Avengers: Age of Ultron

Posted: May 6, 2015 in Film reviews

Directed by Joss Whedon. Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner.

When the Avengers attack a Hydra base in the Eastern European nation of Sokovia in search of Loki’s staff, they come up against stiff resistance in the form of two enhanced humans working for Baron Von Strucker, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, also known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen). Although the team succeed in their mission, they suffer debilitating visions caused by the Scarlet Witch’s powers. In the aftermath, and driven by what he saw in his vision Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downy Jr) convinces Bruce ‘Hulk’ Banner (Rufffalo) to utilise Loki’s sceptre to kickstart a project they were working on to create a true Artificial Intelligence who could defend the Earth. The project works, however Ultron (voiced by the wonderful James Spader) isn’t quite the defender of the Earth they expected him to be, instead his goals include destroying the Avengers, and brining about global peace by destroying the human race into the bargain.

Facing an enemy who is potentially omnipotent, and beset by doubts and conflicts within the team, can the Avengers pull together to save the day?

When the first Avengers came out I think it’s fair to say it was my favourite film of the year, a high octane mix of super heroics, snappy one-liners and actors and a director at the top of their game, so Age of Ultron had a lot to live up to. Given that most of the people behind what made the first one so great are back again it’s perhaps no surprise that it does live up to its predecessor, but it’s also not a huge surprise that it doesn’t quite have the pizzazz of the first film either, all things considered.

I could talk about the effects, which seemed quite ropey in places, or the plot, which, let’s be honest, was fairly by the numbers stuff, but the reality is that what makes this film work are the actors and the snarky banter that bounces between them.

As usual Downey Jr delivers a sublime Tony Stark, there are few actors who could take a character so arrogant and downright unlikable and actually make us root for him, and of all the Marvel characters his casting was the most inspired, raising a character, who on the face of it you wouldn’t imagine being a big hit, and making him indispensable. Equally adept is Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, an actor who imbued a character who could have been a one note super patriot with genuine nobility and decency, never letting you forget that this is a man who came from a very different time, and the disagreements between Stark and Rogers continue to bode well for Captain America: Civil War.

Hemsworth has his Asgardian God down to a tee, and has fun with being the ultimate straight man. It’s shame he isn’t given more to do, but he does at least have is own film series unlike certain other Avengers. With Hulk I understand there are contractual barriers to a standalone Hulk film, and despite his lack of overall screen time Mark Ruffalo still manages to show us a multifaceted Banner, intelligent and driven, yet also gentle and afraid of “the other guy”.

As far as I’m aware I don’t think there’s any contractual barrier to a Black Widow film, so one can only assume that Marvel don’t think people would watch a female led superhero film, which is a shame given how much backstory Natasha Romanoff has, and how much Johansson brings to the table. Ah well, one can but dream.

Of the core Avengers that just leaves Renner’s Hawkeye, who I’m afraid to say is the weak link for the second film running. I can see the point of having a member of the team who’s pretty much a regular guy, and Hawkeye does get a much better crack of the whip than he did in the first Avengers film, but all things being equal I hope we don’t get a Hawkeye standalone film any time soon.

The cast’s way too big to go into everyone else, but Spader does a good job as Ultron, even if you can’t help wishing we’d seen more of him, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson make for appealing super powered twins and finally Paul Bettany’s Vision may look a trifle silly, but he plays the role so straight and with such gravitas that he just about pulls it off.

Mucho credit has to be given to Joss Whedon as writer/director in juggling quite so many super powered balls. Creating a film this good when you have to ensure every super hero—or egotistical actor? 😉 — gets his or her chance to shine, whilst setting up things that won’t pay off until future films and satisfying the corporate Marvel behemoth’s desire for a huge blockbuster into the bargain, can’t be an easy task. That he injects emotion and humour into this as well is just icing on the cake.

It’s long but it doesn’t feel too long, though they could have lost ‘Thor takes a bath’ quite easily (then again perhaps that scene wasn’t designed for me!) There are too many characters and subplots, it lacks a “Puny God” moment (though there are a couple of contenders), and Ultron isn’t as much fun as Loki. Finally, and despite the change in locale, the final battle does feel like a re-tread of New York, with the heroes battling an army of computer generated metal things. These minor annoyances don’t detract from what is a great film though. Exhilarating and funny, it might not quite have the wow factor of the first film, but by golly it comes gosh darn close…

  1. I adore James Spader, he’s just fab.

    As for baths, I think I’d rather see Captain America, or preferably Loki…

  2. starkers70 says:

    This is only acceptable if there’s a Black Widow bath scene!

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