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Categories: Movie Reviews

Joss Whedon has done it again with the second “Avengers” film, a mature, magnificent blockbuster that elevates the familiar pieces of Marvel Studios’ tried-and-true formula to the highest highs yet.

Age of Ultron might be the smartest Marvel movie yet. It’s a complex character study, a stunning showcase of technical wizardry, and an energetic cautionary tale about artificial intelligence that will deserve all of the billions of dollars that it earns at the box office. On the surface it seems to follow the generic Marvel formula of grandiose action sequences and heated dicsussions between our favorite heroes, but in reality it’s much more, an elaborate dramedy that raises the stakes, enhances character arcs, and celebrates everything that makes the superhero film our generation’s favorite form of escapism. oaavengers-age-of-ultron-3.png Unlike most, I didn’t go into Age of Ultron anticipating much. Don’t get me wrong, I love Marvel films and think the original Avengers is one of the most entertaining action movies of recent memory, but with all the over-saturation of the market with kinda-funny, kinda-dark superhero movies as of late, I’d pretty much gone numb to the idea of yet another adventure with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye. The trailers didn’t help; after a seeing a few of them I thought I’d already seen the whole story, and would only be going to see the film for an extended recap of what I already knew.

Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The trailers reveal a substantial amount of the events of the film, but I had forgotten that with Whedon at the helm it’s just as much about the stuff in the gaps, the motivations and the arguments and the in-jokes, that unite, tear apart and reunite our larger-than-life heroes. Some of the most substantial scenes in the film are debates and battles of verbal one-upmanship; the action scenes are there, but they don’t feel like the focus as much as the icing on the cake. Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..Hulkbuster..Ph: Film Frame..?Marvel 2015More so than any other Marvel film to date, Age of Ultron satisfactorily explores the idiosyncrasies, strengths, and weakness of its characters, giving each familiar face and newcomer ample time to develop through some sort of arc. More than anything else, the Avengers movies are our chance to see our heroes deal with the grandiosity of their abilities and afflictions as they work and fight with others as physically and egotistically massive as themselves.

Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) meddles with the ethics of nature with his Ultron artificial intelligence experiment, plunging the world into more danger than it’s ever been, even by the MCU’s standards. Bruce Banner / The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) struggles with balancing his dangerous condition with his affection for Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who’s the only one who can easily calm his big, green alter-ego down.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to help the group retrieve Loki’s scepter from Hydra, only to discover there’s something wrong back home on Asgard as well. Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) is, as always, the supposed moral center of the group, holding them all together when their egos get ahead of them. “Language”, he says, as Stark yells “shit!” Last but not least there’s Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who finally gets the arc he deserves in this film; for the first time he’s actively and obviously useful to the group, and he’s got many of the best lines, too. la_ca_0409_avengers_age_of_ultonThen there’s the newcomers, all great additions to the series. Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson star as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, respectively, two super-powered twins who want revenge on Stark, whose company designed the weapons that killed their parents. Then of course there’s Ultron, the titular robotic villain whose A.I. Stark regretfully designs with the intention of protecting the world. Ultron of course quickly evolves to believe that computers and not humans should be the next evolutionary step for Earth, and launches an all-out war on the Avengers. James Spader nails his voice performance as the villain, bringing plausibility to a ridiculous character who cracks jokes, holds grudges and indulges his ego just as much as our heroes.

A lot of series favorites from the other phase two movies are back as well, rounding out the miraculous ensemble with Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Saarsgard, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba and more. Cobie Smulders also reprises her role from Agents of Shield, which I admittedly haven’t seen. Still, as a How I Met Your Mother fan I enjoyed seeing her. As a whole this is one of the most impressive casts ever assembled on the screen, a cast so diverse and entertaining that simply watching their names endlessly pop up during the end credits is an inspiring experience. 0aAvengers-Age-of-Ultron-Official-TrailerTo avoid spoilers I haven’t said much about the plot, but it’s surely a good one. It deals with some of the biggest ideas Marvel have tackled in any of their movies, and even though artificial intelligence is something that’s come up in dozens of films recently it was explored quite well here. Of course, it’s mostly an excuse to provide a bigger, badder threat for our heroes to fight, but with special effects sequences like the ones in this film that’s no problem. I’m usually numbed by the type of massive action set-piece that ends this film, but this time it’s better choreographed, more emotionally invested, and more visually spectacular than ever before and I was kept thoroughly riveted throughout.

Age of Ultron is not perfect, and may not convince those who think the series has outstayed its welcome. It’s certainly less laugh-out-loud funny than the previous Avengers, and it doesn’t shake up the formula in any significant way. But what Avengers: Age of Ultron does do is bring together a pitch-perfect cast and crew to successfully entertain us for 141 very watchable minutes. They’re 141 minutes that fly by, and that’s down to an intricate story, dynamic characters, cracking dialogue and impeccable production values. It’s awesome stuff.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is out now in the UK and will be out in the USA on May 1st. 

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

Posted on Apr 27, 2015

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