2 stars
Marvel Comic's fan boys (and girls) are air-punching in an uncontrollable global orgy of delight as Joss Wheedon gives them more of what they want for as long as they want it. Judging by the preview I was at, that is for as long as he'll give it to them. At best, this insatiable lust for digital carnage is Bacchanalian with a creepy, disturbing psycho-sexual undertow.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into it.
Wheedon became Hollywood nobility with The Avengers (2012) and seeks, Christopher Nolan / Batman style, to cement his reputation as a master craftsman of superhero movies. And he's given himself plenty of material to work with. Where alien's threatened the world three years ago, now the fear comes from within as Ultron, a self-aware super-robot seeks to reboot the planet by way of bringing peace to mankind.

With the trope of terror wrought by man playing God firmly in hand, Avengers: Age of Ultron heads along very familiar roads as The Avengers seek to bring Ultron to heel. As cars, trains, buses, buildings and robots are smashed to pieces, Johannesburg, Seoul and northern Italy are but collateral damage. Oh the humanity!

Actually, that's the problem. It's not about humanity, this is about ramming pixels together until nothing is left. There's a cursory nod to character development as key Avengers get their moment in the sun – Hawkeye is given a back story, tensions simmer between Steve and Tony, romance simmers between Natasha and Bruce. It's all very sweet but adds very little to a story crying out for depth, purpose and heart. Come the ultimate, pixel-crushing show-down on another city thrust into the sky, emotional concern has long since drained away.

Wheedon's production is, as expected in today's 3D multiplexes (on the back of a quarter billion dollar budget), fault less. Cameras are never still as he spins and wheels from one spectacular set piece to another. And to be fair, his cast are up to the mark with Robert Downey Jr. leading the pack since, to be fair, Ironman has always had the biggest spark of any Avenger. James Spader as the voice of Ultron is at once chilling and thrilling, though three new Avengers (like we need more) pay the price of his screen time, fading into the background like shoe-horned treats from a greedy marketing team.

Bloated? Well, yes. It's said that the original cut ran over three hours and it shows. Once Wheedon squeezed his story into a more modest two hours twenty, he left himself no room to move. Any back stories and character developments are glossed over in a run to the next action sequence, and feel as rushed as they are thin. Squeezed in between the operatic bombast of endless battle, the film takes on all the resonance and depth of yesterday's B-movie. Some would argue that's the point.

But comparing Avengers: Age of Ultron to the Saturday-morning serial is to miss a vital point. This isn't a Saturday morning serial any more than it's a warm up to the movie of the night. This is it, the big bang for which you pay big bucks. It's the main event and where the former was forgiveable for its plot-holes, corny action and cornier performances, today's $250M block-busting extravaganza (Titanic was a snip at $200M) should rise above its past. You wouldn't buy a Maserati with wooden wheels for their old-fashioned charm. With the world at their command, nothing, absolutely nothing new has been brought to the production or added to the genre. For the money asked at the cinema, and the colossal sums spent on the production, we should expect something. Shouldn't we?

Comparing Ultron to the likes of Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom for disposable, comic book entertainment is to overlook Spielberg's command of character and pacing. Wheedon's capacity for artfully blowing shit up is simply that - two hours of blowing shit up. No matter the technical skill, without a command of character and pacing this is little more than watching someone else play a video game on a big arse screen.

No fun in that.

If you've got this far down the page, both of you, I'm preaching to the converted and Wheedon's fan boys (and girls) have long gone to indulge their nerdy passion elsewhere. The only consolation is that Avengers: Age of Ultron in all its brain-numbing pointlessness has got them to the cinema in the first place. With luck, they'll go again. Go to something better, something that reveals how a story can be crafted with depth, resonance, purpose, heart and reason. All the things that were missing here.


Previewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, on 20 April 2015


Robert Downey Jr.
Chris Hemsworth
Chris Evans
Scarlett Johansson

Joss Wheedon

Joss Wheedon



141 minutes

April 23, 2015
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) on IMDb