The world’s best-known gang of superheroes – Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America – and their pals (Black Widow, Hawkeye, etc) are back together following the phenomenal success of 2012’s Avengers Assemble. Thanks to all the solo outings (two Thor and two Captain America movies, three Iron Mans and that Hulk movie with Edward Norton that everyone tries to forget about) from the Marvel comic book universe, we know quite a lot about the characters already, so writer/director Joss Whedon dispenses with any biographical backstory and plunges them all straight into the action.
In the first action set piece, our heroes are getting rid of the last remaining HYDRA baddies and think they’ll soon be able to put away their tight-fitting costumes for happy retirement – that is, until Tony Stark (Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) mess around with some artificial intelligence technology they find and end up accidentally creating Ultron (voiced by James Spader), who thinks the best way to make the world a better place is to wipe out the Avengers and destroy humanity while he’s at it. Whoops.
This leads to a couple of hours of bashing, crashing, thumping and testosterone overload as robotic Ultron and his creations attack, and the Avengers are given their toughest challenge yet, made all the more complicated by the appearance of two vengeful siblings – superfast Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka Quicksilver, and mind-bending Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), aka Scarlet Witch, who can cause people to hallucinate their worst fears. So not only do the Avengers have to deal with the twins themselves, but also their own failings and secrets that Wanda reveals.
It’s a neat trick as the mind-messing reveals much about the characters, from Black Widow’s (Johansson) early killer training to Captain America’s (Evans) yearning for his old life, and leads to some nice plot developments such as a potential romance between Hulk and Black Widow, and a revelation about Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) life away from his day job.
Whedon, meanwhile, has much to do from the director’s chair, and while this film isn’t as sharp or jaw-droppingly good as the first Avengers movie, he still manages to deftly mix all the many elements and characters together. There’s banter and wit throughout, some impressive set pieces and fights (and Hulk really does get to smash a lot up in this outing, we pity the poor city that he virtually levels during a tantrum) and stunning special effects.
By the end, all this action, exposition and adventure does create a little battle fatigue – the climactic scenes almost seem like one disaster too many – but thanks to the smart script, pacy direction and winning performances, it is still an enjoyable addition to the Marvel universe and a nice set up for the various movies (third instalments of Thor and Captain America and the two-part Avengers: Infinity War) that are due to follow.
Is Avengers: Age Of Ultron suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This movie is a 12A certificate so does contain some fantasy violence and mild bad language but there is nothing that should scare older children (age 9+).
Parents should note that Scarlet Widow mentions that during Russian training she was sterilised, which younger viewers may ask to be explained to them.