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Avengers: Age of Ultron
Genre Action
 
Review:

Avengers: Age of Ultron follows some typical sequel procedure. There's much more conflict. The Avengers team is put to the test by various personal demons, making them self-doubt and re-examine their priorities. The characters have grown - we get more back story to several of the characters, especially Hawkeye and Black Widow, and discover greater depth. Joss Whedon has embraced the first film and Avengers universe, allowing the events from Captain America: The Winter Soldier dubbed as "Avengers 1.5" to bleed into this film.

Sequels are born from the notion that audiences want more. Unfortunately, this is often interpreted as more of the same... or, much more of the same. If Avengers: Age of Ultron does anything wrong... it delivers a puffed, repackaged The Avengers.

It's difficult to reinvent a successful formula or capture the novelty of the "Big Bang" origin film, so many tend to rest on the laurels of the first enterprise, hoping that a double scoop with a few more sprinkles will suffice.

Joss Whedon has made a worthy sequel that builds on the success of the first film and delves into the dark introspective mood of many superhero sequels where things seem to fall apart. The soul-searching instead of whup-assing is the uncomfortable middle part where the Phoenix has to die before rising again. Thankfully, Avengers: Age of Ultron has the characters and humour to pull it off.

When your team comprises of individuals who have saved the world several times before, you imagine you're pretty invincible. The Avengers are portrayed as the mighty bad-guy-busters with their enemies going through the motions, but inevitably rolling over. That's not much fun, where's the challenge?

While they seem on top of the world, one mission to retrieve Loki's sceptre hits some hurdles and leaves the team stunned after an encounter with some equally gifted counterparts. After some "playing God" meddling from the conflicted Tony Stark sees the birth of a fully aware AI in Ultron, things go from worse to cataclysmic.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a comic book movie and Whedon gives audiences an experience that seamlessly laces the frames together as such. There are some great one-liners, plenty of "WHAAM!" moments with a similar beginning-middle-end climax formula to The Avengers. Fan boys will be delighted with the blend, tipping the hat to The Avengers and using every dollar of its $250 million budget to concoct action extravaganzas.

At 142 minutes, it's a barrage of non-stop comic book action, jocular fun and dense sci-fi fantasy philosophy musing. The performances are slightly weary and not quite as exuberant as in The Avengers, but they'd probably put that down to the character's disposition.

Robert Downey Jr. still has cheek, but seems to have lost some of the rock star sparkle from Iron Man. While The Avengers could have been subtitled, "The Iron Man Show", this is more of a 'together' effort, a highlighted and recurring theme. If there's any scene-stealer, it's the digital Ultron voiced by a perfectly cast James Spader, a villain who could've been a worthy adversary in just about any sci-fi action thriller franchise.

Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner's characters, Black Widow and Hawkeye, get more prominent and welcome story time, possibly making up for their supporting superhero status, without their own films. Mark Ruffalo seems more at war with himself than previously, trying to tame the Beast and Chris Evans is Mr. Dependable playing the typical upstanding, by-the-book straight man.

The visual effects are extraordinary, achieving the impossible without losing touch with the audience. While permeating almost every frame and losing us in this variation of life as we know it, they hold up and convey so much action carnage that you can't blink. It does become a little overwhelming at times, but it's offset by some gravity-enforcing comedic and dramatic interludes.

While Marvel's The Avengers has its own original flavour, this sequel isn't fresh. Apart from the perpetual need to demolish cities that we've seen in Transformers, Man of Steel, Godzilla, Pacific Rim and a myriad of other contemporary films, Age of Ultron echoes films like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transformers and the Terminator series.

You don't have to look much further than the burgeoning ensemble of superheroes looking to recruit more worthy allies for their special facility and the army of tin men driven by a transient alien intelligence for examples of cross-franchise-pollination.

It would have been great if they'd spent more time with Ultron. James Spader's character and complexity deserved more unpacking and there would have been more tension if the film-makers had given Ultron and agenda more time to gestate. Moving gradually from ally to unstoppable villain, a devil trajectory, would have made all the difference.

While drawn-out and tethered to the familiar, this is still a full-on superhero actioner that packs a punch, generates many laugh-out-loud moments and builds upon the blockbuster success of The Avengers. It may not have the heart or novelty of the original, but Avengers: Age of Ultron is a team effort, a strong sequel, a beautifully constructed blockbuster and a film that delivers on most of its promises.

The bottom line: Entertaining

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