Everything is epic in Joss Whedon’s striking sequel AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.
The series of trailers that increasingly heralded a darker sequel to 2012’s smash hit The Avengers certainly proved true because AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is not only even more epic than its predecessor, it also takes time to look a little closer at each one of our superheroes – and that’s where the dark element comes in. The result is a pretty striking adventure.
Events kick off in spectacular style with the Avengers making a raid on the fortress of Baron von Strucker (a great cameo from Thomas Kretschmann) whom we saw at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier with his cohort Dr List (Henry Goodman) and the mysterious twins, soon revealed as Pietro and Wanda Maximoff and played superbly by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen.
The raid is to capture the sceptre that Tom Hiddleston’s brilliantly evil Loki used to such devastating effect in the first movie and once the mission has been efficiently completed, apart from the Maximoff twins escaping, we see that our heroes in the midst of their celebrations are suddenly faced with a much more malevolent foe than Loki, in the twisted shape of the robotic Ultron. He’s something that mister whiz-kid inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr. on his usual excellent form) has been developing, with the idea of Ultron being the ultimate peacekeeper to safeguard the Earth but of course, it wouldn’t be any fun if things went to plan. Ultron, voiced in quite amazing fashion by James Spader, has other ideas and as he grows more powerful and the scale of his ambitions become clear, it’s up to our Avengers, Earth’s mightiest heroes, to stop him.
In the course of this and courtesy of Wanda Maximoff’s special power of altering reality, is where we start to look behind the curtain at the backstories and fears of Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, and Hawkeye. Balancing the big action sequences that we know will arrive at some point with seeing the likes of Chris Evans’s wonderful Cap back in the 1940s, Scarlett Johansson’s terrific Black Widow reminded of how she was recruited, Chris Hemsworth’s impressive Thor faced with issues in Asgard, or Downey Jr.’s iconic Iron Man having to confront the thought that he might bring about the demise of this extraordinary group, is what keeps you glued to your seat.
And most interestingly, we watch the burgeoning romance between Mark Ruffalo’s conflicted Hulk, in the very human form of Dr Bruce Banner, with Johansson’s vivacious but damaged Natasha Romanoff. Jeremy Renner‘s tremendous Clint Barton/Hawkeye is also much more front and centre to proceedings than he previously has been, to very good effect. What becomes apparent though is that the team could do with a little help – perhaps those Maximoff twins could be key players? – and you begin to admire once again how writer/director supremo Joss Whedon juggles so many characters and story arcs quite magnificently.
I thought Whedon really tried to push the boundaries with this sequel, developing these characters and allowing them to be challenged more emotionally than before, whilst keeping everything suitably epic – the stakes, the scope, the effects – and exciting. I haven’t even mentioned the return of some of the Marvel series key figures to date and the introduction of some eye-catching new ones, that’s for you to discover.
But it seems you can’t please everyone, as the critical reaction to the movie seems to have been decidedly mixed and not the pretty much unanimous adulation that greeted the first film. When I came out of the movie, I tweeted,
‘Bravo again Joss Whedon. Avengers: Age of Ultron is a complex, stunningly executed thrill-a-minute ride.’
I’m sticking by that. See what you think.