There’s no doubt that at the time of its cinema release, Avengers: Age of Ultron was a massive hit. Excited fans swarmed in their masses to go and see the huge sequel to 2012’s The Avengers, and it unsurprisingly went on to become the seventh highest grossing film of all time at the worldwide box office. Yet, after the hype and buzz died down, the same audiences that had rushed to be the first to see what was next for Marvel’s coolest heroes began to bash it from all angles and it has since unfairly been associated with a sense of what could’ve been.
Sequels never have it easy, but when you’ve got to follow one of the biggest films of all time from the world’s biggest franchise (the Marvel Cinematic Universe), the pressure is undoubtedly ramped up to unheard-of levels. Much of the criticism that Age of Ultron received was based solely on the suggestion that it wasn’t as good as the original – a harsh perspective. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with thinking that one film is better than an another, but to expect a director to produce a carbon copy of an original when producing a sequel severely restricts creative freedom – how can a filmmaker take risks, develop their style and move a story forward if they are always expected to produce the same type of work? Looking at the film directly, it’s clear that director Joss Whedon has really tried to sustain the charm of the original whilst moving the franchise forward and tying the different phases together. Everything we’ve come to expect from the MCU is present (complex characters, witty humour and irresistible spectacle) and simultaneously, Whedon manages to add a touch more maturity and complexity that develops the story further; for even attempting that, he should be applauded.
The major draw of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has always been that it brings everyone’s favourite heroes together, yet somehow Age of Ultron became the victim of the criticism that it didn’t do enough to make us like the new characters it introduced. The original squad of Iron Man and co. were joined by the likes of Scarlett Witch, Quicksilver, Vision and Falcon, helping to pave the way for another mass introduction of heroes (including fan-favourites Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy) in this year’s third instalment, Avengers: Infinity War. The introduction of some of these new faces was undoubtedly smoother than others and audiences failed to warm to Vision in particular. Nonetheless, the unlikable qualities of his character are nothing new as even the most avid Marvel fans struggled to get on-board with the beam-firing hero all they way back in 1968 when he was introduced into the comics – it certainly seems a little unwarranted to therefore blame these flaws on a film made almost 50 years later.
Many have expressed their disappointment in the supposed lack of emotional depth to the film. However, it’s worth remembering that this is a blockbuster, designed to thrill and excite, rather than provoke and challenge. Although it’s great when blockbuster films can do all of these things (and Age of Ultron does make some good steps towards ticking these boxes) the main function of a film like this is to provide enjoyment for the popcorn-munching masses and it delivers on this front. The jaw-dropping fight sequences towards the end of the film more than hold their own against the impressive similar showings in The Avengers – witnessing a giant, evil robot getting smashed to pieces definitely isn’t underwhelming. We’re all entitled to have different tastes and enjoy different sorts of films, but there really is nothing harmful about making a film that makes people smile from ear-to-ear and provides a thrilling break from the outside world for an hour or two.
Perhaps it doesn’t quite deliver the same amazement as The Avengers did when it first hit our screens, but to expect the Avengers: Age of Ultron to be the same film and make us feel the same way places it at a disadvantage before its even begun. It does everything a superhero film should do and more, providing excitement, suspense and heart-wrenching moments in equal measure – what’s wrong with a little bit of smash-em-up fun every now and again?
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), directed by Joss Wheedon, is distributed in the UK by Disney, certificate 12a.