Has the Marvel-led superhero bubble finally burst? Well of course not. Avengers: Age of Ultron pretty much delivers on all the hype and expectation following the triumphant original, but there are a few things that are starting to annoy me about these Marvel movies. They need to break the mold sometime. Marvel Studios, following a few false starts, has largely cracked the formula for an entertaining superhero movie and has used this to great effect on the last few movies (certainly the Phase 2 era films) but I feel there is a need to do something different. And soon.
My mild irritation started early on. Ultron commences in the midst of a battle as the Avengers attack a Hydra outpost in the wilds of Eastern Europe. Its all very thrilling and impressive, as each hero gets his/her moment to crack a witty line of banter and despatch a bad-guy with aplomb in a violent beauty shot usually in slo-mo. Now I’m not sure if this is director Whedon’s attempt to de-construct the comicbook movie; each hero gets a slo-mo/still-motion beauty shot like freezing a comicstrip frame. I’m sure it gets the geeks weak at the knees and salivating profusely but it feels rather generic at this point as it seems to hammer home the fact that this is indeed a comicstrip brought to life . Each hero gets his moment, then we move on to the next, and this is so stylised and forced (it even felt like one long uninterrupted take but I maybe wrong) that it feels distracting, like a piece of camp theatre or a pop video; style over content. It just took me out of it, making me overly-conscious of the technique and form, as if I was being made aware of the creative team ticking the boxes from some ‘How To Shoot A Marvel Movie’ guide. Likewise some of the heroes are rather obvious cgi dopplegangers in some shots, as if the sheer amount of effects work in this film necessitated a lowering of the overall quality. It is all so blisteringly fast too. I saw the film in 2D but can well imagine many finding the 3D version nauseating. Its just such a cacophony of images and noise; films have gotten quicker and quicker regards cuts between shots etc but this really felt like an assault on the senses. A sign of the times/harbinger of the future no doubt, and I wouldn’t isolate Ultron alone in this but it did annoy me. Post-opening things settled down somewhat but again kicked into high gear with each inevitable action sequence. ‘Well of course’, I hear you say, ‘its a superhero movie.’ But how many times does this have to be repeated and raised to a higher level with each subsequent entry? Where will this even end?
Regards Ultron, the grand finale is as noisy and frenetic as anything before it, except raised by the power of ten- so while its scale and energy recall anything from the grand conclusions of Captain America: Winter Soldier to Thor: The Dark World (or indeed the original Avengers movie) here its bigger and louder still. And again, I just have to wonder,where will this eventually end, reaching its mad zenith of cgi spectacle? The next Avengers film will actually be two films shot back to back, so I can only imagine with some trepidation the mad crescendo the second part will end with (“We’ll need bigger cinemas”, to paraphrase a line from Jaws). As it is, I walked out of my viewing with a pounding headache. Induced from the noise or the hectic images or the feverish combination of both, I can’t say, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’m getting too old for these blockbuster sensory overloads.