As John Heywood once said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Of course in this case, Rome would be the equivalent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The end goal of Marvel Studios was to get these heroes to team up for the very first time and create this universe. The idea to team up all these heroes together after each of them getting their own film was never heard of. Sure the first X-Men or Fantastic Four films featured a team of heroes, but their origins pegged them together. In the case of 2012’s The Avengers, it was an idea that many were skeptical of every happening. It wasn’t until 2008 at the end of the original Iron Man when Samuel L. Jackson wanted to talk about the Avengers initiative. The rest is history as Marvel’s The Avengers not only worked, but soared both critically and financially. So, how do you top that? Naturally you must get bigger and set higher stakes which is what Joss Whedon does with Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film isn’t perfect by any means nor is it Marvel’s best yet but it is great and definitely better than its predecessor.
Since the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) seems obsessed with the black hole he threw a nuclear missile into to save New York and nearly died in, and wants to protect the world without having to fight. Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) decide to create this Artificial Intelligent being named Ultron (voiced by James Spader) whose sole mission is to keep the world at peace. Unfortunately, this mission is taken in a different way as Ultron believes that the only way to achieve peace would be to end the human race. This forces the Avengers to assemble (sorry…) with Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) Iron Man, Hulk, and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) again.
I’m going to be upfront here and say that while a lot of people loved the first Avengers film, I wasn’t one of them. I liked it a lot and own it even. Nevertheless, I felt that at times it wasn’t all that great like many thought it was. That film didn’t balance all the characters as well as I’d like and takes a while to kick start. In Age of Ultron, the film decides to kick start the action from the get-go. The action sequence is great as they attempt to fight this Hydra army in the forest, yet I felt like I needed more of an explanation there. This felt a little too quick to jump start but that’s simply a nitpick.
My real issue with the film is that the film feels too episodic, rather than feeling like a movie. This is really an issue with the MCU as a whole and unfortunately Avengers: Age of Ultron suffers a bit from that. The little moments that I loved from the first Avengers film aren’t as abundant. There are nice moments that further Hawkeye, Black Widow and Banner but the newcomers, Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) don’t get much other than a few moments of dialogue explaining their origins. They simply feel like pawns and never really add much in terms of character until the 3rd act. The other big issue I had was the Banner and Natasha romance as none of the previous films gave any sort of hints to this idea and it’s not even in the comics. It feels too forced at times, but there is a sense that since both of them are misfits in their own ways, that they would make a decent pair. Some won’t mind it but I just really get with this romance.
The titular character, Ultron is wonderfully portrayed by James Spader who gives him a very charming personality. Ultron doesn’t seem to be that menacing villain who just wants to kill humanity, he is essentially Tony Stark gone evil. It’s noted that his personality lines up with Stark, which is a nod to the relationship between Stark, the creator and Ultron, his creation. The trailers all gave off this much darker vibe with Ultron as the villain, but ultimately it’s not that much darker. Granted it is much darker than the 1st film but nowhere near the darkness that DC movies seem to be. The only real issue I had with the titular villain would be that his origins felt rush. Once he becomes Ultron, I thought he was great but during the creation of Ultron and his birth, it never felt as organic as I’d like. Plus the situation with Ultron also brings up bigger, darker questions with the impact technology (i.e. Social Media, cell phones, laptops) has on our everyday life and whether humanity is actually hurting the world around us. The first film was simply a fun B-movie with the child-like admiration of putting all these heroes together but Whedon attempts to ask deep questions in this giant blockbuster.
The film’s action sequences are much better this time around as the beginning and final battles feature a one shot like sequence. Each action sequence never feels repetitive yet there is a sense of exhaustion with each battle. The Hulk vs Hulk-buster sequence and the final battle are pretty great and they also manage to say something to the Man of Steel lovers about saving the people during these battles. And the entire Avengers crew bounces off each other well, showing that the series has grown since the first time we saw all these guys grace the big screen.
Ultimately, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a worthy successor to its predecessor and for me, it’s better. The film has its issues and feels a bit rushed in the beginning but it’s a very entertaining, well-balanced blockbuster that never overstays its welcome. It does feel a bit episodic at times but that’s the after effects of the entire MCU. As a Marvel film, of course you have those moments that have to set up the future of the series and some never feel out of place while others do. If you are a big marvel fan, you’ll love it. If you aren’t, this movie won’t win you over. Ultimately, it’s great way to kick off the summer movie season and is better than the last 2 summer kick-off films as well.
(Images via Box Office Mojo & Collider.com)