Film review: Avengers: Age of Ultron
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
Starring: Robert Downey Jnr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner
Director: Joss Whedon
There is no long, slow reveal in the opening moments of Avengers: Age of Ultron, no lingering and pensive set-up shots.
Instead, the sequel to the 2012 hit, The Avengers, jumps to the point from the first frame: the Marvel superheroes are on some icy terrain, battling a villainous gathering of evil-doers. And while that's the expected heart-stopping action from the get-go, it is nothing compared to what happens in the rest of the film.
The core group of superheroes — Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) — have reassembled, with Captain America being installed as the leader of the pack.
S.H.I.E.L.D, the espionage and counter-terrorism agency helmed by the eyepatch-wearing Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the first film, has been more or less demolished. And so the towering headquarters of Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, is now the Avengers' new home.
In the three years since the first film, the characters have bonded, which brings a welcome cohesion to their unit and an endearing new dimension to the film.
In The Avengers they initially regarded one another with distrust at best, hatred at worst, but now they are brothers in arms, good naturedly needling each other while downing shots at a party.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, again written and directed by Joss Whedon, the Avengers decide that they are done with fighting off threats and it's time to go on the offensive by revitalising an abandoned peacekeeping programme.
Stark and Bruce Banner — Hulk's mild-mannered alter-ego — secretly design a form of artificial intelligence that can shield the world from inter-planetary peril and humans from the worst of each other.
But Ultron — the creation so compellingly voiced by James Spader — isn't quite what they had in mind. Instead, it decides that human beings are dispensable and the world should be destroyed.
So the Avengers reunite to take down that which they created, in high-octane fight sequences that involve all manner of flying robots and massive metallic monsters and entire cities breaking in half and crumbling into dust, Pompeii-style. The visual effects are staggering.
The sequel charts new territory as well by exploring some of the back stories of the Avengers through dream sequences that sometimes feel convoluted and stodgy, but thankfully, are short-lived enough to not interrupt the otherwise brisk narrative.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is not a bone-headed film heavy on action but light on anything else. There are new, surprising characters introduced; the dialogue is whip-smart, alighting on mortality, power, sacrifice and what it means to be human; and the ending, at once rousing and breathtaking, will leave fans anticipating the third instalment of the series, due out in 2018.
Avengers: Age of Ultron opens April 23