When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for a global adventure.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 continues with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron from fan favourite director and writer Joss Whedon. Returning characters include Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, and Hawkeye most of who have all had adventures in solo films since the previous Avengers.
Age of Ultron wastes no time in bringing the team back together, the film begins with a fun action setting that establishes the context within which the team is operating in light of changes to the MCU (specifically, those detailed in Winter Soldier!).
Whedon continues to handle this property with care, delivering a script that is packed with interesting character nuances across the roster, giving each of them time to shine and something interesting to do that is relevant to what’s going on around them. Further to this the film also achieves a sound balance between introducing new and focussing on existing characters. Despite being filled with so many personalities, newcomers enter the film with substance and style rather than just a flimsy superficial incarnation.
Age of Ultron has something of an unenviable position in the MCU, with most characters already well established in the previous film, and audience awareness growing with regards to the overall macro plot of these films, Avengers 2 is tasked with delivering an engaging, relevant and entertaining instalment, while still only taking very small steps towards that monumental war beginning in Avengers 3. It’s challenging to raise the stakes in a compelling fashion with that sleeping monster in the background however despite all of that, Age of Ultron still hits its marks and delivers a great film experience within these constraints.
In a plotting sense Whedon’s story falls a bit short of the Marvel high points like Winter Soldier, and it relies on some familiar tropes around artificial intelligence albeit with a glossy MCU cover. Overall I found it a little disappointing in this respect, we generally don’t see anything particularly innovative, however Ultron is an effective villain, and a worthwhile adversary to the team. The tone of Ultron isn’t quite as sinister as depicted in the trailers, with more than a few lines of dialogue played for laughs which tended to detract from its intimidation value.
Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver are excellent additions here, ignoring their mutant background the twins have their story tinkered with to fit into the MCU. These characters bring a refreshing range of powers for Whedon to explore on screen and it makes for some action sequences which are a thrill to watch.
Without solo franchises of their own, a few characters here have been absent from screens for the last few years so it’s exciting to see Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo back in the mix as Hawkeye and Hulk. An ensemble film has endless dynamics that it can play with and Whedon shows his strengths with a thorough understanding of these characters. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johansson, and Robert Downy Jr all continue to perform well in these roles, and it’s captivating to see them sharing the screen in these once every few year’s event films.
Featuring some elaborate and relentless periods of action, what’s great to see is a depiction of these heroes actually helping and saving people, and with the design of the villain there is still plenty of opportunity for the heroes to unleash their power allowing the film to escalate its action.
Despite being in a bit of a tough spot with respect to the wider MCU, Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers a superhero spectacular! It looks great on the big screen, and still takes the time to keep its characters interesting, thought out, and most of all – fun!
I’m giving Avengers: Age of Ultron 8 out of 10 stars, it’s in cinemas around Australia from 23 April 2015.