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April 23, 2015

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia


The task facing Joss Whedon when he was once more put in charge of assembling the “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” was almost certainly a daunting one. How do you top the third highest grossing movie of all time, loved by comic book nerds, film critics and even the average joe cinema goer who couldn’t really tell you what on earth an infinity stone was? The simple answer would be one word: more.

More heroes. More Hollywood stars. More action. More humour. More destruction. More Hulk. Putting all of this “more” into a coherent, workable script that actually functions as a film and not a mad series of action set-pieces overrun with egos and ending in a cacophony of general chaos is a whole other matter…unless you’re Joss Whedon.

Picking up roughly where Captain America: The Winter Soldier left off, the film finds Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) reunited with his merry band of superpowered beings and trying to recover Loki’s staff (from the first Avengers film) that has been taken into the possession of Baron Von Strucker of the evil organization Hydra.

Despite the efforts of Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) Maximoff (twins with their own unique superpowers to rival the heroes), the Captain, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and co. successfully retrieve the staff and return it to the Avengers HQ, although not before Wanda has played some mind games with Tony, showing him his worst fears come to life.

After analyzing the scepter, Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) realise they can harness the power in the gem to bring their A.I. program, Ultron, to life. Unfortunately Ultron (voiced by James Spader) awakens with more homicidal tendencies than Stark had planned on, and is hellbent on destroying his maker and the world in general. Mega movie stars, assemble!

Of course, there’s quite a lot more meat to be added to the bare bones of that story, with romances and backstories and the inevitable setups for future installments in the Marvel cinematic universe. And in this lies Age of Ultron‘s greatest achievement. Not only has Whedon crafted a script that ties all 12 principal Avengers and villains together, but finds time to give each and every one of them their own arc, ensuring that no character is a bystander but plays an integral part in the giant machine that is this film’s plot.


(****SPOILERS****) By the time Thanos’ big, purple face makes its way on screen you can be sure that you know a little bit more about each Avenger than you did before, all achieved with Whedon’s signature wit that provides relief in the moments it’s needed most, breaking up the vast number of action set-pieces perfectly.

The character with the greatest promotion from their last outing though is most certainly Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. No longer relegated to the stiff “eyes only for the mission” soldier role he played last time, Renner is given a little bit more to chew on, including a surprising reveal about the life of his alter ego Clint Barton. Armed with this extra dimension, Hawkeye delivers some of the film’s best lines and enjoys a few interesting exchanges with “The Twins”.

After their brief cameo at the end of The Winter Soldier, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff bring something a little different to The Avengers table. Those who saw last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past will already be familiar with the super-fast-running powers of Pietro (although he has no connection to 20th Century Fox’s incarnation of the character) but it is the Scarlet Witch who is the most interesting addition to the line up.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a big fan of Elizabeth Olsen, but she plays the angry, hurt, but-good-underneath-it-all Wanda perfectly, with her ability to manipulate people’s minds wreaking havoc on the inner workings of team Avengers and succeeds in disassembling them with impressive results. Her telekinetic powers look pretty badass on-screen too.

The rest of the team deliver exactly what we’ve come to love and expect from them throughout their ever growing number of outings together (and apart). Captain America continues to lead the group, remaining uncompromisingly good and heroic. Bruce Banner is nerdy and loveable and still struggles with his angry green monster problem (Hulk still likes smashing things). Natasha still beats the shit out of every henchman/henchrobot, but grows ever less mysterious. Thor won’t stop loving that hammer and Tony… Tony is still a dick but everyone still loves him for it.

There is a significant change for another long-running cast member though, as Paul Bettany’s JARVIS gets a big upgrade to all-powerful android Vision. It’s a welcome sight for Marvel fans, not only to see Paul Bettany get his chance on screen, but to also see another more obscure and strange comic book character come to life.


If there was something to leave you disappointed with, then it would possibly be Age of Ultron‘s villain. James Spader voices Ultron spectacularly, with menace tinged in every syllable that he utters, and everything he says is pretty much gold. But his threat to earth and The Avengers never feels quite as real as other Marvel villains and the actual mechanics of his plot to destroy the world remain somewhat confusing.

The debate of whether or not Age of Ultron is as good as its predecessor or other Marvel films feels a little redundant, partly because it’s too close to call but also because it doesn’t really matter. Unless you’re an arthouse cinema goer who only likes movies in Korean or are a DC comics fanboy who bears great ill will towards Marvel, then you’re probably going to watch this film and really enjoy it. And credit must go to Mr. Whedon for succeeding in raising the bar for the summer blockbuster yet again.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron is released in UK cinemas on April 23rd

Thomas Eldred