Avengers Age Of Ultron Review

The Plot

The world’s greatest heroes the Avengers find their unity and the safety of mankind once again tested when they inadvertently unleash an unstoppable artificial intelligence determined to control the world and destroy them.

The Good

Marvel has carefully transferred their astonishing universe of heroes and villains to the big screen with a consistent success that left long term rivals DC comics embarrassed and hopelessly outclassed.  Avengers Age of Ultron rests comfortably on the laurels of the past nine Marvel big screen adaptations, again doing justice to the high standards of the studio and director Joss Whedon.

An all-star cast, past success and an unlimited budget is never a guarantee of quality of course, but in Whedon’s capable hands the billion dollar franchise continues to strut nicely towards another inevitable box office triumph.

Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans all clearly enjoy reprising their now well established characters. However, it’s actually Scarlett Johnasson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffao who benefit most from an opportunity to add depth to Black Widow, Hawkeye and Hulk respectively. Largely without the benefit of a solo movie, these characters still have the most room left or exploration and development. In particular the chemistry between Ruffalo’s tormented Bruce Banner and Johansson’s catsuit clad Black Widow is satisfyingly both subtle and surprising. Combined with Hawkeye’s unexpected revelations it provides the film with some genuine heart amongst the CGI mayhem.

James Spader is a particularly welcome addition as the voice of titular villain Ultron. His gravel voiced performance is suitably menacing and breathes considerable life into an otherwise two dimensional villain. The film also boasts a few crowd-pleasing action set pieces, most notably the much anticipated fight between a rampaging Hulk and Iron Man in full Hulk Buster armour.

The Bad

The first Avengers film was the culmination of a decade’s preparation, launching a billion dollar franchise with the near perfect blend of comedy, action and convincing comic book drama. Matching those standards and meeting fans sky high expectations was always going to be a near impossible task for any sequel, even for Marvel’s accomplished creative team.

Age of Ultron largely follows the formula of the first Avengers adventure, but ultimately feels like a holding point as Marvel gears up for even bigger and more spectacular storytelling in the already announced sequels. Comic fans and those familiar with the Marvel cinema universe will already have a good idea of what to expect for the Infinity Wars films and Marvels ultimate villain Thanos. Particularly for comic fans there may be some impatience at how slowly Marvel is building towards that heavily foreshadowed climax.

Though James Spader is an excellently villainous actor, Ultron is a fairly generic threat with the usual army of evil robots. Those that found the climactic battles of Avengers Assemble to be a little repetitive and lacking in real danger will likely feel much the same about the seemingly endless battles with Ultron’s easily disposed of minions. Outside of notable set pieces like Iron Man’s Hulk battle the film’s action often lacks a little variety.

While the film does add depth to some characters, particularly those who haven’t had solo films like Hawkeye and Black Widow, the more established heroes have a considerably less room left to grow. Iron Man, Thor and Captain America have already had much of their issues resolved across eight films. Amongst the increasingly crowded cast new characters Scarlet Witch, Vision and Quicksilver also don’t have nearly enough time to establish themselves. It must be admitted that the most recent X-Men film Days of Future Past which also featured super-fast hero Quicksilver embarrassingly upstaged Marvel’s own lycra clad version.

Overall Age of Ultron takes the predictable path of making things ‘darker’. Ever since Star Wars took this route with Empire Strikes Back, it seems to be acknowledged as the only way to surpass or match auspicious first films. Unfortunately the film is forced to increasingly sacrifice humour to make more room for more angst and inevitable brooding.

The Ugly Truth

Avengers Age of Ultron is another satisfying slice of comic book escapism featuring all your favourite Marvel heroes. It continues to introduce new faces and lays the groundwork for amazing things yet to come. Less ardent fans may find the non-stop action a little repetitive during the film’s lengthy second half but it’s hard to deny the undoubted quality of Marvel’s work. The real challenge for the future will be how the studio maintains its accessible mass appeal as the cinematic universe become as increasingly complex as their vast and complex comic book world.

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