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Director: Joss Whedon Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans & Chris Hemsworth Synopsis: When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans Rating: 12A Run time: 141 minutes Release date: 23 April (UK)

Editors note: Minor spoilers within.

It’s been a mere seven years since Iron Man hit our screens, promising team-ups and the acceptance that superhero films can exist and share the same world. Since then there have been no less than 10 films released that have formed a part of this shared universe. With many more to come and one only a few months away, it does beg the question of have we had enough yet? Avengers: Age of Ultron does not answer that question, nor should it, but it does provide another huge payday for Marvel and keeps up their recent form of producing hit after hit.

In many ways, Age of Ultron is the most comic book of film of its kind. The action scenes are pure splash page material, the dialogue is short yet crisp with the odd inspirational speech thrown in, and the plot is, well the plot is just about there. The thing that Age of Ultron really has going for it though, is its characters. Whether old hats or new recruits, the films survives on their knowing interactions with each other. Director Joss Whedon is a proven master of mentoring large casts, and that is shown here once more.

Whedon’s clever word play and his deep knowledge of what motivates these characters keeps the film ticking when other, less vigilant hands may let the film wander into pure exposition. He even manages to subvert certain elements of the film and its genre traits, that gives the audience a few surprises along the way. Maybe then it’s little surprise that the films best moments are not in its many action scenes, but in the quieter moments in-between. Finding out why the Black Widow thinks she is as much of a monster as Bruce Banner’s alter ego, or what Tony Stark’s greatest fear is, provide as much impact as the Hulk being pummelled by Iron Man’s newest suit of armour.

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Handling such a large cast, with multiple plot threads from several of Marvel’s previous films was never going to be easy though. The core cast remains largely unchanged, with Captain America, Thor and Iron Man going about with business as usual. Bruce Banner seems to be going through another crisis and struggles to accept the other guy and the damage he can do, while the Black Widow provides a counter point to this and their relationship remains interesting throughout the film.

One of the surprises in Age of Ultron however, is Hawkeye. The man with the bow and arrows was somewhat of a bit player last time out, but here he gets many of the best lines, while providing an emotional centre in a cast of impossible heroes. He is supported by newcomers Pietro & Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson & Elizabeth Olsen), twins who have been experimented on at the hands of HYDRA and whose torturous tale goes back to Marvel’s early days when Stark Industries was in the war mongering business. Paul Bettany is finally allowed to show us what he can do, after spending three films as Tony Stark’s virtual butler Jarvis, and his fully bodied character, The Vision, could become one of the most important characters in Marvel’s cinematic universe.

Of course, no review would be complete without a mention to James Spader as Ultron. His voice work here eloquent yet terrifying, giving real menace to his CGI body. As Ultron has no doubt taken traits from his creator Tony Stark, it is always exciting when the two of them share the screen, as their egos form parallels with each other that they both refuse to see.

With so much going on, it would be impossible for the film to be without fault. Age of Ultron has to juggle elements of the films that have come before it, while also serving to build up what lies ahead. The ending is also becoming a far too repetitive thing for Marvel, as once more an aerial threat must be averted in order to prevent a catastrophe. Therefore Age of Ultron can feel uneven in parts, especially in the films first half, with Whedon having the unenviable task of trying to fit everything in, while also telling a new story. But despite all this, Age of Ultron is never anything less than fun, and provides the most pure cinematic experience since, well, Avengers: Assemble.

In summary: Avengers: Age of Ultron provides everything a summer blockbuster should, while giving comic book fans the ultimate in fan service.

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