Although I have seen quite a few Superhero films, it’s probably worth mentioning that I am not their biggest fan. I liked X-Men: First Class but wasn’t that bothered by the original trilogy: I only really liked the first Iron Man; I haven’t enjoyed any big-screen versions of Spiderman; and I can’t stand Superman.
That being said, I enjoyed Age of Ultron more than most Superhero films I’ve seen, and I think I know why…
As far as I’m concerned, all arguments aside regarding the legitimacy of Batman’s Superhero status, Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is by far the best set of Superhero films that have been made. Batman may lack super powers, but he makes up for it by being a much more interesting character, and that’s what Nolan capitalised on.
The Joker took Batman’s morality almost to breaking point in The Dark Knight: Heath Ledger was obviously fantastic, but it was the extremes which The Joker went too to challenge Batman which made the film the absolute standout of its trilogy and genre.
In a different way, I think this is why Hawkeye was given a greater importance in Age of Ultron. He is a character often ridiculed and at the butt of many Superhero jokes, but by just giving him slightly more emphasis, the film is ultimately more engaging. I wouldn’t say he steals the show, but he comes close.
Each Avenger has their own back story, but ultimately I don’t think any of them lend themselves to great depth, which is one of the reasons the Iron Man films fade as they progress. Just like they are on-screen The Avengers are stronger as a unit: we see enough of each to make a connection, but never enough that any of these tethers begin to fray.
In what is fast becoming an overcrowded genre, in a crowded film, it is impressive that Joss Whedon has managed to produce a film which doesn’t feel bloated. To a large extent he has been helped by characters having their own films, but by not allowing one character to dominate the film, he has avoided any kind of pandering to audiences or executives.
Instead what we get is over two hours of almost pure entertainment. The creation of Ultron by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, the moral implications and the resulting arguments, are essentially a thinly veiled jab at U.S. foreign policy. One liners are dispersed throughout such as: ‘every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, people die’; or ‘Ultron can’t tell the difference between saving the world and destroying it, where do you think he gets that?’
Neville Chamberlain’s ‘Peace in our time’ is echoed by Tony Stark prior to the creation of Ultron and embodies the dilemma of the film. Ultron believes that only through evolution can there be peace on Earth , while The Avengers want to ensure that mankind can at least continue to try in their almost inevitable plight. It is by no means a deep or thought-provoking film, and nor does it pretend to be, but it does at least grapple with interesting concepts on a vast scale.
Much of this would have probably fallen flat had the cast not been up to scratch, and although The Avengers cannot boast the likes of Christian Bale or Michael Fassbender, the cast isn’t exactly what you would call lacking.
Robert Downey Jr. as we know is the right man for the job as Tony Stark: Scarlett Johansson is as solid as ever as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Mark Ruffalo brings a believability to Bruce Banner’s troubled world, and Jeremy Renner is very good as Hawkeye.
With this cast, frantic action, and a level of interest often found lacking in sequels, I would place Age of Ultron amongst the better offerings from the Superhero genre: it’s exciting, entertaining, and doesn’t feel forced.
But as much as I enjoyed Age of Ultron I still have little confidence in the future of the genre. With a reported 25 comic-book based films set to be released over the next 5 years, I wouldn’t be surprised if these films soon become stretched and tedious. Batman vs. Superman looks lame, and Batman in particular should be left alone for a few years in wake of Christopher Nolan’s films. And then there are the trailers for Antman – which looks as shite as the title sounds.
We won’t be seeing another set of films even remotely close to The Dark Knight any time soon, the main Avengers are going their separate ways, and the X-Men cast have began calling it a day.
There still remains a huge demand for Superhero films, but I fear that the inevitable rush to capitalise on this hunger will eventually lead to fans searching for sustenance elsewhere.
Age Of Ultron then will not be the last slice of Superhero pie to engorge on, but it might well be one of the last worth tasting.