How can you expect to follow up the biggest superhero movie ever made which was also one of the highest grossing films of all-time? Avengers: Age of Ultron sets out to answer that question. Director Joss Whedon has brought together the same cast we fell in love with in 2012 and adds a few new faces to change up the formula and ultimately surpass the greatness achieved in the original The Avengers.
Avengers: Age of Ultron wastes no time catching you up on past movies you may have missed and doesn’t bother setting up an intricately twisted web of plotlines. Instead, we open with Earth’s mightiest heroes in full force out on a mission to raid a Hydra base. Part of the joy in this sequel is seeing the Avengers really operate as a team. The payoff of the original ensemble outing was watching each individual overcome their own issues to form the team we know today. Three years later, we open with the experienced Avengers looking better than ever. This team dynamic allows for some clever banter between the action that fleshes out these characters as not only teammates but great friends. Another great example is some of the killer ‘combo moves’ we see pulled off, particularly between Captain America’s shield and Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjolnir.
The opening action sequence ends in victory for our heroes, having reclaimed Loki’s staff, but an encounter with the enhanced Maximoff twins has Tony Stark shaken up. Aaron Taylor Johnson’s Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch come off as creepy and damaged while their backstory lends to their feeling of animosity towards the Avengers and Stark in particular. They are unsettling foes early on, but the real villain is born from one of Stark’s own creations, the artificial intelligence Ultron.
With James Spader providing the voice for the antagonist, Ultron sticks out as an intimidating and sometimes terrifying addition to the MCU. His birthing sequence features some of the most creative and yet disturbing imagery from a Marvel movie. However, Ultron’s purpose is quite simply ‘beat the Avengers’. He is created, escapes, and sets out on a global adventure to cause chaos in a matter of minutes. For every second the titular robot is on screen he has a commanding presence, but when he’s off-screen, his muddled motivations make him seem like less of a threat.
What really sets this film apart from the first one are the character arcs we get to see our heroes go through. Throughout this movie, each Avenger has to question what it means to be part of a superhero team like this one. Iron Man wants to protect the world from cosmic threats at any cost, Cap feels the need to save every civilian whenever possible, and Hulk deals with the guilt of being an enormous green rage monster. The character who benefits the most from all this introspection is Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, who wasn’t given much to do at all in the first movie. Hawkeye gets plenty of great moments here, including a surprise reveal about halfway through that gives his character much more depth.
Every character feels like an integral member of the team and their relationships heighten the humor and the action on-screen. Whedon has done the impossible again and balanced a huge cast to give every hero their chance to shine and still gives the movie a cohesive plot. Age of Ultron moves at a breakneck speed and some things happen pretty conveniently (especially Nick Fury’s random return) but it never feels like a mess or fails to entertain.
This movie is filled with incredible action sequences that manage to consistently top each other. The Hulkbuster fight in particular is one of the most memorable scenes from Marvel to date. Seeing Iron Man suit up to fight the Hulk is something fans have been dying to see and it is well worth the wait to watch these two giants collide. You can’t help but feel bad for Bruce Banner during this sequence though, and it adds a real tension to their fight.
Banner and Black Widow are apparently now romantically involved and some of their scenes contain some cringe worthy dialogue. There are moments where I thought I was watching Attack of the Clones when these two were talking. It’s a strange development that comes out of nowhere, but ends up making both of their characters more interesting and tragic.
The only characters that really get shunned here are the Maximoff twins. They’re paired up with Ultron for most of the movie and don’t have the opportunity to do much except scowl from the background for the first two hours. Still, Quicksilver is perfectly arrogant and Scarlet Witch’s powers lend to some intense moments when she gets inside the Avenger’s heads. Hopefully future films let us explore these characters more. There is one more character who is absent from most of the movie’s marketing for good reason, but when he shows up in the final act he practically steals the show.
Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron tops the first film with better action, more spectacle, and deeper characters. We get a lot of teases for both Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, and we learn a lot more about the Infinity Stones we’ve been teased with. The mid-credits tease is a bit weak, as any knowledgeable fan will have seen it coming. But the way this movie ends leaves many exciting possibilities for future films. The sequel can’t help but feel like filler before the next step in the Marvel universe, but it’s still a damn good time at the movies.