Avengers: Age Of Ultron | 2015
- DIRECTOR |
- Joss Whedon
- CAST |
- Robert Downey Jr,
- Scarlett Johansson,
- Chris Hemsworth,
- James Spader,
- Chris Evans,
- Mark Ruffalo,
- Jeremy Renner,
- Paul Bettany,
- Elizabeth Olsen,
- Aaron Taylor-Johnson,
- Samuel L Jackson,
- Don Cheadle,
- Andy Serkis,
- Claudia Kim,
- Anthony Mackie,
- Thomas Kretschmann,
- Stellan Skarsgard,
- Henry Goodman,
- Hayley Atwell,
- Idris Elba,
- Cobie Smulders
After the collapse of SHIELD at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the mismatched team comes under more strain than usual when the personal project of gung-ho entrepreneur Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) to launch an ambitious peace keeping programme goes disastrously haywire.
The mega Jarvis 2.0 upgrade, called Ultron (voiced by James Spader), comes with those drawbacks of massively superior artificial intelligence, single-minded megalomania coupled with a snarkily superior attitude.
The problems start after the Avengers team raids the Hydra Research Facility situated in the almost-believable but totally fictitious eastern European country of ‘Sokovia’.
The initial attack is launched via Hawley Woods, off Fernhill Road south of Blackwater in Hampshire, and a few miles south in the much-used Bourne Wood (used for the motorbike chase), near Farnham in Surrey – seen in Gladiator, War Horse, The Wolfman and Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows.
Their objective is to capture the mightily powerful Sceptre of Loki, held in Hydra’s Control Building, which is Fort Bard, a 19th century fortified complex above the town of Bard, north of Turin in northwest Italy. It stands on the Baltea River guarding the entrance to the Aosta Valley and, after years of neglect, the fort was has been restored and opened in 2006 as the Museum of the Alps.
The signs in the 'Sokovian' town, which the team thoughtfully evacuates, are written in the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, but that’s just for the film. The town is Aosta itself, about 20 miles northwest of Fort Bard. The city is famed for its Roman ruins, which you can glimpse in the film, on Via Torino, east of Piazza Plouves.
Tony Stark manages to get the sceptre, but the raid inadvertently releases the twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a couple of gifted youngsters being held by Hydra.
It’s back for celebratory revels to Stark Tower – now rebranded as the Avengers Tower, the CGI construction overlooking the Chrysler Building in New York. The tower’s interior is an enormous multi-level set (one of the largest ever built for a Marvel film) at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton in Surrey.
Arrogantly going it alone, Stark harnesses the power of the sceptre while it’s temporarily in their control, to complete his Ultron project, to ensure ‘Peace in our time’.
As always seems to happen in films, robotic intelligence deduces that the real impediment to world peace is the human race itself, and Ultron immediately begins to formulate his own plans, attacking the Avengers crew, heading back to Sokovia, recruiting the Maximoff twins and building himself a new body.
Guessing that Ultron is going to need vibranium, the super-dooper metal from which Captain America’s shield is made, the Avengers head off to the African country of ‘Wakanda’ and the shipyard of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), where the precious material is stored in the bowels of a ship.
In fact, the salvage yard is the toxic Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard in Bangladesh, on the coast north of Chittagong itself (the shot was captured by a second unit).
Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch uses her powers of mind manipulation to disrupt the team disturbing flashbacks and premonitions.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is confused to find himself back in the 1940s with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), in the scarlet splendour of the Rivoli Ballroom, 350 Brockley Road, Brockley, South London. Originally built as a picture palace in 1913, it’s the only intact 1950s ballroom in London. The Rivoli’s barrel-vaulted ceiling, plush red velvet gold-framed walls, crystal chandeliers and Chinese lanterns become the Krays' 'Esmeralda's Barn' nightclub in Brian Helgeland's Legend, with Tom Hardy as both Ron and Reggie, and were also seen in My Week With Marilyn, in the excellent (if little seen) romcom This Year’s Love and in David A Stewart’s turkey Honest. Its bar became the ‘East Berlin’ club where Brad Pitt stops off in Tony Scott’s Spy Game.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is meanwhile having apocalyptic visions of Asgard and Heimdall (Idris Elba). You might recognise the chunky stone pillars and arched windows of the Norse world as the Church of St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, London EC1.
The reason the church may be familiar to moviegoers is that it’s appeared in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (with Robert Downey Jr as the great detective), Neil Jordan’s The End Of The Affair, Shakespeare in Love and many other productions.
The enraged Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is wound up enough to release his inner Hulk, taking out his frustration on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa, where Iron Man faces him in his enormous Hulk Buster suit.
Continuing the current trend for blockbuster movies to extend their markets by finding an excuse to relocate the plot east – to the Chinese facility, or to that guy in Abu Dhabi – the escaped Ultron determines to upload himself into a synthetic body being created in the ‘U-Gin Genetics’ laboratory run by Dr Cho (Claudia Kim). And that would be in Seoul, South Korea, of course.
The facility is the Saebit Dungdungseom, a brand new (as in 2011) convention centre built on the largest of three an artificial islands on the Han River around Banpo Hangang Park.
The cradle is whisked away by truck, with the Avengers in pursuit, leading to the enormous set piece chase sequence around Seoul, including the the Gangnam Subway Station intersection (yes, the district giving its name to that song), the Mapo Grand Bridge, Cheongdam Grand Bridge, and the Digital Media City in Sangam-dong.
The college previously appeared as the nursing home in Merchant-Ivory production Howards End, and is seen in all its extravagant Victorian Gothic glory in the wonderfully daft Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction.
Thor uses the power of his hammer to overload the Ultron programme, releasing the Vision (Paul Bettany), a kind of benign Ultron-Jarvis 3.0 mash-up, to aid them.
The fight is taken back to Sokovia, where Ultron’s crazed plan is to levitate the entire city in order to bring it crashing back to earth as an extinction level event.
The ruined church and the centre of the city were constructed at the extensive training area of Peel Centre, the Hendon Police College, Aerodrome Road in Colindale, north London. The grounds were in effect used as a huge backlot, where much of the climactic final battle is staged.
The gallery, containing a collection of world art, does look suitably futuristic but in fact was designed in the Seventies by architect Norman Foster, now Lord Foster. It opened in 1978, although the mysterious curved row of windows which seem to rise from the lawn is the only external sign of a substantial extension added in 1991.