At the Movies
Another year another round of superhero films from Marvel with the second big team-up film Avengers. This comes in at a time when the previous successes have put Marvel and Disney firmly at the top and this has resulted in reactions ranging from plain old snobbery to petty childish tribalism about an imaginary war between the big two comic book companies and their film studios. This episode of the Avengers may not have the excitement of being the first time round but it has as much action and epic battle scenes and of course the snarky humour is there. It does seem to be a bit rushed at times and director Joss Whedon has already promised an extended Bluray release.
This film does an ideal job taking us from the events of Marvel’s phase two films and setting up the next phase of films with references that will be spotted by fans of the comics. The team work together much more fluidly and this is readily apparent in the opening big action scene as the team invade the fortress of Hydra’s Baron Von Strucker in a fictional East European country.
They are trying to recapture Loki’s staff which they know Von Strucker has being using for human experiments, two of those experiments being Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, twins who now have very different superpowers. If you saw X Men: Days of Future Past you’ll have good idea that Pietro is a speedster similar to DC’s Flash. Wanda’s power is harder to describe but she fires waves or focused blasts of destructive force which is about the best representation I can think of for describing her probability bending powers. Equally dangerous are her mental powers that can induce hallucinations.
After their successful mission the Avengers and their friends have a celebration but Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have a little private meeting to discuss using the staff’s technology for Tony’s Ultron programme, an AI for robots that Tony wants to build to defend Earth from future alien invasions. They leave the programme running after seeing its first few attempts are failures and join the party to play with Thor’s hammer. This is when Ultron is born and he gate-crashes the party and steals the staff.
That’s enough plot as any more and it will be spoilers. I’ll just mention that Vision is created in the film’s second half and he is another great character with impressive powers that allow him to go to toe-to-toe with Ultron’s main body. It’s great to see Paul Bettany promoted from a disembodied voice to playing such powerful and iconic Avengers character and I look forward to seeing more of him.
This film is bursting at the seams with characters and some scenes have hit the cutting room floor just for the sake of the running time. Fortunately Hawkeye definitely gets a little more focus almost as an apology for his limited part in the first film. There is something that seems to be developing between Bruce Banner and Black Widow. There is the same witty dialogue familiar from the first film including a running joke at Captain America’s expense and their fooling around at the party with Thor’s hammer comes back later with a nice pay-off. Even the killer robot Ultron has a sick sense of humour it’s inherited from Stark.
The film actually takes time to show that innocent people get hurt during their battles and that there are legal consequences and worse. This might be a bit of dig at previous superhero films where no-one thinks about those caught up in these battles. I think it’s really a fortunate coincidence or very good timing that this comes after the release of the Netflix TV series Daredevil about a hero living in such a community. This also ties in to the new situation caused by absence of SHIELD to give the team any sort of authority to act. The climactic action scene is just as much a rescue mission as is it a battle against Ultron which means Hawkeye and Black Widow are just as important as Thor and Iron Man.
As a fan I will not be very neutral about this film and if you don’t like comic book films this will not convert you. It does really rely on knowledge of the other films to fully grasp what is going on in this one and some scenes may only really make sense when we see future films, especially one with Thor. None of this is really a problem for me since I’m used to episodic storytelling from TV or comics and accept that this is what Marvel are doing. This is a really good solid action adventure film and I know it does not quite have the excitement of the first Avengers film but that was inevitable. Personally I was quite buzzed by the post climax scenes but that is heavy spoiler territory so I’m saying nothing else about it here.