Avengers: Age Of Ul­tron

Bad Robot

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Cinema -

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW!

12A | 141 min­utes Direc­tor: Joss Whe­don Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruf­falo, Scar­lett Jo­hans­son, Jeremy Ren­ner, James Spader, El­iz­a­beth Olsen, Paul Bet­tany, Aaron Tay­lor- John­son

In more ways than one,

The Avengers was a land­mark film. The cul­mi­na­tion of Marvel’s multi- movie, uni­verse- build­ing ex­per­i­ment, it’s not over­stat­ing mat­ters to say the fu­ture of su­per­hero cinema rested on its span­dex- clad shoul­ders.

The weight of ex­pec­ta­tion on Age Of Ul­tron may not be quite the same – at this stage if Marvel builds it the world will come, and they know it – but that hasn’t re­sulted in Whe­don and co putting their feet up for the re­turn of Earth’s might­i­est. Quite the con­trary. Age Of Ul­tron is Marvel’s most com­plex, am­bi­tious and gen­er­ally bloomin’ mas­sive movie to date.

Dur­ing an all- out as­sault on the last re­main­ing Hy­dra fortress, where twins Wanda and Pi­etro Max­i­moff have been given ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers (“He’s fast, she’s weird”), the Avengers re­cover Loki’s min­dal­ter­ing scep­tre. Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing the scep­tre’s gem con­tains an AI of un­par­al­leled power, mod­ern Prometheus Tony Stark com­bines it with his Ul­tron ini­tia­tive – a ro­botic peace force de­signed to ren­der the Avengers ob­so­lete. Be­fore you can say HAL 9000 Ul­tron turns on his cre­ator, deem­ing hu­man­ity it­self the big­gest threat to peace on Earth, and em­barks on a good old- fash­ioned evil plan to ex­punge life from the planet.

Age Of Ul­tron is ex­actly one minute shorter than its pre­de­ces­sor, but crams so much more into that run­time you can’t help but marvel at what Whe­don has achieved. The plate- spin­ning skills per­fected with en­sem­ble casts on Buffy, Fire­fly and As­ton­ish­ing X- Men have never been put to bet­ter use. It’s a tale that takes the Avengers truly glo­be­trot­ting, from Eastern Euro­pean win­ter wonderlands to African cities bathed in a golden, magic hour glow. Al­most ev­ery char­ac­ter gets their mo­ment to shine and the plot­ting is metic­u­lously tight, only oc­ca­sion­ally fall­ing vic­tim to what must have been a bru­tal edit.

Hawk­eye is the sur­prise show- stealer, with the first film’s weak link given an ex­tra di­men­sion that sud­denly makes the char­ac­ter work. The cracks in Cap and Iron Man’s re­la­tion­ship come to the fore, a cau­tious set- up for Civil War, while Thor is plagued by Rag­narok- alud­ing vi­sions of tragedies to come. Natasha and Bruce em­bark upon a ro­mance that, though not the most sat­is­fy­ing di­rec­tion in which to take those char­ac­ters, has some touch­ing mo­ments if you’re will­ing to go with it. Key new player Quick­sil­ver is lack­ing a water­cooler slow- mo se­quence to ri­val his Days Of Fu­ture Past coun­ter­part but, along with Scar­let Witch, is at the heart of the film’s hero jour­ney. And the Vi­sion is a late ad­di­tion to the team but a wor­thy one, his in­tro­duc­tion topped with a mo­ment that ri­vals “Puny god” for sheer crowd- pleas­ing gusto. Paul Bet­tany was the per­fect choice to bring the naive yet supremely pow­er­ful be­ing to life.

But what about Ul­tron? For all that Marvel has done right in the seven years since Iron Man, cre­at­ing cap­ti­vat­ing an­tag­o­nists is not one of them. Ul­tron, how­ever, is the stu­dio’s best big- screen vil­lain since Loki, a twisted tin man with all the wise­cracks, snark and smartest- manin- the- room swag­ger you’d ex­pect from an AI with Stark DNA in his cir­cuits. James Spader im­bues the bot with grav­i­tas, men­ace and a pal­pa­bly sin­is­ter edge, warp­ing the en­tire tone of the film.

Yes, Age Of Ul­tron is a very dif­fer­ent beast to Avengers As­sem­ble – deadly se­ri­ous at times, with real emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal heft; the Max­i­moffs’ tragic back­story and Black Widow’s bru­tal train­ing in par­tic­u­lar are far from kid­friendly. But Ul­tron hasn’t lost its pre­de­ces­sor’s per­son­al­ity ei­ther, and in the face of im­pres­sive Hulk- bust­ing, robot- swarm­ing set­pieces it’s the mo­ments of quiet, en­dear­ing ir­rev­er­ence that stick in the mind af­ter. The ri­otous party at Stark Tower is an un­doubted high­light – we won’t be for­get­ting the look of sat­is­fac­tion on Rhodey’s face af­ter fi­nally nail­ing his anec­dote in a hurry.

It’s also a sig­nif­i­cantly slicker look­ing pro­duc­tion. The first Avengers was shot in 1.85: 1, of­ten giv­ing the film an oddly tele­vi­sual qual­ity, but Age Of Ul­tron is a comic

The Al­ton Tow­ers day out went from bad to worse.

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