Avengers – Age Of Ultron (Cert 12)
1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Marvel) Running Time: 141 minutes approx.
When Avengers Assemble became the third highest grossing film of all time in 2012 the sequel was not only inevitable but no doubt already commissioned before the champagne bottle was opened during the opening weekend celebrations. Then again Hollywood is producing a lot of sequels these days so….
Rising from the ashes of SHIELD, the Avengers – Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/ Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) – attack the base of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) to retrieve the sceptre belonging to Loki, which Strucker has been using to experiment on humans.
With the sceptre now in their possession, Stark and Banner discover an Artificial Intelligence in the gemstone which Stark quietly uses it to complete his Ultron project, a new kind of defence system to protect mankind and ensure world peace. However Ultron becomes sentient (voiced by James Spader) and misinterprets its objective as a mission to wipe out mankind to achieve peace.
Ultron destroys Stark’s AI control centre JARVIS, then creates his own robotic form to confront the Avengers. He is soundly defeated but escapes taking the sceptre with him, fleeing to Strucker’s hideout, upgrading his body and making an army of servile clones. Ultron also recruits two of Strucker’s surviving experiments, twins Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who have the power of superfast speed and telekinesis respectively.
It’s probably just as well that Joss Whedon returned to make this sequel as it has been proven with the solo outings for The Avengers that they can be misused in the hands of others. As demonstrated in the first film, Whedon is capable of writing script and stories which go beyond being a functional surface upon which the action takes place.
That is not to say that action isn’t a primary focus of this film nor is the story immune from a few inherent niggles here and there but overall it’s a solid slice of comic book entertainment. It begins with a fifteen minute balls to the wall prologue taking in the aforementioned raid on Strucker’s hideout before slowing down a little to set up the main story.
What is interesting is that this time not only is the antagonist the group has to face man made but it is also by their own hand. This unique twist gives birth to a split in the group dynamic – which let’s face it was never solid to begin with – in that Stark is hesitant to destroy the thing he accidentally created, believing a bit of a tweak will make things right. The others, including Banner, are less sympathetic and believe Ultron should be stopped ASAP.
Amidst the infighting we have two subplots of a different nature, one designed to create a human side to our heroes’ plight and another introducing the two new characters of Pietro and Wanda, also known in the comic book series as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Staying with the twins, we first meet them in a brief debut at Strucker’s hideout serving as his secret weapon against the Avengers attack; the next time they appear they find Ultron has taken over the base and recruits them to his cause.
Without spoiling much they have a change of heart halfway through the film – just like that upon realising that Ultron might just be a bit deranged – and join the good guys. Unfortunately they are given scant development or even a hint of a deeper backstory other than they’ve been experimented on, giving us little reason to care about them.
The other subplot involves Hawkeye, the least explored character in the first film which is rectified here. When the Hulk runs rampant after Wanda’s mind control messes with his confuddled brain the team need to hideaway, so Hawkeye takes them to his secret house in the middle of nowhere. There we meet his pregnant wife Laura (Linda Cardellini) and their two young kids, hidden away for their and Hawkeye’s protection, and signposting to the audience which one of the heroes is likely to suffer the most in this adventure.
With a team of seven lead characters sharing the spotlight and some not having the luxury of their own film to build their stories, someone had to suffer in the first film. And while it is nice this is addressed here it feels like one sentimental subplot too many in what is already a busy story – which includes the budding romance between Banner and Natasha.
Whedon’s script offers a slightly preachy but worthy message about how mankind’s emotions, good or bad, often lead to bad decision making and maladroit handling of our evolution, especially in the wrong hands. He also seems to suggest that having technology be the sole answer is not always be right one, which is ironic considering a) the heroes rely on it and b) this film is 90% CGI!
Those looking for the eye popping visual extravaganza that is the raison d’être of the blockbuster movie won’t be disappointed – each fight, battle and dramatic set piece is an adrenaline rush, veritable maximum velocity spectacles that occasionally veer towards the ridiculous and improbable but all good fun nonetheless.
In one pertinent scene where all the Avengers are in one location battling an army of Ultron’s clones, Whedon slows down the picture speed to give us a fully visible tapestry depicting the numerous scraps, whereas a someone like Michael Bay would have shown this in a quick cut edit montage to give us all a headache.
One knows what they are getting from comic book films and Avengers – Age Of Ultron doesn’t deviate from the successful formula in its DNA, which may or may not be its undoing. More bombastic action than you can shake a stick at despite the slightly bloated story, this is perfectly acceptable escapist popcorn entertainment.
English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Spanish DTS Surround 5.1
Hindi Dolby Digital 5.1
Audio Described English Dolby 2.0
English SDH, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish Subtitles
From The Inside Out
Making of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron
The Infinite Six
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Audio Commentary with Director Joss Whedon
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black