It’s fitting that the newest Marvel film sees it’s biggest stars coming up against an ever multiplying robot, which is set to take over the world. It in many ways bares resemblance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is slowly spreading into every corner of our entertainment world and is probably making more money than God. The jewel in the crowd of that universe is The Avengers and with the first movie playing a big part in raking in that money, it’s safe to say the pressure was on for Joss Whedon and co with the follow-up.
Thankfully, Whedon is a man who knows how to write a script and Avengers: Age of Ultron’s biggest triumph is that it is ultimately a Joss Whedon movie. Before we get to that however, lets begin at the beginning.
The film starts with The Avengers hunting down Hydra outposts and reclaiming Loki’s sceptre, following the fall of SHIELD. Once it is in their hands however, Tony Stark wants to use it for good, creating an artificial intelligence known as Ultron, who will essentially make The Avengers obsolete. Sadly, this doesn’t quite go to plan and Ultron ends up being more interested in making them extinct.
This leads to all that we have come to expect from the MCU. Epic battles on a ridiculous scale, with the likes of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man dealing out damage in a variety of cool ways. While Hulk gets to continue his brilliant obsession with smashing things. However, this films actually sees us stepping away from these characters, they are still important, but they’re not always centre stage. Instead, we finally get to really meet Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Whedon makes him the beating heart of this film. While Black Widow continues to prove that Scarlett Johansson needs a film of her own, as her and Bruce Banner start a fledgling romance and she prods enough buttocks in her own right.
There’s also some new members of our cast, the main two being Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, although they are never referred to by those names. The siblings are introduced well and while Quicksilver never steals the show like he did in Days of Future Past, the first MCU mutants (or ‘Enhanced’ as they are now known for contractual reasons) more than hold their own. Scarlet Witch’s powers particularly raise a whole new world of questions for how this films series goes forward in the future. Are they all getting just a bit too powerful?
Sadly, that future does intrude a few times here. With there being more than one moment that screams ‘tune in again next time’. It leaves the film feeling a bit baggy at times and there is no denying that without it, it would be a sleeker and better movie. However, when you are dealing with a franchise the size of Marvel’s current exploits, it is maybe not surprising.
There are also a few classic Marvel issues. There is so much going on here that even if Hawkeye and co finally get their spotlight, there are others left to the side. Nick Fury turns up for no real reason and the likes of War Machine feel a bit tacked on. They also fail to avoid having a giant battle in the sky as their final act, although they do deserve some credit for flipping it on its head a bit.
In Ultron though, they have found a bad guy who can go to toe to toe with the Avengers, if for no other reason because of sheer numbers. He’s the anti Stark and his dark wise cracking gives him a twisted sense of humour, which makes him feel a lot more real than the straight-faced Ronan’s of this world. James Spader’s psychotic voice work makes sure that you get the feeling this robot is unhinged and he feels like an actual threat, which is always the biggest problem when you have this many superheroes teaming up.
At its heart though, Age of Ultron succeeds because we like these characters. Whedon makes sure that watching them sit around trying to life Thor’s hammer, is as entertaining as seeing them bowl through huge armies. His dialogue is second to none and without it this film falls apart. Not there that isn’t still a lot of joy to seeing the Hulkbuster suit finally cracked out.
Age of Ultron proves that as phase 2 of Marvel’s global domination closes, they are in no danger of slowing down. Joss Whedon has crafted two movies that are full to the brim of stuff happening and yet never forget to have great characters. As he steps back from the Avengers hot seat, you have to think that those coming after have one hell of a challenge on their hands.