This is it. No more origin stories. No more unlikely heroes come together at the last minute: it's on. The Avengers are an established team, and they're back to kick a whole planet's worth of arse in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. In case you're wondering, it's practically perfect.
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Editor's Note: This review contains spoilers. If you want a spoiler-free review before you go see the movie, check that out here.
The story of Age Of Ultron is nothing new.
Tony Stark posits the idea that The Avengers can't be fighting every threat that comes to Earth looking for a fight, so he creates an artificial intelligence called The Ultron Program. As soon as Ultron achieves consciousness, things start to go wrong. Ultron fries JARVIS, uploads himself to the cloud and starts to replicate in metal bodies all over the world.
Ultron's mission is "peace", and his interpretation of peace is to destroy the warmongering Avengers, before then eradicating human life on the planet for their sins.
Humans have been creating movie robots that want to destroy humanity for decades. The coolest thing about the story this time around is how the concept is made fresh and fun by Ultron and his army of empty Iron Man drone suits.
Despite the fact that this is all pretty much Tony Stark's fault, the film is revolves around the whole team, rather than just Iron Man as with the first Avengers film.
It's great to see more attention paid to the team as a whole. Hawkeye plays a much larger role, and Captain America clearly emerges as the leader and creamy moral centre of the team.
The Avengers aren't just arse-kicking superheroes in this film. It's more than just a team of good-looking people looking forlorn while Nick Fury barks cliched orders at them. They get to interact with each other and start forming real relationships, rather than fighting all the time like they did in the last film. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark work together as lab buddies and also get into an amazing fight (HULKBUSTER!). Black Widow and The Hulk get into a relationship. We meet Hawkeye's family and figure out why Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch want The Avengers dead. Everyone has so much more to do in Age Of Ultron. Just on those last two: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are fantastic additions to the team, but Aaron Johnson can't hold a candle to Evan Peters' Quicksilver in Days Of Future Past.
It's also nice to see how all of these characters interact with the rest of the Marvel universe. There are tonnes of cameos in Age Of Ultron. Even minor ones make you smile. Like the nerdy computer tech who refused to launch the Hydra Insight Helicarriers in The Winter Soldier. He's now one of the lead techs on the new S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier. The only stars who fail to lend cameos to the film are Emily Van Camp (The Winter Soldier), Natalie Portman (Thor) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man). They're talked about, but never seen. It would have been perfect to get everyone back in the mix, even just for a few scenes, but it was not meant to be.
It's really enjoyable to watch a superhero movie that isn't an origin story. We've seen all of these people get together for so long that watching them fight side-by-side is like nerd porn. Despite the fact that they're a fully-fledged superhero unit and start out on top in Age Of Ultron, the Avengers still have a serious fight on their hands once Ultron achieves consciousness and builds himself a body. It's only when the team creates Vision using the Infinity Stone found within Loki's sceptre that they start to get the upper hand.
Cue the largest and craziest robot versus Avengers battle you've ever seen.
The arrival of Vision into the franchise is excellent, and it's great to be reminded of the Infinity Stone storyline and fold Guardians Of The Galaxy into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, because it's a Joss Whedon movie, somebody we like dies. It's just how it goes.
It's not all serious faces and explosions, though: there are also more Whedon-esque laughs in Age Of Ultron than ever. This movie is so much fun!
The best thing about Age Of Ultron is what it means for the broader Avenger-verse. With Guardians of the Galaxy now in play, it's the whole galaxy versus Thanos and his ever-growing Infinity Gauntlet. The first part of Avengers: Infinity War -- the next movement in the Avenger-specific sequence -- doesn't happen until May 2018: three years from now. Between now and then we're going to see Captain America and Iron Man face off in the Civil War, and bring the Ragnarok storyline to life in the Thor franchise, which will be super-interesting.
What's amazing about Age Of Ultron is the last three minutes: how in one swift stroke, the film goes from farewelling our existing heroes to welcoming new ones: the New Avengers are happening in the Marvel Universe, and that's awesome.
Sure, the New Avengers are all different (there's no Ben Grimm, Spiderman, Luke Cage or Wolverine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), but that's ok. It's a new team of superheroes we get to watch kick-ass in future titles. Plus from a Hollywood perspective, it also means we're likely to see more cameos from the New Avengers now that they aren't made up of some of the most expensive stars in the business.
The last line of this review is so hard to write. So many great things happen in this movie. There are cameos all over the place from previous Marvel films; puzzle pieces that fit into place beautifully and a twist that actually made me yelp when I saw it in the theatre (#nerd). I can't encourage you enough to go and see it.
If Marvel never made a movie again, this would be the perfect place to cap it off at. Marvel will make more movies, but that doesn't stop this one being any less incredible, especially if you've read the comics.
The Avengers: Age Of Ultron is in cinemas tomorrow.
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