Joss Whedon’s swan song for Marvel does an admirable job juggling an ever expanding cast of colourful characters, laying the foundation for future features without losing sight of the mission at hand.
As with its predecessor AOU manages to dish out both meaty developments and zingy dialogue to each of the key team members without any real bias to a particular hero. The boosted role for Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is a welcome addition as we never had chance to spend much time with him in the last film and he adds a human focus in a world of gods and monsters.
Newcomers Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson do an admirable job as the Maximoff twins and although comparisons will always be made between the Quicksilver here and in the X-Men franchise I think it’s safe to say that there’s room for both interpretations as Evan Peters and Aaron T-J bring something very different to their roles.
The crowning glory of AOU would have to be Paul Bettany who gets a major upgrade from Stark’s AI J.A.R.V.I.S. to synthetic man/ future mcguffin wielder Vision. His “birth” during a tense scene between the good guys is breathtaking, while his final scene with Ultron both beautifully shot and poetic.
Now on to the big bad.
Historically, the MCU has a reputation for faltering with its villains, who seem to always be overshadowed by the protagonist and thus are never truly fleshed out. The casting of James Spader led most to believe that he would be a more charismatic and threatening villain in the same vein as perhaps Loki or Red Skull. All of the trailer’s allusions to the twisted nature of this psychotic robot are dulled by a lack of screen time. After a wickedly creepy introduction he loses his clout with his endgame coming at something of a stretch.
The biggest enemy faced by the Avengers here is the run time. A great deal of content seems to have been excised to get the film whittled down to a 2hr 20min runtime. I would have quite happily removed 5 minutes from the epic third act and injected it into earlier scenes as the film moves along at such a brisk pace it’s often hard to keep up and definitely requires a re-watch.
My final niggle comes from the fact that neither Danny Elfman or Brian Tyler are able to recapture the magic from Alan Silvestri‘s anthemic Avengers score. Honestly, he’s the only guy that’s managed to create a memorable theme tune for any of the 11 MCU movies to date. It boggles my mind that we live in a world where Superhero themes are a thing of the past.
In relation to the other 10 MCU features, AOU makes my top 5. It’s certainly not the strongest Phase II film (that honour goes to Guardians of the Galaxy) but it’s a strong effort nonetheless and definitely a movie I’ll be watching to death over the coming years as Phase III comes to pass.
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