Director Joss Whedon
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has created a vast and interwoven world since Robert Downey Jr. first strapped on the hot rod red armour back in 2008. Spanning across formats, the MCU has brought us 11 films and three TV series, with a production cycle stretching into at least 2019. The first Avengers was a blockbuster hit and the raucous culmination of phase 1. With Whedon again at the helm, can lightning strike twice with Avengers: Age Of Ultron? With Thor onside, that would seem a pretty safe bet.
As the Avengers go from strength to strength in mopping up the remnants of Hydra, Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) still harbours fears that the team won’t be enough to stop the next threat to the world. With that in mind he rushes ahead with a ground-breaking AI program, Ultron, using alien technology he doesn’t fully understand, in an attempt to place “armour around the Earth.” Instead Tony spawns a monstrous creation with a twisted sense of how to protect humanity, so the Avengers must once again set aside their differences to confront the Age Of Ultron.
Nobody has had as much practice staging the apocalypse as Whedon. His TV career was so littered with them that they actually had to invent a plural of the word. Hence when Age Of Ultron goes big and threatens the world, you know you have a director that can handle both the action and emotional beats required in such a tense situation. Avengers 2 is classic Whedon with all the trademark rapid quips, group tension, stunningly high stakes and satisfying climactic battles.
Yet it is also an amazing comic book film, deftly handling an ensemble cast of characters in this no holds barred fight. It hits the ground running and rarely pauses, clearly demonstrating how far such films have come. No longer are they required to litter the script with backstory, but rather trust in the audience’s prior knowledge or just their ability to pick up on the basics. Thus The Avengers can handle an expanding roster of almost a dozen characters without giving anyone short shrift. Of course the primary focus is on the original core team, showing off the strengths of that strong established cast, and this crew once again brings all the magic they can to the big screen.
As for the new additions, James Spader is appropriately creepy as the voice of the murderous kill-bot, Ultron. He gives a vocal performance that is larger than life, enabling him to bounce lines off the equally big personalities on display, such as Hemsworth and of course Downey Jr., but he also modulates it so as not to swamp the quieter personalities such as Evans, Johansson, or the newly minted Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) or Vision(Paul Bettany).
Amazing, spectacular, fantastic – Age Of Ultron is worthy of every comic book superlative you could throw at a movie, delivering sheer spectacle. Excelsior!