Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Serkis
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Cert: 12A Running Time 141 minutes
Release Date: April 23rd 2015
The Marvel juggernaut thunders into town again delivering another slice of supreme escapism for the cinema masses. Picking up where Captain America: The Winter Soldier left off, (with Loki’s sceptre in the hands of HYDRA), Age of Ultron sees the team assemble again to retrieve it from a Russian fortress in Sokovia where Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) has been busy experimenting in his lab. In a terrific action-packed opening, we see what truly makes each Avenger great and the first shot of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Thor together in one slow motion shot will raise the hairs on your neck and set you up for the roller-coaster ride to come.
After defending Earth the last time round from an intergalactic enemy in Avengers Assemble (2012) the enemy this time round is a foe of their own making, a mighty artificial intelligence peace keeping programme created by Tony Stark, called Ultron (voiced by James Spader). Once Ultron is sentient, he develops plans of his own for world peace with the annihilation of the human race top of his list. Joined by the HYDRA enhanced Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who have their own grudge against Tony, Ultron uses his new allies to try and take down The Avengers and complete his mission. With Quicksilver’s bullet speed and agility and his twin sister’s ability to control the neurons in the brain and heighten one’s worst fears, they quickly set to work on each member of the team sending them into a tailspin.
Returning writer-director Joss Whedon has a lot of juggling to do but he handles the film with stylish flair, relishing the quieter scenes as much as the smash bang wallop of the gigantic action set pieces. The charm and charisma of the key players (ultimately what made Assemble such a hit) is again apparent here with some genuinely funny banter. A scene where the other Avengers try to lift Thor’s hammer is hilarious and shows that even out of their spandex, the group is just as cool. A growing romantic connection between Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), made all the more complicated by his angry green alter ego is moving in parts and never feels forced. Ruffalo in particular steals the film with his sensitive portrayal of a man afraid of his own power and fearful for the pain and destruction the Hulk brings to mankind. So much so that Iron Man has taken steps to reign him in when his rage gets out of control, kicking off a jaw-dropping set-piece where he chases down the Hulk with his ‘Hulkbuster’.
It’s also nice to see Whedon shining a light on the much side-lined Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and he has some of the best and funniest lines in the script. At one point Hawkeye pokes fun at the absurdity of the setup: “The city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots, and I’ve got a bow and arrow! None of this makes any sense!” He’s has been fleshed out this time round and it serves him and the story well.
As the oily voice of Ultron, James Spader is perfectly cast and writer-director Joss Whedon carefully crafts Spader’s mannerisms into his robot visage, making him a fully rounded villain and homicidal maniac that in this universe is totally believable. Taylor-Johnson and Olsen don’t fare as well but they do good with what they are given and Olsen in particular steals their scenes, emerging the stronger of the two. Andy Serkis too is impressive in a brief appearance as Ulysses Klaw, (rumoured for a re-appearance in Marvel’s Black Panther movie slated for 2018).
Despite the 2 hours 20 minute running time, there’s a lot to squeeze in as the sheer scale of the action is enormous (and all the better in 3D IMAX) but Whedon delivers a fun ride with stunning visual effects and brilliantly drawn characters. Watching it you feel like a kid again, discovering the power that movies have to take you out of reality for a while and in a world where The Avengers provide such great company, you’d be crazy not to join them.