The gang’s all back together and then some as director Joss Whedon and company try to top the commercial and critical success of Marvel’s The Avengers. There’s a lot going on inside this mega follow up. New characters, all kinds of subplots to aid into Marvel phase 3 flicks, and the ante has been upped with all the major action sequences. The story is way too crowded, the battle scenes are pretty flat, yet somehow Avengers: Age of Ultron overcomes its sequel shortcomings to be an overall satisfying experience, especially for the hard core comic fans. The strength of this movie is in Whedon’s seemingly resolute duty to uphold and embrace the very reason the genre exists – comic books. There’s some goofy stuff in here and the silly parts of Age of Ultron prove to be its best moments. The cast and crew had no easy task here to try ann top the original. The Avengers still stands out to me as one best of this genre and can be looked at as the main reason why the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown into the multiplex behemoth it is today. We check in with the crew comfortably nestled into their new roles as global protectors fresh off a successful mission to nab Loki’s scepter from Baron Von Strucker’s (Thomas Kretschmann) European fortress. They run into a few bumps in the road with Von Strucker unleashing the twin duo of Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), but they manage to get back to Avengers headquarters where they hold a victory soiree with posh surroundings, drinks, and a superhero/super-model guest list. The crew partakes in a few libations then take turns trying to wield Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) hammer. It appears that this might have been happening on the reg and could be The Avengers’ equivalent to the Saturday Night Live after party. Do superheroes get hangovers?
From the opening battle scene Age of Ultron is bigger and louder, but it never reaches ugly Transfomers sequel levels that I had feared after seeing the early footage from the trailers. The Avengers face off against the evil Ultron voiced by the great James Spader. Ultron starts off like we might get a memorable marvel villain, but much like Tom Hardy’s Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, he starts strong and then ends up as an afterthought and goes out with an unenthusiastic thud late in the third act. The artificial intelligence of Ultron is actually created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and the conflict that arises from that is just setting up the future “Civil War” storyline for Cap and Iron Man. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johannson) get bigger parts in this installment and we get a little more character development instead of them just feeling like placeholders as they did in the original. Although the two major battle sequences in the first and third act are very meh, the Avengers are still at their best when they quibble amongst themselves. Tony Stark’s smart-ass back and forths, great zings and one-liners among the team, and everybody continuing to give Captain America (Chris Evans) a hard time for being such an old fashioned prude (“Language!” Cap points out as Tony spits out an expletive over the radio) continue to add the levity that is very much at the heart of what keeps The Avengers fun and in the vein of the comics they came from. When Iron Man has to coral Hulk after he’s gone bezerk and the two of them tussle in a sea of collateral damage makes for one of the movie’s best sequences. Even though a lot has changed the same characters own the franchise. This is still very much Iron Man’s movie and he and The Hulk are what everyone will walk away talking about.
Age of Ultron brings a lot of new characters into The Avengers fold. Not only the aforementioned twins, but Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), just to name a few. A group of heroes and villains that make for a convoluted plot. The movie feels about 20 minutes too long and didn’t have enough room for all the additional new parts, but even though the “one movie split into two cash grab” is a regular pet peeve of mine in modern cinema, it may have actually served this story better. Joss Whedon left it all on the playing field here and comes up with mixed results, but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives as comic book fans should get all they want and more out of a giant blockbuster that never forgets that when it comes to superheroes there are no limitations and that in itself is an exhilarating form of art.