The Marvel films have largely replicated their source material’s ability to give the sense a viewer is watching a small piece of a grander tapestry. This can be great in dropping an audience into a movie with the expectation they simply keep up. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, characters from component franchises flit in and out of the narrative, leaving only a faint idea to their relationships between one another. The implication is of a vast network of (trademarked) individuals. At times, director Joss Whedon gestures towards Michael Mann’s pet obsession with professionals: Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye sums up the ridiculousness of him facing down an army of robots with a bow and arrow, but concludes he has to because “it’s the job.” Other scenes toy around with how these cartoon figures can work together, ‘the job’ always in mind. Tony Stark’s creation of Ultron becomes an outgrowth of this. The machine son attempts to take over the family business, but is obsessed with creative destruction. The job gets warped, perverted.
Unfortunately, these themes are incidental. Something gleaned briefly and forgotten amidst the noise. Marvel isn’t interested in ideas, only in marketing the property built for them by artists half a century ago. Hints and omens which upend the Avengers’ dynamic only serve to advertise future installments. This mindset’s all over the production, from characters making arbitrary decisions (a pair of super-twins throw in with Ultron, but switch sides when they ‘learn’ the homicidal robot wants to kill human beings?) to action which is, at best, briefly watchable. Fights largely focus around actors swinging wildly at waves of CGI, jumbled together in frenetic editing. Bodies don’t move through space, they warp between points. Weightless.