UK Release Date: 23rd April 2015
Runtime: 141 minutes
Director: Joss Whedon
Writer: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, Samuel L Jackson
Synopsis: The superteam must band together as they fight a psychotic robot of their own creation.
Few film companies invest in forward planning as much as Marvel. With their expansive cinematic universe, the superhero studio has plotted out a path of sequels for all of its major characters right up until 2020. The stars aligned in 2012 as The Avengers made more than $1bn worldwide. This left writer-director Joss Whedon a high bar to reach with sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Held together by the leadership of Captain America (Chris Evans) and the money of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), the Avengers are working to protect the world. Stark, alongside Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) seeks to render the group redundant by creating an AI that can help the world. Unfortunately, they create Ultron (James Spader), who has some unorthodox ideas to keep the planet safe.
Right from the start, Avengers: Age of Ultron has the unmistakeable feel of true event cinema. Whedon kicks his film off with a deeply impressive set piece that showcases the best of each member of the superteam. There’s no patient build-up here – this is the pay-off of Phase Two. As a result, Joss Whedon chucks all of his action eggs into this basket and it really works.
| "You get hurt, hurt them back. You get killed… walk it off."
The cast, too, are sublimely comfortable in their roles, with the regulars giving performances as good as they have ever been. Jeremy Renner, especially, benefits from enhanced screen time in Avengers: Age of Ultron as Hawk Eye, giving emotional depth to a character who was previously underused. James Spader is a terrific new arrival as Ultron. His voice is expressive and sinister, imbued with just the right amount of the wit of his creator.
There’s also interesting work done with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk. Their relationship is a sensitive one, without the soaring romantic cliché of other superhero efforts. It’s not a perfect development and it rings a little too convenient that the only female Avenger has romantic entanglements within her work. Thankfully, Whedon’s deft writing generally steers the setup away from appearing gratuitous
However, there’s a problem. Despite its climactic positioning, it still feels like a middle chapter. The Avengers felt like the conclusion to an enormous prelude. It nodded and suggested future instalments, but it felt like a conclusion to what had come before. Age of Ultron has none of this finality to it. It feels as if the film is more interested in continuing the over-arching Marvel story than concluding its own. The extended universe concept is losing its sheen quickly.
| "The city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots and I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense."
Fortunately, Age of Ultron packs in all of the levity that has become Joss Whedon’s calling card. Ultron is an unusually amusing villain and every major character gets to fire off their fair share of quips. Paul Bettany, making the jump from Stark’s computer JARVIS to superhero Vision, is a straight-faced triumph and the film’s undisputed highlight.
As pure blockbuster spectacle, Age of Ultron is an impressive movie. With that in mind, it’s a shame that it never matches that spectacle with the other constituent parts that made the first film such a delight. It’s another win for Marvel, but this one is something of a hollow victory.
Pop or Poop?
Marvel continues to produce impressive blockbuster cinema with Avengers: Age of Ultron. Joss Whedon returns as a blur of special effects and tightly written zingers. The actors are on song and the enormous roster of characters is managed nicely.
Unfortunately, there’s a sense that the superhero bubble may be about to burst – at least critically. Instead of being a rousing finale, this is simply another middle part to a seemingly never-ending story.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.