Film Review: 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'
Opened: 23 April 2015
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr. Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Joss Whedon
Producer: Kevin Feige
“You want to protect the world but you don't want it to change... You're all puppets... Tangled in strings... Strings."
After ten Marvel Studios movies there are definitely a lot of strings for director Joss Whedon to play with as well as the largest superhero ensemble ever brought together on the big screen. Avengers: Age Of Ultron has all the ingredients (too many to count) of an overcrowded cinematic disaster, but true to its previous form in the franchise’s first installment, Whedon delivers on an epic scale yet again.
Bringing the lightning in the very first few seconds, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back and the team reunited, kicking some sorry Nazi butt. The characters we fell in love with in the first movie all have new moves and new character arcs from the off. Most notable among them being the sweet, yet worrying issue of Black Widow (Scarlett Johnasson) and the Hulk’s (Mark Ruffalo) emerging romance. How exactly is that going to work?! Imagine the sex scene where she tells him they need a break mid coitus… messy! Despite that, both actors are suitably engaging and believable in this unlikely romance, as are the usual suspects, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, who all successfully bring a suitable mix of dignity, comedy and wit to their already established characters.
Definitely a darker, bigger film than its predecessor, the principal plot revolves around Earth's mightiest heroes out to defeat an accidental albeit sinister enemy, Ultron (voiced by James Spader) – essentially an AI programmed with elements of Tony Stark's personality, that’s out to eradicate humanity.
Added to this heady mix are Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson – armed with super speed, a sexy accent and swag to boot) and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who initially set out to make the Avengers' lives hell, but later join their cause in defeating a common enemy.
In the lengthy run up to the release of the film, a lot of press time was given to the menacing and brilliant portrayal of Ultron, and whilst we’re not detracting from James Spader’s performance, it seems he may have hit the cutting room floor more than any of the Avengers. Possibly given the number of new (and returning characters) the story would have benefitted from a cold two-dimensional killing machine rather than the stroppy teenager with daddy issues that we ultimately got. Ultron may come as a disappointment to comic book fans and his origin feels incredibly rushed, but he keeps the Avengers on their toes and ultimately, they are the focus of the movie. As an aside, Marvel really need to work harder with their villains because there have been one too many poor offerings (Whiplash, The Mandarin, Malekith to name a few).
Those quibbles aside, Avengers: Age Of Ultron delivers in terms of sheer scale, standout action set pieces and some really balanced performances, particularly from its newcomers. Elizabeth Olsen is brilliantly conflicted as the Scarlet Witch, who develops with the film rather than needing a forced plot device (like Jeremy Renner’s touching, yet unnecessary back story), whilst Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver gives the film its much needed youthful charm.
But that said, the real magic in the film doesn’t necessarily come from those elements, but rather, from the chemistry of the heroes working together, the geek-gasmic spectacle of when the Avengers assemble in its penultimate sequences, and the way in which Paul Bettany’s Vision is introduced into the plot. In fact, the way in which Whedon presents his somewhat absurd character into the goings on is nothing short of a triumph. It is these moments that by far eclipse any sequences from previous Marvel outings, but because of the niggles we found with it, we reckon it will be a matter of personal taste whether this film, Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Guardians Of The Galaxy is your best of the bunch.
We’re going with a good three stars for Avengers: Age Of Ultron – it kicks off epic summer blockbuster season rather well, but there are some very obvious flaws with it which may leave you a tad underwhelmed.