Skip to main content

A Thing Isn’t Beautiful Because It Lasts: Avengers in the AGE OF ULTRON


The latest film in the Marvel Universe series feels like nothing so much as a season finale. And since Joss Whedon was once the master of creating season finales that were both emotionally satisfying and thematically resonant, it’s good to have him in charge for the second Avengers movie, Age of Ultron.

I’d like to compare it to the epic scope of Buffy’s “The Gift” but it feels more like Angel, if anything. Things change, the world moves on – and the best you can do is keep fighting. And embrace change.

Tony Stark has always been flawed, but by the third film in his own trilogy, he seemed to have found an emotional peace. But with that peace comes the idea that he can use his technology – his faith in machines being his tragic flaw – to create a replacement for the Avengers. He births an army of robots to calm the populace and fight alien foes.

Robert Downey Jnr’s Stark is such a towering figure in the Marvel Universe films – and to make him partly the villain of this new film is a strong dramatic choice. He creates the seeds of his own destruction, as Ultron later explains to the twins – the newly introduced to this series, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

But his egocentric schtick is getting slightly old. He is the only character we believe could make these choices, but when he keeps making them, as the narrative decides that he must, it makes little sense. Yes, I’m applying logic to a superhero film that contains a super soldier, a giant green man and a Norse God.

Luckily, though, in an ensemble film like this, other characters are allowed to shine – and Whedon smartly chooses to put a character or two at the centre that don’t have their own series yet. Much like Black Widow was the central figure of the first film, Hawkeye is the emotional centre of Age of Ultron. Natasha’s relationship with Bruce/the Hulk is a fine showcase for Scarlett Johannson and Mark Ruffalo, even though their subplot seems tangential to the main narrative.

And it’s the moments that don’t quite fit in this film that makes Ultron somewhat tricky to love. It is like a season finale, because you can’t appreciate this film without seeing where all the characters have been – and have some investment in where they are going. The main story is clear but the character motivations make sense only in the context of other films. Some plot machinations rely on Marvel Universe knowledge – and even then, I was confused about Thor’s visit to the plot resolution cave.

I described the first Avengers film as a character-drivenblockbuster. Ultron is definitely plot-driven, but it allows the characters to shine. And the contrivance of getting the gang to a farm to rest and recuperate allows Whedon the explore the characters in their down-time, while the villain formulates his next plan. And let it be said that James Spader is excellent as Ultron.

Age of Ultron is the longest Marvel Universe film and it has to be. It’s resolving plots that have built over 11 previous films and setting up stories for at least three future films (Civil War & Infinity War, Parts I & II). It has a cast of thousands – and makes that work most of the time. It’s amazing what multi-film contracts can look like on the big screen. Marvel Studios has figured out a way to bring back the classic Hollywood studio system, but in a way that the actors – and fans – win.

By the end of the film, change has come. The Marvel Universe will no longer be the same. The Avengers you once knew will be different the next time you see them, in the aforementioned future films. No one film can be everything to everyone – that’s an aphorism usually directed at the audience. In this case, this one film can’t be everything to every character – but it gives it a damn good go of it.

And now, because the Marvel Universe is everywhere, I guess it’s back to Netflix to keep watching Daredevil.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My Favourite Theatre of 2018

It’s that time of year again, when I look back over everything I saw on stage and put together a list of my favourite shows. I saw over 100 shows this year, mostly in Melbourne and a small number on one visit to Sydney.

I will link to reviews if I wrote one.
TOP TEN (alphabetical order)
The Almighty Sometimes – Griffin Theatre, Sydney
Kendall Feaver’s extraordinary debut play is about Anna, dealing with mood disorders and medication and the complicated relationship she has with the treatments and her mother. Superb cast and beautifully directed by Lee Lewis
Blackie Blackie Brown – Malthouse Theatre
Nakkiah Lui’s work is always amazing but this production, directed by Declan Green, was another step up for her – the satire sharper and bleaker and more hilarious than ever before.
Blasted – Malthouse Theatre
Sarah Kane’s debut play from 1990s London is a tricky beast tackling difficult subjects but Anne-Louise Sarks nailed it with a superb production.
The Bleeding Tree – Arts Centre Melbourne

Melbourne Fringe: The Mission by Tom Molyneux

The widespread use of Acknowledgement of Country throughout the theatrical community is a good reminder that we live and work and tell stories on a land that has been home to Australia’s Indigenous people for forty-thousand years. Any Fringe show presenting work on the lands of the Wurundjeri people in the Birrarung are continuing a very long tradition.
Performer Tom Molyneux’s Acknowledgement of Country feeds directly into the story of The Mission; “sovereignty has never been ceded” is a strong jumping-off point for a story about our Indigenous population’s autonomy.
This personal history begins thirty-thousand years ago at the forming of Budj Bim, a volcano in Western Victoria. The Budj Bim area is a very important one to the Gunditjmara people, a site where they developed a system of aquaculture, thousands of years before European settlement.
After European settlement, it was the site of Eumerella Wars, where the Gunditjmara were overwhelmed and killed by colonisers who had the su…

Melbourne Fringe: Sleepover Gurlz by Emma Smith & Vidya Rajan

Theatre can happen anywhere. It can happen in big rooms, small rooms, warehouses, carparks and shipping containers. I saw a show on the streets of North Melbourne once. And one in the back of a car.
Sleepover Gurlz isn’t the first play I’ve seen performed in a bedroom, but this one uses its space and its premise to great effect; the intimacy is vital and this show is as much about the bedroom space as it is about the women sharing it.
Before the show, the audience is ushered upstairs to a living area to colour and paste and find their inner child. It’s an irresistible moment of pleasure that you almost regret being dragged into the bedroom for the party itself.
Creators and performers Emma Smith and Vidya Rajan are six-year-old girls, welcoming the audience to their sleepover party. We are the other girls at the party, sharing snacks and interacting with the friends who have invited us over. It’s charming and funny and silly. There’s a game of “Chinese whispers” and the uninhibited th…