hulk and Barton hanging with wife (Linda Cardellini) and kids in tow. It is borderline dull for those who prefer the operative word ‘action’ to be more obviously on show.
But just wait. Once we hit the proper stuff, all hell breaks loose. Despite the influential eye of Captain America, who just maintains control over a very sticky situation, the perennial shit still hits the fan. Language! Comic and super hero films have never ventured far from the easy ‘in joke’. Here we have Captain America’s whiter than white lifestyle which stretches to his cleanliness of mouth, rebuking the less chaste Iron Man for his terse turn of tongue. Chris Evans’ Captain America should be the face of NATO. His fresh faced, clean shaven charm; his sense of humour, even when attacking a metal man with his Vibranium. He is a perfect ambassador.
His evacuation of Sokovia is text book. This is a man, who, alongside S.H.I.E.LD should really chair the EU plan to rescue the migrants and refugees left stranded off European shores. Federica Mogherini needs some super hero sized assistance to solve the plague of problems that the Mediterranean poses post Mare Nostrum. Whether Chris Evans would be willing to forego his current monetary demands for the smaller size of a civil servant salary is likely impossible. He is wasted in the Marvel Universe and is needed here to save the day. A lower budget film would be Avengers: Saving Some Syrians. If we are to take a task force to Libya, I vote Captain America for leader.
But first, back to Ultron. Qualms first, Ultor or Ultorem would be better Latin, but things are more twenty first than first century here. Ultron is symptomatic of the problems posed for this elite ensemble. Such potential power runs amok over almost any obstacle. So Whedon gets all philosophical and makes the Avengers their own enemy. The main threat comes from Stark who just will not refuse a dabble in casual AI, of which Ultron is the result. We then find the Avengers, roughly down the dividing line of the soldier and the scientist, combusting over a petty squabble like designing the evil that may now destroy earth. Honestly, such pathetically puling matters.
Whether this is better than its predecessor is for you to decide. What is certain is that it is bigger in scale, budget, cast, BMI and all things steroid enhanced. This small budget art project with an almost unknown, cult following, looks set to make waves on the independent circuit. What goes around, comes around, unlike the comic books of its origins, The Avengers is a franchise already branded deep into the consciousness. Not lurking large in the periphery of popular culture, The Avengers falls just behind James Cameron’s BO returns and Age of Ultron sits sixth on the all time highest grossing list. This is the biggest business in Hollywood and as Marvel expands (this film itself segues into a good three or four potential future plots), it looks set to dominate the Box Office for a long time coming. Ultron might not threaten Avatar, but Titanic might get cold feet at number two if Whedon has his way.