Action/Adventure, 141 Minutes, 2015
The tent pole of the Marvel cinematic universe is back with a vengeance after the massively successful 2012 “The Avengers” [My Review]. The entire main cast returns joined by many smaller characters from the various individual films. Joss Whedon [IMDB] is also back at the helm; rumors have it, for the last time.
The result is… pretty much the same as the last movie, really. It raises the issue of a certain sameness that’s creeping into the Marvel movies. The formula seems to start with a big opening action sequence followed by some quiet character stuff quickly chased with some internal strife and capped off with a huge battle where giant things fall from the sky.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Comics are, of course, based on the near constant recycling of archetypal tropes. Comic fans are clearly forgiving of this. Still, the “spectacle-off” of the movies is getting a bit out of hand. This is unfortunate because it’s the quieter parts of the movies, the segments that deal with the characters, that create the truly engaging moments.
This movie has many of those moments and focuses especially on the “ordinary” human Avengers who have not, yet at least, merited their own movies. We spend quality time with Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner [IMDB]) hitherto unknown family. We also delve into the dark past of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson [IMDB]) and explore how it shapes her current relationships. These scenes of quality, emotional storytelling are then overwhelmed by a smorgasbord of massive, extended, choreographed fight scenes.
Those stretches of effects-driven story are as good as you’d expect from this team. They’re also nothing you’ve not seen a dozen times before. The largest issue is that they lack a sense of gravity even when the stakes are highest. There seems to be a running contest among the Avengers to see who can toss off the best one-liner (with the exception of the Hulk, who doesn’t speak at all in this outing). The banter is trademark Whedon and while that’s never bad, it often felt out-of-place and forced.
This may have been, in part, because the villain, a maniacal AI created by none other than the Avengers themselves and voiced by James Spader [IMDB], was also playing the same game. Spader’s intelligent, deadpan delivery fit the character perfectly and was refreshingly distant from the overwrought pomposity that we’ve come to expect from Marvel movie villains. It still would have been nice to see him played for fewer, or least more focused, laughs.
The movie is a solid chapter in the continuing adventures of Earth’s Great Heroes, but an often uninspired one. A clever villain and some excellent character development provide undeniable highlights. A cookie-cutter third act and many recycled plot points may have some fans questioning which movie they’re watching.