The superhero team must fight together to take on a threat to the entire Earth.
The Avengers are back and let me allay any fears you might have – Age of Ultron is a seriously spectacular slice of fun and you’re definitely going to enjoy it.
Returning writer/director Joss Whedon doesn’t have to spend time establishing the world anymore so gets right into the action, quite literally with an opening one-shot that’s pretty breathtaking. The team is all together, working against the fallout from the events of The Winter Soldier and kicking back for a few beers. It’s a good fun time for all. And then Ultron happens.
I’m not going to go into any particulars in this quick spoiler free review but suffice to say the happy times are over, with the next two hours revolving around stopping a plot to end all life on the planet and battling demons both within and throughout the team.
It’s all good stuff – with these characters already set up everyone gets a decent amount of time to shine, including a surprising amount of material for Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. Pretty much everyone gets a look in, bar the odd omission of both Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman. It’s all a bit of a sausage fest.
The new folks to the mix are chiefly Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the superpowered Maximoff twins. Both struggle with their Eastern-European accents but Olsen comes off better with more an arc to her story and more interesting powers. ATJ certainly doesn’t make the same impression Evan Peters did in his alternative version of Quicksilver.
Then there’s James Spader as the voice of Ultron himself. Itself? He brings a huge amount of personality to the role, making it more than just a metal man – for reasons the film explains. The CG and mocap work bringing Ultron to life is exceptional, with a range of expression and some very creepy images. There’s also another new character you may know a bit about who I suspect we’ll be hearing from again in the future.
The film treks the world from Africa to Korea in search of set pieces and delivers up some decent ones. The opening snowy encounter is a cracker and that much trailered Hulkbuster smash-up really makes an impression but the finale never really caught me. The local stakes didn’t feel like they matched the global threat and the piecemeal engagements just weren’t that… engaging.
Ultimately that’s the real problem with Age of Ultron, the consequences don’t seem that high. Partly that’s because we’ve previously seen bigger stakes in the likes of Thor: The Dark World and Guardians it’s also because it’s all starting to seem a bit familiar. Seeing this crew coming together in The Avengers was exciting and new and the possibility of extraterrestrial interference and the threat of Thanos was big and bold and terrifying. But with two films a year, they’re going to have to change up the formula.
There’s also the issue of Marvel revealing their upcoming slate. For example we know that the massive Infinity War will be covered in two films in the future and that Civil War is on the way in Captain America 3. Together with a planned Thor threequel it’s pretty clear that certain things aren’t going to change this time around so Age of Ultron actually has very little effect on the state of play in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
That’s a shame, especially given all the work which Joss Whedon has put into getting this franchise to where it is today. There’s also a bit of a sense of fatigue about the picture, a little less energy and zing which suggests now is a good time for him to bow out, as he’s decided to do.
But listen, Age of Ultron is still an enjoyable superhero feature, another impressive feat from Marvel and bound to excite fans around the world. It would have been next to impossible to recapture the alchemy of The Avengers and instead this film does a solid job of reminding us what these heroes are up to while subtly pointing us forward to the delights to come from the MCU.
Roll on Ant-Man and the beginning of Phase 3!
If you do fancy some spoilers, click here to read all about the mid-credit scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron.