Avengers: Age of Ultron and review

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THREE years after Marvel Avengers Assemble earned its reputation as a rare impressive modern blockbuster, the superheroes are back together for an inevitable second ride which fails to bring the engagement factor its predecessor provided so well.

Avengers: Age of Ultron review by Richard Chester
Avengers: Age of Ultron review by Richard Chester

Following an Avengers-led assault on HYDRA, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr in his sixth appearance) attempts to finish work on Ultron (voiced by James Spader), a secret program designed to defend the peace of the world.

Unfortunately, an error ultimately leads to his latest invention becoming a ruthless, mega-intelligent, killing machine hell bent on ending the world.

With Stark guilt-ridden at the fact that his actions might have potentially ended the existence of the Avengers, all seems lost. But no fight will be avoided and soon Stark as Iron Man teams up again with Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow and (half the time) Dr. Bruce Banner (and the other half) his alter-ego The Incredible Hulk for another save-the-world mission.

Also included are newcomers Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), a special powers-laden Eastern European brother and sister with a grudge against Stark, while Don Cheadle reprises his Iron Man 2 role as Stark’s trusted colleague, War Machine.

While the first Avengers film surprised for its ability to engage from beginning to end, this one does not have enough entertainment a film of this calibre desperately needs to succeed. The opening action sequence begins, one feels, in the vein of Star Trek: Into Darkness, in that while the first film knew where it was heading from the start based on its spirited direction, this one begins with a less enthralling sequence to begin with.

While far from disastrous, it feels as though not enough entertainment value is being put into it straightaway and for it to gain a pass, it needs to have the same energetic feel that made the first one work.

Rather than following an A-B-C structure, it starts at A but then jumps straight to C without allowing B to display a level of likely inventiveness. It seems that Joss Whedon is trying to show off by giving a grand entrance to characters who we already know of and don’t need such gimmicks to be seen as it appears moderately patronising.

The feature of more characters being added to the fray sounds like a good idea to tie in with an already likable bunch of superheroes but with the situations that the film delves into, the mixture does not spell out a great result. The hallucinations that Scarlet Black plants onto various characters might be necessary for a character detail but the results do not add as interesting enough to the plot. Also, the apparent but reluctant romance blossoming between Dr. Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) or detailing Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) life as married with children serve as a distraction to the story.

There are some elements of saving grace thanks to several generally enjoyable action sequences, including one where Iron Man is forced to take control of an uncontrollable Hulk leading to a mid-air battle around Seoul. The climactic conclusion does take a while to get going but the demand to see the heroes succeed does show that the usage of the ensemble when in action is welcome even if the film has not gone the way it should have done.

Avengers: Age of Ultron was always going to have a job topping the first outing but because of its frequent use of description rather than entertainment, it can’t be viewed, critically that is, as a big success.