Avengers: Age Of Ultron came complete with a heavy weight of fan expectation, but geek hero Joss Whedon proves he is more than worthy to take up the mantle.
The movie literally gets a jump start with an action packed opening sequence featuring the whole team dispensing swift justice while attacking a Colditz style castle stronghold in search of a stone with awesome power.
We see Iron Man, Cap, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow swatting soldiers out of their path as if they were bargain bin Hydra Bob action figures from Woolworths in 1988.
Joss Whedon must have been wondering how he could escalate the movie from Loki’s mad marauders and alien invasion of New York in Avengers Assemble, but to his immense credit his movie never buckles under the burden of expectation.
The opening set piece sets a dazzling pace which harks back to Whedon’s first Avengers foray and captures the grace of the characters as if your imagination had just projected them from the pages of your favourite comic books on to the screen.
Fans might fear that the only way is down for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes after prising Loki’s sceptre back from Hydra, who had been performing experiments with it.
That is more or less what follows. After taking this cosmic fire, the team led by Tony Stark’s madness – suffer a Promethean fall from grace – exiled at the hands of the Zeus-like Ultron, an artificial intelligence programme with extinction of the human race top of his to do list.
The murder-bot is voiced with sneering aplomb by James Spader and sounds more than a little reminiscent of Michael Keaton’s unhinged heroic alter ego in the Oscar-winning Birdman.
His efforts are bolstered by two hesitant sidekicks, Elizabeth Olsen’s psychic and tele-kinetic Scarlet Witch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s super-fast Quicksilver – a deftly improved version of the character who made a lightening fast appearance in last year’s X-Men Days of Future Past.
The character of Ultron is a big departure from what he represents in the comics, not just a cold, calculating robot hell bent on destroying humanity. He now carries a touch of Tony Stark – with an abundance of wit and one liners.
The humour evident all the way through every one of the Marvel Studios films is an essential part of their successful formula.
Perhaps the best scene towards the start of the movie is watching the team trying to lift Thor’s hammer after a night of heavy drinking. The funniest moment features Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark and Don Cheadle’s War Machine sweating while Iron Man asks his sidekick: “Are you even on my team?”
This also sets up a crucial moment later in the movie for the entrance of a long awaited Avengers classic character, as of course, only those worthy enough and pure of heart may lift Mjolnir.
Another winning element in the mammoth Marvel movies is that they were seemingly made at exactly the right moment when CGI came of age and what better realm to suspend your disbelief and follow your mind’s eye into fantasy than these superhero stories.
The nightmares induced on the Avengers by Scarlett Witch are some of the most joyously visceral moments and provide an extra depth to each character and why they are such an important part of the bigger picture.
Also the climatic scene features the city Sokovia being torn from the ground and lifted miles into the air – making a visual reference to the six mile strip of Denver which is transported to Battle World in Secret Wars, all highly pleasing for the hard core fan boys.
But the greatest surprise in the film is the development of Hawkeye, who barely uttered more than a few lines in the first movie and Jeremy Renner must have been promised a bigger spotlight as he looked a little impatient in Avengers Assemble.
Yes, Hawkeye steps out from the shadows with some sharp one liners to go with his bow and arrow. He enjoys some hilarious interplay with Quicksilver including a moment when he’s tempted to shoot him and blame it on Ultron.
However, the scene stealing award goes to British actor Paul Bettany as Vision – what an entrance.
he also gets one of the funniest lines as a riposte to Ultron after being created and called naive: “Well, I was born yesterday.”
Buffy The Vampire creator Whedon is no stranger to creating chemistry on screen and sets to work on creating some great moments with The Hulk and Black Widow as they develop a romance and take solace in each other’s monstrous arms.
The moments when she calms the Hulk back into being Bruce Banner are so tender, you wonder whether they have been extended to cater for comics’ growing army of female fans.
Yes, the movie is a real crowd pleaser. Watch this space for a second viewing review, to get the most out of these movies, you have to watch them twice. Plus by then everyone will have picked up the Gauntlet of watching the mid credits scene.
Purple Revolver rating: 5 bullets
Avengers: Age of Ulton is showing now at Liverpool One Odeon – for times and tickets visit: http://www.odeon.co.uk/cinemas/liverpool_one/171/
Tune in to comics news on the Purple Revolver YouTube channel: