Avengers: Age of Ultron starring Mark Ruffalo, Scarlet Johansson and Jeremy Renner
Why did i mention those three actors/actresses? Surely Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans are the stars of the show? Not this time they aren’t. Hulk and Black Widow are at the heart of this movie (and Ruffalo and Johnasson have a very believable chemistry), and Renner’s Hawkeye is a revelation and (surprisingly) one of the best things in it, given he was the least notable Avenger in the first film. Thor gets sidelined for the majority of the film, although the moments he has are worth waiting for, while Captain America and Iron Man show some of the tension between them that will doubtless boil over in Captain America: Civil War next year. Nick Fury, War Machine and Falcon all make welcome return appearances as well.
As for the newcomers? James Spader brings Ultron to life with consummate ease, making him the most memorable villain since Loki. Elizabeth Olsen does sterling work as Scarlet Witch, who is far more prominent than her brother Quicksilver (sorry MCU, but X-men did him better) but is was good to see the Avengers face off with three foes who were a genuine threat to them (the Hydra soldiers and Ultron’s robots didn’t really cut it any more than the Chitauri did in the first film). Paul Bettany (the voice of Jarvis in previous films) makes a good impression here as Vision (who has arguably the best scene in the movie when he gains the heroes trust by being worthy to lift Thor’s Hammer).
To avoid major spoilers i won’t go to in detail about the plot, suffice to say it’s the usual blend of sci-fi, action and fantasy that you expect in a superhero film. The stand out moments include the opening assault by the Avengers on a Hydra castle, the final battle with Ultron and the battle between Hulk and Tony Stark’s ‘Hulkbuster’ Armour (i honestly didn’t call how that fight concluded – i never expected to see Hulk lose!). There is also a surprise death scene, and i hope the character in question isn’t resurrected – the stakes in these films need to feel real! Several scenes will have all fanboys (and fangirls) smiling, the heroes trying and failing to lift Thor’s Hammer, a new Avengers line up being revealed at the end and Thanos getting an awesome mid-credits scene to set up Infinity War…
So the big question: is it better than the highly acclaimed first one? Well I’d give the first film 4 out of 5 – it’s great popcorn cinema but doesn’t reach the highs of DC’s best offerings or the clever plotting of Captain America 2 or X-Men: First Class. This one is similar, but has a darker vein and is also trying to set up phase 3 of the MCU (hints for Black Panther, Civil War, Thor 3 and Infinity War all occur here). The result is the film isn’t as good as it could have been (and some characters don’t get the development they deserved) but it is still rollicking good fun. I think the result is comic book/superhero film fans will prefer it to the first one, but casual viewers might not. Personally i think it is the second best Avengers film (after Cap 2) and my third favourite (after Cap 2 and Guardians) but that it is an improvement over the first film (which sets up phase 3 remarkably well – can’t wait for infinity war now!).
Overall a darker, more ambitious offering than the first film, it doesn’t hit everything perfectly, but it comes remarkably close.
Rating: 4 out of 5