The following review should contain no significant spoilers. Anything I mention has probably already been seen in one of the trailers. But be warned just in case.
So, how can it be three years since the first Avengers movie was in the cinemas? How can three years have gone by so quickly? Well, they have and Avengers Age of Ultron is now out and Marvel Phase 2 is complete.
The movie starts right in the middle of an Avengers mission in the best tradition of those James Bond pre-credits scenes. Here the team is attacking a Hydra base and it ties very nicely in with the end credits scene of Captain America The Winter Soldier. That scene gave us the first glimpse of Wanda and Pietro, aka “the Twins”, better known to comic fans as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Here they are augmented humans doing the bidding of Hydra for personal reasons that will become clear later on. (And it’s a nice bit of background when you find out what it is.)
Scarlet Witch can mess with your mind and do various telekinetic stuff. She’s pretty handy in a fight actually. And Quicksilver can run really fast. A lot like that guy introduced in the last X-Men movie… Hmmmm…
Back in New York Tony Stark gets an insight into how to create an artificial intelligence that could keep the world safe and render the Avengers obsolete. Predictably this doesn’t quite go to plan and the megalomaniac robot Ultron is born. He’s not quite one to follow orders and he heads off to make an Ultron army and is no doubt planning world domination.
Cue lots of busy fighting.
One of the central pieces of busy fighting is the clash between an enraged Hulk (who is under the influence of Scarlet Witch’s mojo whammy) and a supercharged Iron Man in Hulkbuster armour. As expected it’s quite a city-flattening clash. It’s perhaps not quite up there with the final Superman vs Zod battle in Man of Steel but Iron Man and Hulk do manage to cause a considerable bit of destruction. If I have a criticism here it is that there is almost too much going on.
In the second act of the movie we get an extended sequence of introspective moments where the individual members of the team have to question their place in the world and their ability to fight Ultron. This is as fun as it sounds.
I think Hawkeye comes out out of the movie the best. He certainly gets the most rounded character moments and we do discover something surprising about him. He also gets some of the best lines and gives a neat little speech to Scarlet Witch during the movies extended climax.
I was glad to see the Black Widow’s past get explored a little bit. We get glimpses of her training as an adolescent in the KGB Red Room where the Black Widow assassins are made. Personally I think that background would provide very rich pickings for a Black Widow movie where she has to delve back and investigate a link to her dark past as done in some of the more recent comics.
There is a subplot where we discover Black Widow fancies Bruce Banner. And along the way Scarlett Johansson gets to do The Acting when she reveals something to Bruce.
There a nice bit of business early on with Thor’s hammer as seen in an early trailer where other Avengers folk try to lift it. This actually pays off with a scene towards the end of the movie.
There were a number of surprise cameos which was nice. I won’t give away the actors involved but they will be familiar to anyone familiar with the other movies in the series. One of whom I am always glad to see.
I was wondering who Andy Serkis would play. Well, I don’t know if he is a character from the comics but he was little more than a cameo himself.
If I have a fault with the movie it’s the whole creation of Ultron and his motivation. Things just seem to happen so the team has someone to fight. Ultron is born. He goes bad. That’s kind of it. He’s well portrayed with a dark sense of humour and there’s an added gimmick that he can apparently inhabit any one of his sub-bodies. I do have to give Ultron credit for his evil plan. It’s a bit OTT but it’s something I’ve never seen on screen before.
Along the way we also get the birth of the Vision, a sort of organic computer man. This was always the most “out there” of the Avengers comic book characters and while I’m glad to see him finally on the team I can’t help wondering if they should have stuck with the more “realistic” team members. (Yes, I am clearly defining “realistic” to include an Asgardian thunder god, a man in a flying suit of armour and a giant green rage monster.)
At the end of the movie we are apparently introduced to a new roster of Avengers which is in keeping with the ever-changing membership of the team in the comics. However I doubt very much that we’ve seen the last of the original six members.
Overall I enjoyed the movie very much. The two-hour-plus running time flies in. There are lots of little moments that I enjoyed. On balance I think I prefer the first Avengers movie slightly more, but that’s just as a personal preference.
For anyone keeping track my favourite of the Marvel Universe movies remains last year’s Captain America The Winter Solder as I loved the 1970s Washington DC political conspiracy thriller vibe they had going on.