One of this year’s most hotly anticipated movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron finally powers its way into cinemas in Dubai on Wednesday April 29. Following on from the biggest superhero movie ever made, director Joss Whedon, who was at the helm of both, has reassembled his all-star cast to suit up and save the world all over.
Fan-favourite Robert Downey Jr. reprises his groundbreaking portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man (a character, you may remember, everyone said wouldn’t work on the big screen before the first Iron Man came out in 2008) for the fifth time, and this time around, the odds are higher than ever. ‘There’s all this unfinished business,’ Downey Jr. tells us. ‘There’s the matter of a certain wormhole that opened over New York [in the last movie] and the imminent threat that still implies, so Tony has turned his attentions towards a bit of a post-Reagan era, Star Wars-type notion that he likes to call Ultron.’
Right from the gestation of The Avengers series, Downey Jr. found a kinship with writer and director Whedon’s brilliant original screenplay, that somehow achieved the impossible: building a compelling, singular narrative around a bunch of the most dramatically different characters in movie history. ‘And, to me, this one is further developing the complexities of the relationships between all the main folks. I like that Thor has a beef with me and then eventually has to say I’m right. It’s just interesting and the way it all wraps up to me is super-exciting, but, strangely, my favourite part about Avengers: Age of Ultron is what’s brought into potential at the end,’ he teases with a smile.
Despite the series’ gargantuan success – not to mention the career uplift he has enjoyed off the back of it – returning to the fold this time was bittersweet for Downey Jr. ‘This time around, I felt like I really got closer with the cast members, and Joss and I are pals,’ he says. ‘But more than any other of the Marvel movies, for me, I feel like this is a feeling of an ending of an era and the beginning of another. Obviously some of that is informed by the new blood coming through, with Elizabeth Olsen [as Scarlett Witch] and Aaron Taylor-Johnson [as Quicksilver], and I welcome it. So there’s a sense that we’ve been around just long enough to be a guard that may or may not be passing or changing.’
Those new kids on the block, the orphaned siblings with deadly powers that will, initially at least, go up against the Avengers, will undoubtedly shake things up for Tony and co. ‘Absolutely,’ says Downey Jr. ‘Tony knows The Avengers; they are the superheroes that he has been in the trenches with. He’s only really just gotten over his mild dose of post-traumatic stress disorder [seen in Iron Man 3], so to have something like a Scarlet Witch whispering in one ear and a Quicksilver bolting and flashing past the other is a little bit like, “Hmm”. Are they friends or foes?’
As for Tony Stark’s place on The Avengers team this time around, Downey Jr. deadpans: ‘I don’t know of anyone in the history of any superhero franchise who seems to never run out of money... Tony’s footing the bill and he can swing it, obviously. The real thing is that he wants to localise, look after and nurture this necessary counterbalancing faction, which is The Avengers, and have them all where they are. Then there’s part of him that’s still the designer and the tweaker and a bit of an engineer and the mechanic who just wants to help them all do things a little bit better than they are.’
The crucial relationship to keep your eye on this time out is that between Tony and Captain America (Chris Evans), with the two rumoured to be going up against each other, both ideologically and physically, in next year’s Captain America: Civil War. ‘There are really only two relationships in Tony’s life in which he’s been willing to assume a lower status,’ says Downey Jr. ‘One’s with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), obviously – equal footing – and the other’s with Cap. Tony’s bringing a lot to the table and Cap has the most experience. It’s also nice to feel like there’s someone under whose tutelage you become better at what you have to do and no one’s more battle-seasoned than Cap in that respect.’
Working once again with the same actors whose classic characters populate the dynamic Marvel Cinematic Universe (abbreviate to MCU for maximum nerd points) definitely has an upside as well. ‘There’s a closeness, and I guess we’re getting into that realm and territory that folks have on the Potters or the Bonds.’
The 007 and Harry Potter comparisons aren’t thrown in lightly, either. Here is a franchise that is set to run and run. With or without its leading man. ‘I’ve been talking with Kevin Feige (the Marvel Studios chief) and some of the creatives, and there are some really good ideas [moving forward]. It’s been this thing where some part of it was just smart luck, and then the rest of it has been this thing that’s gently unfolded, and at the right pace to keep working. So whatever the future holds, I want it to be one that works for the highest good.’
When fans sit down in cinemas to see Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Downey Jr. has a simple hope: that people will say just ‘Wow’.
‘I hope they feel as good about this as they did when they saw the third Iron Man, or when they saw the most recent Captain America and Thor films, and feel that there’s still more to say and more to do,’ he says. ‘This movie is incredibly fun and thoughtful and has great themes and there’s a whole bunch of new people. So, you know, that’s my seal of approval...’
Avengers: Age of Ultron is out in cinemas across Dubai from April 29.