What do we expect from superhero movies not directed by Christopher Nolan? Badass action, a plausible but not very deep storyline, and funny punchlines. Well, yes, we love Nolan’s humanisation of Batman, but won’t we rather have our superheroes kicking the shit out of baddies than ruminate about life’s problems? And when there’s a plethora of equally powerful men and an amazing woman coming together to save the world, we want to marvel at what they are doing (no pun intended). Agreed, alien forces keep attacking the world and a bunch of Americans always save us. Heck, so what, as long as we are entertained!
The Avengers (2012) is the 3rd highest grossing film ever, crossing the 1 billion USD (approximately Rs 6300 crore) mark within 19 days of its release. Like the typical summer Hollywood blockbusters, Marvel Studios presented us with the mega-budget highly VFX-ed monster on the first weekend of May. However, Avengers was not about one superhero. It brought together 4 men who are big in their own space – Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Iron Man. And, writer-director Joss Whedon made it further special by generating conflict among the powerful men before uniting them for the big task, by creating a delightfully wicked antagonist in Loki, and by giving us an abundance of witty lines to take home, besides the jaw-dropping action scenes. History knows how difficult it has been for people to make good sequels – Nolan suffered with “The Dark Knight Rises”, Spielberg failed with “The Lost World”, and Whedon was up against a gargantuan task. Did he succeed? Well, yes, somewhat.
Avengers – Age of Ultron, henceforth referred to as Avengers 2, starts off with a brilliantly expositional opening scene – a single shot that reveals one character after the other. And that’s no mean feat when there are 6 such people to introduce in the middle of a huge combat. Pretty soon, we meet the two new additions to the cast – Petro or Quicksilver and Wanda or Scarlet Witch. These twins have special powers of their own – he can move faster than we can see and she can control the mind. As Maria Hill says, “He’s fast, she’s weird.” As the Avengers unite for some banter after successfully finishing off their task of recovering the sceptre, they realise that Ultron – a dormant peacekeeping program and self-aware artificial intelligence device – is wrongly metamorphosed by Tony Stark’s experiment into a monster that wants to obliterate humans to restore peace on Earth. Ultron steals the sceptre and goes away. And it is now upon the Avengers to find the sceptre again and, obviously, to save the world.
Avengers 2 does a lot of things right. It gives most characters a certain graph, exposing their fears and their lives. Captain America and Hawkeye, who were mere supporting characters in the first instalment, get a lot more meat in this one. While Captain is a lot more in the forefront of the action, Hawkeye’s heart-warming personal life adds a humane touch to the proceedings. Hulk’s combat with his inner demon and his subtle romantic track with Black Widow add another layer to the story. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s sibling relation is nicely etched out and they look justified additions to the powerful group. The ‘save the world’ climax is mounted on a huger scale than the prequel, and the mid-point action sequence between Hulk and Iron Man is brilliantly presented. The visual effects are expectedly brilliant and the taut screenplay, again by director Joss Whedon, doesn’t give us any loose moment to get bored or distracted. There’s always something big happening, and we are perennially on the edge of the seat.
However, Avengers 2 does suffer from inevitable comparisons with its predecessor. The thing that we miss the most is Loki – the vicious but comical antagonist, who made us root for the heroes in the 2012 film. Here, the opposing force is powerful, but too insipid to bother us. It’s so silly at times that you know it can never stand a chance against the protagonists. Next, we have the Avengers being too pally with each other – as if it’s a group of superhero Famous 5 – and not a gang of guardians uniting for a mission. It may be an okay move considering there will be other instalments, but it seemed a bit out of place for me. The third problem, which I personally had an issue with, is that Hulk gets massively side-lined in the climax, with barely anything to do except a couple of punches. Also, now with 7 heroes fighting against the villain, you feel no fear despite the herculean task they are up to. Finally, I felt that Avengers was far wittier than Avengers 2 – the punchlines in the first instalment came at the right time and made us crack up even at the most tension filled moments.
Having said all of this, it remains true that Avengers 2 is an above average fare that draws you into its world and does what it is supposed to do – entertain and give a high adrenaline rush. There is nothing to write about the actors that people don’t already know. Robert Downey Jr is in his quintessential charming self, Mark Ruffalo is wonderful in whatever normal portion he has (personal bias, I really love him), Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth – handsome as they are – do justice to their parts and Jeremy Renner utilises the opportunity to elevate Hawkeye. Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the blond haired Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as the red headed scarlet witch add the youthful spunk to their characters. And, man o man, who else but Scarlett Johansson can play Black Widow – the agile, intelligent and sexy woman amid the horde of men.
You cannot watch this film on small screens or 2D – you have to see it in 3D and preferably IMAX. If you like superhero stuff, you would mostly enjoy this, too. It now remains to be seen how Anthony and Joe Russo, directors of the highly acclaimed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, live up to Whedon’s creation and give us the two part sequel – christened Avengers: Infinity War.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
PS: A review and rating are subjective assessments of author, and in no way determine the actual merit of the film or how everyone else will perceive it.