Title: Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Director: Joss Whedon
Major Players: Robert Downey Jnr, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johanssen et al
Out Of Five: 4.5
Yes, they’re back! Or they will be on Thursday, anyway. The return of the whole Avengers crew – Ironman, Thor, Hulk, Cap, Black Widow, Hawkeye, plus boss man Nick Fury – marks the unofficial start of this year’s blockbuster season. I won’t list all the others to come over the next few months but, believe me, there’s plenty of big-scale action in store.
We last saw them three years ago, when they were up against Loki, but most of them have also been in their own movies – Captain America:The Winter Soldier; Thor, The Dark World for instance – or teamed up with them. And, with Joss Whedon both at the helm and on screenwriter duty, you know what to expect from this one, don’t you? Or do you?
This time round, the storyline is perhaps the darkest yet in the Avengers series. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Junior) kick starts a dormant piece of artificial intelligence, a particularly advanced one that he’d designed to protect the world. But it all goes awry, which means he and the rest of the Avengers have to pull together to stop the android from destroying the whole world.
So the basis of the story is what you would expect and it gets off to a familiar start, throwing us right into a major battle sequence in the first five seconds. It’s not intended as a catch-up from Avengers Assemble, but it is a useful reminder of the gang’s individual special powers – exactly what you need if this is your first Avengers movie. They’re all on show, together with a smattering of the usual throw-away humour, but you find yourself wondering at the end of the sequence if Whedon has peaked too soon. You should know better!
It’s all on an even bigger scale than before – and it needs to be to fill the 2 hours 20 minutes running time. The action is utterly relentless, giving you just enough time to draw breath between one big set piece and the next. Some of them are truly spectacular and brilliantly choreographed but, by the end, you feel you’ve been through such an epic experience that you’re exhausted – even more tired than the superheroes on the screen. And there’s a question in your mind as well. Having thrown so much as this movie – including a bath (I didn’t spot a kitchen sink) – what will be left for the next one? Admittedly, Whedon won’t be involved and it’ll all be down to Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed Captain America:The Winter Soldier. But we’re assured at the end that The Avengers Will Return and there are enough loose ends needing to be tied up to keep them occupied. Avengers: Inifinity War Part 1 is due in 2018, with part two the following year so, if the special effects are stunning this time round, another three years should produce something out of this world.
In the meantime, however, there’s the small matter of sorting out Ultron. There’s none of the mischief of Loki this time round: he’s a massive, muscular, elegant android with a glorious turn of phrase and a fabulous voice provided by James Spader. And as the all-pervading embodiment of evil, he’s the source of the film’s moral ambiguities that make us question the motives of some of the heroes. Is Stark really a force for good, or is he keeping a more sinister agenda to himself? And is Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) even more of a loose cannon than we thought? When his brains are scrambled by Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson) he goes on a huge spree of destruction, culminating in a massive fight with Iron Man and is racked with guilt afterwards
This is something of a movie marathon, not just in terms of actual length – there are plenty that are longer – but in terms of the action sequences, special effects and the fact that it actually has some intelligence as well. If you’re not buzzing when you leave Avengers: Age Of Ultron, don’t worry: it’s only a sign that you’ve been so absorbed by it that you feel like you’ve been binge watching. And if you are buzzing ….. well, so much the better!
Avengers:Age Of Ultron is released in UK cinemas on Thursday, 23 April.