Release Date: 23 April 2015
Running Time: 141 min
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader
After seven years and ten films Marvel Studios have changed the face of modern blockbuster cinema. When Nick Fury popped up at the end of Iron Man and mentioned creating a superteam called the Avengers, the notion of a shared cinematic universe where characters and storylines span multiple different movie series was a real surprise. Now every major studio is scrambling to create a shared universe of their own, ranging from the DC Comics Cinematic Universe at Warner Bros. to the frankly bizarre sounding Ghostbusters universe at Sony. With Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Studios launch their eleventh film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the sequel to 2012’s Avengers Assemble and nine other films.
As the film opens, our heroes are operating as a slick and efficient unit, raiding HYDRA bases across the world in a quest to recover Loki’s sceptre, a longstanding McGuffin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However when Tony Stark meddles with Artificial Intelligence to kickstart a global peacekeeping program he unwittingly creates the villainous robot Ultron and a whole lot of inter-office tension. While the team are torn apart by self-doubt and mistrust Ultron sets in motion a plan to accelerate evolution on earth by destroying the majority of life upon it. Meanwhile a pair of mysterious, genetically enhanced twins – ‘one’s fast, one’s weird’ – plan revenge on the Avengers for the collateral damage their exploits have caused in the fictional Eastern European country of Sokovia.
There’s a lot of plot stuff in Age of Ultron and at times you can almost hear the gears grinding as it tries to fit into the much larger narrative framework of the MCU. There’s still the same level of snarky banter one would expect of a Joss Whedon film but at just under two and a half hours long, it’s a little flabby in places and with so many narrative threads to tie up, certain things feel a little under explained. Still, there are enough well-staged action sequences and amusing character beats to keep the interest and there’s a sense that the Marvel movies are starting to open out a little and establish a wider world outside of the USA.
Indeed the Avengers are now a worldwide concern. Flitting from Seoul, to middle America via Eastern Europe, Age of Ultron is a far more international affair than the team’s previous adventure. Not only does this show the global ramifications of the Avengers’ actions it also adds a nice bit of variety to the look of the film. Where Avengers Assemble was bathed in blue tones and filled with sleek, shiny technology, Age of Ultron has an earthier, autumnal palette of browns, greys and yellows. The globe-hopping also allows for some fun accents; Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen talk like Bela Lugosi in Dracula and Andy Serkis pops up briefly with some South African patter.
Despite some expensive looking, and largely entertaining set-pieces there’s nothing here in terms of action that is quite as exciting or fun as the climactic battle in Avengers Assemble. It may be the big fights and explosions that make it into the trailers but it’s the character beats you’ll be talking about with Avengers: Age of Ultron.