Certificate 12A, 141 minutes
Director: Joss Whedon
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
Avengers: Age of Ultron starts with the Avengers assaulting a HYDRA Research Facility in the (fictional) Eastern European country of Sokovia run by Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann, Hitman: Agent 47, Plastic). In the mid-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Strucker was seen with his scientists, who were examining Loki's sceptre that he was carrying during the invasion of Earth in The Avengers. The attack is being carried out to recover that sceptre, so that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) can take it to back to Asgard. As well as the HYDRA troops, Strucker also has two enhanced humans, twins Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Godzilla, Kick-Ass 2) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, Red Lights); Pietro has superspeed and Wanda mind powers including telekinesis and the ability to affect people's minds.
The experiments are unsuccessful but, whilst the Avengers - Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Thor, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) - and some others from the franchise - Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Man on a Ledge, Runner, Runner), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) - are holding a party at the Avengers' base, formally Tony Stark's skyscraper, one suddenly works, and something awakes. The being, Ultron (James Spader), starts off by attacking Tony's AI, J.A.R.V.I.S. (Paul Bettany, Mortdecai, Transcendence), before occupying a damaged Iron Legion robot and crashing the party. Ultron has also taken over a lot of the other Iron Legion robots, all of which are now him, and one takes Loki's sceptre.
Ultron's aim is to bring peace in our time, which was largely what Tony Stark wanted. The only problem is that Ultron has decided that the only way to have peace is by eliminating that which causes war - namely, humanity. Ultron enlists the aid of the Maximoff twins, who have a personal grudge against Tony Stark. Wanda's ability to mess with people's minds causes problems for much of the team, as they see visions, some which are recollections of actual events - some of Black Widow's background is revealed in hers, and her discussion of it - and some which are not. Some appear to be prophesising future events. The Avengers start to fragment a bit at this point. During a stay in a safe house, they meet Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Kingsman: The Secret Service, RoboCop) again who, although he is no longer S.H.I.E.L.D.'s director - indeed, after the events of The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. does not exist like it used to - still has pull and access to advanced technology. Possibly a bit more explanation as to what Fury is doing would have worked here, given that at the end of The Winter Soldier he was apparently going off on his own.
Age of Ultron is available in both 2D and 3D, with the 3D version being the one watched. There is extensive use of CGI, with many scenes involving flying or action, so this is the type of film in which 3D works well. Indeed, the film is a CGI fest, with robots, flying, strange beings and technology beyond current abilities. There is, as mentioned, plenty of action, with the various Avengers fighting off hordes of robots - although they are, essentially, all the same intelligence, simply spread across many bodies.
There is quite a bit of humour in the film, as well as the action, both between the various Avengers and from Ultron himself, as has somewhat of a sense of humour too. Ultron is one of the more interesting villains, given his occasionally humorous remarks combined with his intention to wipe out humanity for what is supposedly a good reason - peace. He is given to a trifle overblown speech at times, but this doesn't detract - it fits with his overall personality. The interactions between the various Avengers also reveal a more "human" side to many of them (some are not in fact human); they have their own hopes and flaws, despite their abilities. Some were not happy with Stark going ahead with the Ultron Program without informing anyone else, other than Banner, first.
Now for the problems with the film. The biggest is that it doesn't really stand well by itself. Both of the Captain America and the Thor films, the previous Avengers film, and probably Iron Man 3 too, need watching, or bits will either be missed or simply not make a whole lot of sense. Seeing the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn't hurt either. This is also yet another film about the dangers of artificial intelligence - although, given how Ultron is created, it is possible he isn't an AI in the traditional sense, especially as he fits into an ongoing plot across all the films.
There is a typical cameo by Stan Lee, and watch out for the mid-credits scene, which has an appearance by an individual seen in a couple of the previous movies, which gives an idea as to what the next Avengers film will be about. There are also some hints as to the next Thor film within the main film itself. This is fun film to watch, even if one of its main reasons for existing is to set the stage for the next in the series. Even with the abovementioned flaws, the action is impressive, the effects are great, and the characters have rather more depth than you might expect. Avengers: Age of Ultron is a worthy sequel, and paves the way to the next film.
Amazon Price: $14.99 Buy Now
(price as of Apr 29, 2016)