Avengers: Age of Ultron is nonsense. But it is glossy, well-packaged and star-studded nonsense.

Following on from the defeat of Thor’s brother in the last film, the story revolves around Loki’s staff, an object of unspeakable power, which in a blitzkrieg of special effects is repatriated by the Avengers from a mountain fortress in a fictitious Sokovia. Instead of doing the sensible thing and crating it up in a warehouse with the Ark of the Covenant, the boffin duo of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) and David Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to harness its power through their super-computer Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany) to create a peace-keeping AI machine called Skynet, no sorry – wrong film – Ultron. This will allow them to all retire and lie on a beach somewhere, so in a way the whole plot is really about pension planning. Everything naturally turns pear-shaped when Ultron (like V’gur in Star Trek 1) decides that eradication of human life seems the most sensible course of action. It’s now down to The Avengers to put right the damage they’ve done.

Ultron really liked what he'd done with the place.
Ultron really liked what he’d done with the place.

I’m not a ‘fan-boy’ or even a ‘fan-man’, so a lot of the back stories of “SHIELD’ and the villainous Baron von Strucker went completely over my head. But these details really don’t matter: it’s not bloody Shakespeare. More perplexing are some of the diversions the film takes and the questions these raise:

  • What was going on with that South African tanker full of whatever it was (let’s call it McGuffinium)?
  • How did they even get hold of the McGuffium if it has anti-gravitational powers?
  • Why can’t Banner and Romanoff ‘get it on’ (although I can understand that if he got angry during sex that things could get – erm – messy)?
  • What exactly are Black Widow’s super-powers anyway (my wife suggested “a safe shag?”)?

So many questions with no answers in the convoluted screenplay by Joss Whedon (who also directed).

Black Widow, looking hotter that any motorbike chick has a right to look.
Black Widow, looking hotter that any motorbike chick has a right to look.

What kept the film entertaining, to a point, was the incessant banter between the characters, some of which worked and some of which didn’t. So much banter in fact I expected Chandler Bing to be credited as a co-screenwriter.  An Excaliber-style segment with Thor’s hammer is particularly entertaining.

The church congregation had been getting more varied in recent weeks.
The church congregation had been getting more varied in recent weeks.

Special effects are of the frantic ‘what the hell is going on on the screen’ variety. Where these work best is in the impressive slow-mo segments, notably a ‘money-shot’ in the opening of the film with all Avengers on the screen and a later fight scene in a Sokovian tower.

Avengers Assemble:  the money shot.
Avengers Assemble: the money shot.

All the acting is of the quality you would expect from the star-names on show, although many in the cast (e.g. Samuel L Jackson, Don Cheadle, Andy Serkis, Stellan Skarsgård and Idris Elba) have little more than cameo parts. In particular I wanted to see more of Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), the latter being mesmerising (in every sense of the word) in every scene she is in.

They'd been waiting for the number 11 bus for HOURS now.
They’d been waiting for the number 11 bus for HOURS now.

Overlong, at 141 minutes, this is a film squarely aimed at a teenage audience (who will no doubt love it) and old folks who are looking for a quieter and more sedate movie should flee far from this madding crowd. I had low expectations of this film, but as an early summer popcorn blockbuster it is not as bad as I expected it to be. Whatever I comment, however, is completely irrelevant as it is going to make a shed-load of money at the box office. With a budget of $250 million, it needs to, but as the first film grossed $1,500 million – the third highest in movie history – it’s probably a safe enough bet for the producers.

Fad Rating:  FFF.