Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Director: Joss Whedon

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johanssen, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Written by: Joss Whedon (based on the comic book) Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Running Time: 142 mins

Cert: 12A

Release date: 23rd April 2015

Joss Whedon certainly knows how to set himself impossible challenges. After bringing together six of the biggest names in the comic book superhero world for their first outing, the massively enjoyable Avengers Assemble, he pushed the bench mark for other films of its suit to try to beat, none more so than his own sequel. So has the mighty bitten off more than he can chew? Or has he managed to raise the bar once more?

After dealing with HYDRA once and for all, storming their secret hideaway in order to get back Loki’s deadly staff, Tony Stark has the instrument of such destruction examined. He soon finds the answer to his big idea, that of a global robotic security force, is deep in the blue crystal, enabling his creations to have artificial intelligence. Big mistake. One such creature, named Ultron, has used the new power to drain off every inch of information from the internet and is going to destroy the world. If the Avengers think that’s problematic, then they also have to deal with twin siblings, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, who have a grudge against Stark.

Whedon kicks things off with a huge set piece, as the now familiar characters storm the castle of HYDRA. It’s loud, brash and in your face, just as you expect. Suddenly all those fears that this might not be as much fun as the first film are instantly dismissed. The quips are there, the mass destruction is there and this time an even closer team effort to rid their enemy. A huge sigh of relief. Then Whedon changes tact.

The tone becomes darker with Stark becoming even more of a megalomaniac than ever, as he is determined to rule the world with his creations. Shades of Frankenstein start to creep in. Along side that, we meet the Maximoffs, Pietro being a young man with the power of speed (Quicksilver) while his sister, Wanda, can control the minds of others (Scarlet Witch). Her power alone almost crushes the team in one fell swoop.

If that isn’t enough to upset the apple cart and we are no longer in the brightly coloured, japes aplenty world of the first film; enter Ultron, a giant, mechanical monster with his mind-set on his own form of world domination. Teaming up with the Maximoffs, they seem almost unstoppable, causing the Avengers to almost fall apart at the seams.

Whedon hasn’t finished there. Having been through three Iron Man films, two Captain America’s, two Thors and, of sorts, two Hulks, this is the time to learn more about the two other members of the Avengers family, Black Widow, with a very dark examination of her past life,  and, in much more detail, Hawkeye. After not knowing anything about the wonder with the bow from the 2012 entry, we get greater detail about exactly who he is, which, as admirable as it is, does sadly slow the film down.

We also get a love story thrown in for good measure, which, while perfectly sweet, also upsets the much darker tones of the story. Instead of a film that zips along at a breakneck pace, like the original, this time we do get moments to breathe. Although at 142 minutes, those moments tend to make the film seem its length.

When the film comes alive are the massively impressive set pieces and they never fail to disappoint. Throughout the film, the cast gleefully bicker and these end up in minor superhero scrapes yet when they come to battle the robots that seem to be coming out of the woodwork, the film kicks into full throttle. As with every Marvel feature, the final battle does tend to go on a little too long, not helped by an over complicated destructive device that might take forever to fully explain or even understand.

The cast, now comfortable in their various roles, still look like they are having the time of their lives and we go along for the ride with them. Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye gets much more to do this time and is given some of the wittier one liners, while the new members of the cast bring a neat injection of life, with Elizabeth Olsen once again proving just how versatile she is as the sinister Scarlet Witch.

The star of the piece, however, is James Spader as the voice of Ultron, with a deep-toned and an air of utter psychopath. He brings so many levels to a role that most wouldn’t even have dreamed of taking him. Never has the song “I’ve Got No Strings” sounded so menacing. It is a masterclass of how to make a baddie sound really bad.

For all its flaws, this is still a big, bold, brilliant blockbuster. With a cast that are as comfortable as a pair of fluffy slippers and a director who knows exactly what the audience wants, Avengers: Age Of Ultron delivers. Not as good as the original, it’s still pretty close. It’s also the perfect way to end Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As we head into darker waters with two more Avengers films on the horizon, things can only get bigger and better.

4/5

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