As one phase ends, so a new age begins…
From the moment Marvel decided to no longer simply option their characters to studios but instead licence their own properties, the superhero movie formula and the greater cinematic landscape changed forever. With Kevin Feige at the helm, the Marvel Cinematic Universe knocked Phase One out of the park when it culminated in the comic book movie of the century; Avengers Assemble (2012). Joss Whedon’s epic feature united the entire Phase One line up in a glorious feast of testosterone fuelled rivalries, witty asides, an almost loveable adversary and the Battle Of New York. And so, in what direction do you take the sequel?
Fortunately, Whedon has avoided the formulaic route (“same banter just smash more stuff, Hulk”) and instead given us a tonally darker film. Assuming you have read by now that Ultron’s back story has been altered from Hank Pym’s creation to Tony Starks meddling, the team are battling a self-created evil.
Seemingly awoken from deep slumber, what begins as a ground breaking foray into artificial intelligence for Stark and Banner (when will they learn these things always fall into the wrong hands?!) swiftly reveals itself as a self-replicating menace with genocidal evolution on his mind. Every line deliciously delivered by James Spader’s vocal, dripping in a calculated hatred of man kind.
Feeling a little crowded in parts, Whedon has crammed more characters than your average ComiCon into this one but throw enough muck and something will stick, in this case Scarlet Witch. Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) uses her finite pockets of force to disrupt reality and control the minds of our heroes, forcing them to question their roles and motives. I could live without Quicksilver personally but they are twins (evident in their equally ropey accents) and so Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is along for the ride.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way. We’re thrown right into the action as if picking up from somewhere we didn’t leave off from and for me this jars a little. Ultron’s intention that ‘hope’ be the first thing he takes from humans has not made the final cut. The grand finale is not a patch on the Battle Of New York. As an invading army, I much prefer the Chitauri enmasse than cloned mini-Ultrons. The Iron Man Hulkbuster suit should have had a grander stage. And, Don Cheadle continues to deliver his lines as though they’re taped to the inside of his Iron Patriot helmet.
I guess these are minor quibbles since together they do not dilute the impact of Age Of Ultron. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is surely impossible to better as a spectacle and so with orchestrated tender moments between Natasha Romanov and Bruce Banner, a fleshed out story for Hawkeye (meet Mrs. Hawkeye!), the excellent unveiling of The Vision and an almost transitional feel for what’s to come, Avengers: Age Of Ultron accomplishes exactly what was needed; moves the story along but most importantly, keeps your favourite Avenger recognisable.
Ramblin Entertainment Rating? 4.5 / 6
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