Months ago, we were treated with a trailer; the atmosphere was darker, and the stakes were higher. It gives us a glimpse of what is to come that would put the iconic team in difficult circumstances, led by the frightening but seemingly fractured Ultron, reminding us that he is no longer held by strings. At the time it wasn’t so clear, but what was apparent, was the shift in tone and focus from the initial entry, no longer do we see these characters with amplified sensation that immediately brings excitement, instead Whedon is preparing us for what is to come, changing our mindset of what would be expected from the most anticipated entry of the Marvel franchise.
From the moment the film opens, immediately I knew that Marvel and Whedon did the right thing in moulding the audience’s expectations in the upcoming months; despite its glorious action set-piece that fills its first 10 minutes, the atmosphere feels far different from the blissful chaos that surrounded its first film, the visual palette has taken a cold and harsher turn and heavier weight is carried in the way it captures its characters. I admired Whedon for taking the franchise in a new direction as finally pasts of its character are finally explored, exposing the fears and regret that haunts them which allowed certain developments to feel dramatically justified; but sadly it doesn’t achieve as effectively as compared to some of its peers and the limitation of time prevents them from being dwelled with intense focus that the singular films from the Marvel Universe are able to achieve. Though as I previously said, I admire Whedon for taking it to the next step, but more is required in order to deliver a perfect film.
Gone are the charming and egotistic ways of Loki and enter the surprisingly down to earth personality of Ultron. In these types of films, their agendas mean very little as compared to the portrayed personalities carried by their actor’s performance; it helps separate them from being a simple antagonist. James Spader brings humbleness in his portrayal, finding it difficult to simply dismiss him since he admits to his faults and breaks the grandeur that his physical appearance suggests; he remains threatening throughout but as a symbol, he lacks memorability since his physical design comes off far too monotonous and simplistic, a small upgrade to the suits that Tony Stark contains in his workshop.
Ultron’s presence comes into fruition due to the anxieties that linger in Stark’s mind; he aims to create the perfect protector for Planet Earth through artificial intelligence, aided by the power harnessed in Loki’s Hydra sceptre. Unlike before, ego represents little in his drive to Ultron’s success, it is the fear that runs through him of seeing his friends fall by their enemies and see their world perish. As expected, a malfunction occurs that turns Ultron hostile, slowly upgrading himself and devising his plan to ensure the extinction of the human race. His reasons are based on the idea of evolution, seeing the necessary step the world must take in order for it to thrive, a world of metal is the essence of his vision, hence the Avengers must do what they can to stop him.
In Ultron’s aid finds a pair of “enhanced” humans, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff; much like Steve Rogers, they were successful products of experimentation, achieved by the Hydra team and driven by their inner anger towards the Avengers. Their antagonistic view towards the titular team is based on a tragedy that lies in their childhood, and though it is rarely touched upon, it was an interesting and concise addition that justifies their actions and provide development in their characters; they could have easily been served as new additions to the universe that adds only to the film’s improved visual effects and ambitious set-pieces, but instead I came out of it learning more than I expected, and have become exciting players to explore in the upcoming films.
One of the core reasons many were upset over the approach that Christopher Nolan took with the final entry of the Dark Knight trilogy was the addition of far too many characters and spending the bulk of its running time having to introduce them and become essential set pieces to the overall story, which I personally disagreed with but I can see where they could come from; but Whedon avoids these pitfalls due to Marvel’s excellent strategy in feeding them to the audience little by little with each passing film, allowing their ultimate appearance here to be a cherishing one.
In regards to the action set pieces, the film delivers the goods as major battles appear at least thrice throughout its hefty running time; however, it was the bookends that truly left me in adoration, they were breathtaking from the get-go, utilising camera movements at its highest potential, shining in unbroken shots that travels through the battlefield with such speed and intensity, recalling the similar technique that was found in the climactic battle in the first Avengers film, and finally we see the team act on in an international scale, feeling the global threat in Ultron’s intentions; it was wonderful to see the increase in budget was put to better use. As for the humour, it is no doubt still present and when it lands, it leaves a trail of laughter; but do not expect it to be fired at similar frequencies as the other films of the franchise, instead emphasising the relief it brings during its heated and grimmer moments.
In keeping with the film’s intended tone, the musical score composed by Danny Elfman and Brian Tyler has adapted its intensity; rarely does it deliver the majestic glory that the first film provided during every moment the team is in sync. The music is now heart-pounding and more claustrophobic, like a time-bomb ticking towards something disastrous but unable to anticipate its detonation. Despite the shift in approach, the film still manages to induce chills during its stimulating moments, locking us into the atmosphere that Whedon has created, feeling the fear that runs through its subjects or the excitement and support that arrives when they kick-ass.
Pacing issues and the lack of dramatic intensity leaves me wishing more from the film, but it does deliver effectively in the action front; hammered down by its new and darker tone but still managing to create thrills and spectacle in its epic battles. The film’s new additions leave me enthusiastic for what is to come, especially its take on the highly-regarded Civil War storyline.
I would like to add here my anger towards this film unable to include Falcon in the climactic battle, as he was present during some of the film’s more intimate moments but when the showdown arrives, he fails to participate; at least James Rhodes suited up. One final thing, Andy Serkis deserves a much larger role, he is an excellent performer that has the ability to take in far more complicated roles, and seeing him here was such a waste.