To say that expectations were high for Avengers: Age of Ultron, the long-awaited sequel to 2012’s amazingly successful Avengers Assemble, would be something of an understatement. To say there were fears as to whether it could match the first film in terms of quality would to be a massive understatement. Whilst many a comic book fanboy has sat wishing the days till the film’s release to pass quicker, there’s also been that small tingle of dread, a fear that a sequel just couldn’t live up to the first.

Suffice to say, those fears were all for nought. Writer & Director Joss Whedon is a man who clearly knows what he’s doing and what needs to be done. Rightly so, Avengers: Age of Ultron not only exceeds expectations, but it also improves massively on what has gone before. Simply put, it kicks its predecessor’s arse!

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Unlike film one, which took its time in assembling its heroes together, Ultron hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. Whedon knows that the fans want to see the Avengers together, not separated, and he relishes in teaming them up on-screen, whether in a high-octane action sequences like the one that opens the film, or in less death-defying situations like the already famous hammer/party scene. There’s just something entirely wonderful about seeing those six heroes on-screen together, even this many years since the first film.

With a larger roster of characters, one would assume that some of the heroes would get less development and screen time then others. Not so. Unlike Avengers Assemble, which gave short thrift to characters like Hawkeye and Thor, Ultron gives every character a fair crack at the whip, especially Jeremy Renner’s spot-on portrayal of Hawkeye and Hemsworth’s hilarious Thor, but also newer characters like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson respectively). Every character is developed in some way, meaning audiences will walk away with new ideas, theories and understanding of characters already well built-up (Bruce Banner and Black Widow especially). Once again, Joss Whedon proves himself the master of the on-screen ensemble, building up and fleshing out fresh and established relationships whilst maintaining a constant sense of fun to proceedings. For a film with a list of main characters that reaches the double digits, it never feels overly crammed or bloated.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Fans expecting a darker take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will enjoy the film immensely, even if, like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, the film isn’t as dark as the trailer suggests. The level of fun, wit and humour on display is phenomenal, and yet said-lightness never derails the film in its darker moments. It’s a master-class of tonal perfection – a blockbuster balancing the fun, pathos and drama equally throughout with aplomb.

We could go on forever – James Spader’s superb mo-cap performance as highly imposing lead villain Ultron is glorious, the action sequences are breathless and inspired, the fan service and easter eggs peppered throughout a real treat. It may not set things up for Captain America: Civil War in the way one would expect, but it certainly paves the way for exciting and unexpected developments for future Marvel movies.