Avengers: Age of Ultron (12A)

The follow-up to The Avengers is just the beginning of a surge of superhero movies soon to be released. It’s a comic fan’s dream come true.

But how do you top The Avengers? By yet again investing in the directorial stylings of the great Joss Whedon of course.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) jumpstarts a peacekeeping program hoping to make the world a better place. Little does he know that he’s just set the wheels in motion for a plan that could destroy it.

The Avengers assemble once more under the leadership of Stark, ready to do battle for the good of mankind.

Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) proves that it’s not easy being green. As he goes to battle with his inner demons Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is there to console him. This time around she’s more Hulk Whisperer than methodical killing machine. Good old straight-talking Captain America (Chris Evans) counteracts Stark quip whips and delusions of grandeur with a much needed dose of realism.

Stop, hammer time. Thor’s back. Just when Thor (Chris Hemsworth)  thought he was done saving Earth something else crops up that threatens to wipe out mankind. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) goes along for the ride and proves yet again to be the Ringo Starr of the group. His lack of any real superpower means that you don’t really notice is he’s on screen or not.

The Avengers have a new terrifyingly dangerous enemy named Ultron (James Spader) to vanquish. Using his shiny new exoskeleton the AI maniac fast becomes a bizarro version of his creator, Tony Stark. His new-found power quickly turns Ultron from inquisitive to megalomaniac.

He enlists the help of the genetically engineered Maximoff twins in a bid to use their monstrous abilities to carry out his maniacal plan, to wipe out the Avengers. Pietro Maximoff, or Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) possesses super-human speed and his twin sister Wanda , aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) can alter reality and bend the mind. As one character puts it “he’s quick, she’s weird.”

Scarlet Witch instantly uses her mind-mending capabilities to break up the team, drawing on their weaknesses and pulling them apart. She shows a troubled Stark a vision of him betraying and then destroying his fellow Avengers. The cocksure leader launches a desperate attempt to stop the vision becoming reality. But in his efforts to save his comrades, he ends up pushing them away.

The Avengers must stick together to defeat the amplified version of Stark. As Ultron’s power expands to terrifying levels the Avengers only have one choice – save the world, or die trying.

The unresolved sexual tension between Black Widow and Hulk creates a strange narrative. It’s a welcome break from the shots panning in on Johansson’s leather clad behind, but the movie would be better with the ass-kicking Black Widow is known for.

Age of Ultron ups the ante, doubles the action and adds so many new characters that it feels like Best Buy on Black Friday. It’s manic and fantastically visceral. Die-hard Marvel fans will rejoice.

By Ruth Walker

★★★★☆

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