The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is growing at quite a rate, and the latest Avengers film is the eleventh movie in the series and the sequel (of sorts) to the highly successful, hugely acclaimed 2012 Avengers film. In this new story, the Avengers get to go head to head with maniacal robot Ultron. Earth needs saving. Again.

Avid followers of the comics will probably know this, but it’s important to note that this film and the comic series Age of Ultron have very little to do with each other, other than the name and the appearance of the Avengers and Ultron himself. This film can be largely viewed as less a sequel to the Avengers, and probably more of a prequel to the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War part 1.

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When I say that the film is a sequel of sorts, you have to take into account for the fact that the MCU isn’t, strictly speaking, a linear progression from “Film name 1” to “Film name 2”. In this case, it’s had to come to us through Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the events in those two movies, while not always directly mentioned, do affect the events in Age of Ultron. For example, if you’ve not seen Iron Man 3, you’ll have little idea who Iron Patriot is. I’m probably preaching to the choir here, though, so let’s get into the review itself.

Mild spoilers in this paragraph, but I’ll try to keep things as tight as possible. Age of Ultron opens explosively, both literally and figuratively, with the Avengers in full wobble attacking one of Hydra’s operatives in the East European country of Sokovia. To tie the first and second movies together, the Avengers are after Loki’s sceptre, and of course, this being the opening, they obtain it. Stark uses the sceptre to create the ultimate machine for peace, Ultron, but obviously things don’t go as planned and Ultron starts running, as they say in the vernacular, amok. Naturally, it’s up to the Avengers to put a stop to his machinations before he makes a right mess of things.

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The film covers the theme of intent vs outcome, and you’ll see this echoed throughout its narrative. While Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor (and by some proxy, Black Widow) already have a fairly established characters through their own films, the two remaining characters, Hawkeye and Hulk, are slightly less firm in their existence in the MCU, and I feel that this film tries to address this. You learn more about Hawkeye in this film than you ever did in the first one, and the film somehow makes them all a lot more human. The film also develops the relationship between Black Widow and Bruce Banner, but I’m yet in two minds what this actually means for the Avengers as a group. The whole intent vs outcome thing plays out over again and again, and becomes a pivotal plot point for both the Avengers and Ultron.

The performances and set pieces are stunning, but yet nowhere near as fantastical as the first film’s. I hate to say it, but as good as Age of Ultron is, it’s still an inferior film to the 2012 one. I like to call this “second child syndrome”. The dialog is sparkling and witty and, may I even say, Whedon-esque. The problem is that Ultron–brilliantly voiced and motion-captured by James Spader–is hard to take seriously as a villain when everything he says is some kind of wise-crack. His two accomplices, in the forms of twins Pietro/Quicksilver (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda/Scarlet Witch (played by Elizabeth Olsen), are far more easy to take seriously; there’s a way to do affably evil, and the film treatment of Ultron isn’t it. Ultron’s ultimate plan has more holes than an entire doughnut shop, but of course, in the heat of the action and the fun of battle, you don’t notice the troubling logic. As South Africans, expect to get a good laugh out of some terribly thick South African accents–I honestly wish they’d just hire South African actors to play South African roles. It makes more sense, and the accents aren’t as laughable.

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My gripe with the film is that, by the end of it, the whole saga with Ultron seems like a “filling in the gaps on the way to the Infinity War”, and Ultron himself is more of excuse to have a story going while the relationships and characters are set up for the next movie. Contrast this with the way the first Avengers film ended: there was a genuine worry on Stark’s mind about the alien invasion, and that threat still looms large in this film–heck, it was a big issue in Iron Man 3. Ultron? Doubt he’ll leave as much of an impression as the interpersonal changes within the team. And really, they could probably have gone straight to Infinity War without this film. The ending of the film AFTER they’ve defeated Ultron, oddly enough, has more impact on the forthcoming movies, than Ultron’s entire existence.

The film as a whole, though, is still pretty good. It just has the misfortune of having a handsomer, more talented, more charming older brother. If this film had come first, it’d have been awesome. The action is cathartic, fights are exciting, and the dialogue between the characters is funny and quotable. I do recommend you watch it, especially if you’re a fan of the comic book heroes. It’s fun, it’s loud, and it’s still one heck of a brilliant ride.

Final Score: 7.5 avenging prawns out of 10

Detailed Information:
Director:Joss Whedon
Producer: Keven Feige
Screenplay: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: 24 April, 2015
Website: http://marvel.com/avengers