avengers-age-of-ultron-posterGenre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Directed by: Joss Whedon

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson

After months of hype, speculation and Internet rumours galore, Marvel’s latest box office behemoth in their ever-expanding Cinematic Universe finally hits the big screen this week and once again it looks set to light the box office on fire.

With no fewer than eleven central characters, writer/director Joss Whedon somehow manages to wrangle the assortment of personalities, superheroes, robotic villains, comic book lore and earth shattering spectacle into one cohesive whole, making for moderately exciting summer blockbuster entertainment. However, despite all the snarks, quips and Hulk-busting on display, everything has begun to feel overly familiar.

After eliminating a Hydra base and recovering Loki’s scepter, Tony Stark decides to use it to build an AI security system that is designed to protect the world known as Ultron. However, as it transpires, Ultron (motion captured and voiced by James Spader) decides that the only way to save the world is to eliminate humanity.

Yes, Avengers: Age of Ultron is pretty much everything you would expect from a Marvel movie and… well, that’s about it really. All your favourite characters are afforded their time in the sun; buildings get destroyed, Hulk smashes things, and the cast ably delivers Whedon’s trademark wit and one-liners like there’s no tomorrow. The Marvel brand is so self-assured in its ability to deliver a worthy product, that it has almost become a detriment to the development and creativity of the universe.
avengers-age-of-ultron-01There is never a moment in which the film evolves beyond the usual formula, the way say Guardians of the Galaxy did last year. The Marvel banner, once a joyous and reliable sight to behold in terms of studio blockbuster movies, seems to have shackled its material rather than allow it to flourish and take new and interesting directions.

Having said that, there is no denying that Avengers: Age of Ultron is vastly entertaining. If you’re a die-hard fan of this world, then it won’t disappoint. The Hulk vs. Iron Man fight in downtown Wakanda is pure comic book joy, while the cast is as likeable and as funny as ever.

Every character is given an ample amount of screen time and none of our heroes ever feel short changed. Robert Downey Jr’s Stark and Chris Evans’ Captain America are the central core of the group, while a burgeoning romance between Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow gives the film a heart and soul. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye also gets more to do this time around rather than be brainwashed for half the movie. Similarly, the newcomers get their time to shine with Paul Bettany’s Vision the standout of the new crop.
avengers-age-of-ultron-02With a cast as big as this, some short-changing was inevitable of course. A back-story involving Black Widow’s origins at an oddly surreal Russian ballet school is hinted at in flashbacks but left underexplored.

Unfortunately the one major disappointment of Avengers: Age of Ultron comes from Ultron himself. While Spader has the voice and menacing demeanour, Ultron is never as sinister nor as scheming as he ought to have been. Marvel’s inability to create a compelling villain for our heroes comes to the forefront once again.

So while it doesn’t do anything particularly new or interesting with the material, Avengers: Age of Ultron has enough entertainment value to satisfy the majority of hard-core Marvel aficionados and comic-book movie fans.

★★★

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