“Whedon has once again orchestrated a vast array of characters”
When Avengers Assemble romped home at the box office with a staggering $1.5 billion to become the biggest superhero movie ever, Marvel struck gold as their years of planning a vast shared universe came to wow and delight all audiences. But as Phase Two of their story has played out, director Joss Whedon now has the monstrous task in his final dance with Marvel’s prized heroes of repeating past fortunes, aswell as propelling their stories into a new future and under a new direction.
After our heroic team stumble across a new form of weaponry during a heist on a hidden HYDRA base, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) acquires the help of Dr Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to create a new form of artificial intelligence by the name of Ultron, intending to finally bring peace to the world. But when their new discovery doesn’t go according to plan, it’s up to themselves and team mates Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) and the help of a few new additions, to stop their creation making the human race extinct.
If the first film asked what it means to be a heroic unit in a time of need, here Marvel gives us the smallest hints of what it means when the world will one day no longer needs its heroes. For once, these characters that we’ve shared adventures with in almost a dozen different movies in the Marvel cinematic universe, and with more to follow, ponder throughout our story at searching for that moment of ever longing peace. With all the scale and destruction boxes ticked that you expect in a film like this, Whedon isn’t afraid to scale everything back and concentrate on what makes this team tick. Even though we know our headline acts through their stand-alone installments, more of the dramatic scenes in this film are with those we only know the slightest of detail.
Glimpses of Scarlett Johansson‘s Agent Romanov past life are expanded and Jeremy Renner‘s home comforts as Hawkeye are beautifully interwoven in a film that comes with a budget of $250 million. If Marvel are preaching about teamwork, it seems only right for those back seat players to get a fair share of screen time. But it works brilliantly, Mark Ruffalo‘s Dr Banner gets to add weight to his character all the while Hulk still gets the best laughs as before. As for our regulars, Chris Evans‘ Captain America, as astute as ever and Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor, as extroverted as ever bounce hammer and shield quite literally with grace. As for our charismatic lynch pin, Robert Downey Jr‘s fifth film as Tony Stark feels as ravenous and scathing as ever, even when he has the finger of blame pointed firmly in his direction for our film’s adversary.
And what a villain. James Spader‘s Ultron is a vicious threat, leading an army to bring chaos and disorder on a bigger scale than anything Marvel have attempted before. Manipulative and weirdly charming, Ultron carries a presence that can be held up there with Tom Hiddleston‘s Loki as the star villain in this colossal franchise. However, much like the Loki’s army from Avengers Assemble, the antagonists still has that touch of being mere target practice for our heroes, rather than causing ever lasting damage or pain, it’s something Marvel will surely overcome in future installments as the peril steadily increases.
With that said, its action sequences are something truly staggering. Just when you’ve seen everything our characters are capable of dispatching enemies, think again. Much has been made of the Marvel formula becoming to weary to hardened fans, but Whedon adds a new twist to the expectant mid-air explosive third act that seems to always occur, and ups the odds that makes the battle in New York seem like a walk in the park. Mainly with the help of two new characters, faster than a blink Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the mind bending Scarlet-Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), twins who’ve grown in hostile environments and a war-ravaged nation who conflict throughout as to which side they fight on.
Even Paul Bettany, already much-loved voice of JARVIS, gets to appear in physical form as The Vision, a newly amalgamated hero from the scientific efforts of both good and evil. Throw in SHIELD being as bad ass as ever, an Andy Serkis tough guy appearance and some familiar faces and Whedon has once again orchestrated a vast array of characters without any feeling abandoned at the side of the screen. With this being a Whedon picture, this film also comes with its moments of comedic brilliance in among all the action. Quipped one liners and hidden visual gems dropped in brilliantly to keep the group dynamic flowing, even with a massively bravura opening set piece to rival any Bond opener; a hulk busting one-on-one, an unbelievable spinning all action sequence and not just one but many ‘Puny God’ moments to enjoy.
Much like its heroes and director, this feels a more matured, rounded and experienced Avengers from the first outing, made at very much the right time for the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe with its injection of excitement and future possibilities. Whedon maybe bowing out of the world of Earth’s mightiest heroes, but he’s proudly bowing out with an abundance of grandeur, spectacle and warmth.