Avengers: Age Of Ultron

***1/2

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

Avengers: Age Of Ultron
"Save your grey matter for coordinating the movement of your hand to your mouth, or your jaw to the sticky cinema floor."

The traditional problem faced by the comic book movie is this: how to cater to a devoted fanbase without alienating a mainstream audience? Zack Snyder's Watchmen exemplified the "worst of both worlds" approach by faithfully translating most of the source material to the screen and then copping out at the denouement.

The early Marvel films straddled this line beautifully. You didn't have to have so much as a passing familiarity with the written word to enjoy Iron Man, but there were plenty of small touches thrown in specifically for fans of the comics, and the soul of the source was neatly preserved. Avengers: Age Of Ultron takes a wildly different approach. Even if you've been faithfully keeping pace with both Thors, both Captains America, all three Iron Mans, the previous Avengers film and the apparently-only-tangentially-related Guardians Of The Galaxy, if you can't tell an Infinity Gauntlet from a blinged-out gardening glove you're going to be left scratching your head at points.

We open with the Earth's Mightiest Heroes beating up some soldiers that we'd almost feel sorry for if they weren't probably Nazis. The fortress under Avenger assault is protected by an impenetrable forcefield, but the villains have made the classic villain mistake of locating the power generator for the forcefield outside the forcefield. Will they ever learn? A couple of beautifully-choreographed fight scenes later and our heroes head home victorious, macguffin of the week securely in tow.

Unfortunately for the planet, Tony Stark is never content to leave well enough alone, and it's not long before he's accidentally unleashed the titular Ultron, a rogue AI with a near-limitless supply of robot bodies, upon the world. What's worse, Ultron has the macguffin (this week it's Loki's scepter, as seen in Avengers Assemble) and he's probably up to something scandalous with it. Ultron also has a couple of unlikely allies in Scarlet Witch, who has psychic powers, and Quicksilver, who is really fast and also a completely different interpretation of the character than the one in X Men: First Class. The duo are the result of Hydra experimentation on humans with special powers, but not in the same way that Magneto was with the Nazis in X:Men. Also Magneto is Quicksilver's dad, but not in this continuity. Like I said, head-scratching.

You know why your brain is starting to itch? You're using it for thinking. Stop that. Save your grey matter for coordinating the movement of your hand to your mouth, or your jaw to the sticky cinema floor. Age Of Ultron is a spectacular pile of absolute tupping nonsense and thinking about it will only distract you from the action. The Hulkbuster Armour scene with Stark fighting the Hulk is everything the trailer promised and more. In a series that's already delivered so many incredible action set-pieces, to exceed expectations must take a heck of an effort, but Age Of Ultron delivers. A couple of scenes are the cinematic equivalent of comic-book splash pages; elegantly choreographed slow-motion self-contained works of art that still feed into a greater narrative. It's a shame that said narrative is absolute bobbins, but there's just enough of a grounding in reality that it'll carry you along if you're willing to allow it.

Age Of Ultron may ask a lot from its audience, but it also gives plenty back. The one-liners come thicker and faster than the energy beams and exploding robots, and the character dynamics are everything fans of the series have come to expect from Joss Whedon. The effects are window dressing, the plot irrelevant: we'd be happy to watch the team spend two and a half hours chatting at a party somewhere. Snappy dialogue and a stellar cast carry the day once more.

Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2015
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Tony Stark and his team take on rogue AI Ultron.
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