Let's get the spoiler-free review out of the way first, shall we. Avengers: Age of Ultron is a good movie with more than a couple touches of greatness along the way. Oddly enough, with so much hype and anticipation leading up to Avengers 2, it quickly becomes apparent that the movie is in a very tough position - with the fond memories of the happy-go-lucky good old days of the first Avengers movie being only one big hurdle standing in the movie's way.
This is a heavier-hearted Avengers movie and it many ways it has to be. That's not to say there isn't a lot of humor in the movie - there is plenty and there are at least two tremendous and memorable action scenes and throughout the 2+ hour running time you'll never find yourself bored or checking your watch. If you loved the first Avengers, you'll like Avengers 2. There's a chance you may love Age of Ultron as well - or you might be like me and realize that maybe there just wasn't a real chance that Avengers 2 could live up to the experience of that first time.
Avengers: Age of Ultron Spoiler-Free Review Ends Here
Things get off to a rousing start with the Avenger's descending upon Baron Von Strucker's snowy compound in the woods. We see all of the Avengers in action, Iron-Man flying around trying to take down the castle's defense system, Hulk doing some impressive bunker busting and all the members generally working in a beautiful unison to make quick work of what sounds like the final Hydra cell in operation. The action is a bit all over the place in this scene - it's not exactly well established where everyone is in relation to one another but you get swept up in the camaraderie regardless.
What the team doesn't count on is the Maximoff twins, Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), revealing themselves during the raid. Scarlet Witch quickly makes a show of her ambiguous powers by putting a whammy on Tony Stark as he's about to reclaim Loki's staff from Strucker's castle. Stark has a vision of all the Avengers dead or dying - with the words, "You could have saved us" hauntingly whispered to him. And so, the wheels of Ultron are in motion.
Ultron's Good Intentions
Tony and Bruce Banner quickly get to work on creating a program that would be a "suit of armor around the world" - but this artificially intelligent defense program quickly takes matters into its own hands, runs the numbers, and decides that the best way to truly help the world is to wipe out humanity and spur on the the next evolution in hopes the next species will be more enlightened. Ultron recruits the Maximoff twins, who hold a grudge against Stark since one of his missiles, from his pre-Iron Man days, killed their parents.
The first face off in Avengers: Age of Ultron takes place in a factory as Ultron is getting his hands on some vibranium courtesy of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). Klaue turns out to be one of the coolest new character introductions in the movie and before his deal with Ultron turns sour, they cleverly tease the possibility that we may see him again down the road. The confrontation does not go in the Avengers favor. Scarlet Witch easily sets about doing her mind games on most of the Avengers while Ultron keeps Iron Man busy. The most interesting of these is the look into Black Widow's tragic school for assassins childhood. But enough touchy-feely business - cue the Hulk rampage.
Calling Veronica & A Family Visit
Avengers: Age of Ultron is at it's best when writer/director Joss Whedon is able to take the cleverness he has with dialog and translate it to a playfulness with his action sequences. That is perhaps best expressed in the already famous "Hulkbuster" scene between Iron Man and a Hulk that has set about terrorizing downtown Johannesburg. The inventiveness of how the Hulkbuster system (codenamed Veronica here: as in, the opposite of Betty) is deployed and how it's various features are revealed is exactly the kind of stuff that every comic book fan dreams of possibly seeing on a big screen. And in that regard Avengers: Age of Ultron does not let you down.
After this big scene, and the quick defeat of the Avengers at the hands of Ultron and the Maximoff Twins, the team retreats to lick its wounds and do some regrouping. Well, aside from Thor, who needs to take off and look deeper into the vision that he was treated to by Scarlet Witch which featured a lot of doomsday prophesying for the folks of Asgard as well as a glimpse of the Infinity Gauntlet. The rest of the team is introduced to Hawkeye's secret family life (complete with wife, kids and tractor) in a brilliant bit of character background that adds a much needed sense of grounded, real-world concern to the proceedings. It's also during this halftime on the farm that Bruce Banner and Black Widow's flirting turns a bit more serious.
Avengers 2 does a great job on two important fronts - establishing a very interesting relationship between Bruce Banner/Hulk and his lullaby delivering Black Widow. And on the other side it sows the seeds for the showdown between Captain America and Iron Man in Civil War by reinforcing the opposing ideologies between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. The tension between Cap and Stark is peppered throughout the movie but it is perhaps best laid out when Stark is trying to defend his good intentions about Ultron and when the two of them are trying to distract themselves by chopping wood on Hawkeye's farm.
Nick Fury shows up to do some pep-talking and things quickly move to South Korea, where Ultron is looking to create the first step in this human evolution - a human/Ultron hybrid that, yes, eventually turns out to be the character of Vision (Paul Bettany). It's at this point the Maximoff Twins come to understand that Ultron is cuckoo bananas crazy and they're on the wrong team. They help out Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye when they show up to trade punches with Ultron and steal away the Vision prototype before it can be completed and at this point we're pretty much setting the stage for the big finale.
A Vision of a Big Finale
But before [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035) heads into the massive final showdown, the movie takes a moment to reveal its secret weapon. Yes, Vision is born - with the Infinity Stone from Loki's staff firmly planted in his forehead and his colorful and oddly textured skin making him an oddly fascinating thing to behold on screen. Tony and Bruce implanted Jarvis' program into his consciousness (or something like that), so he comes out of the womb with a full understanding of what is at stake. He's instantly the zen master of the group and his presence definitely adds some interesting twists into a final act that needs exactly that.
Final Chance to Skip the Big Spoilers!
Perhaps one of the odd decisions of Avengers: Age of Ultron is the setting and execution of the final showdown. It's revealed that Ultron used the vibranium to build a sort of island rocketship out of the Maximoff twin's Eastern European hometown. The city detatches from the Earth and slowly rises into the sky. Eventually it will reach a height big enough to come falling down and create an apocalyptic event - wiping out most of the Earth's population. In the grand scheme of wold ending plans by evil geniuses... I don't know, it's all a bit strangely anti-climactic.
This scenario means there's a lot of "evacuate the city" hullabaloo, but mostly it's just Avengers crushing and blowing up robot after robot. But Hawkeye does shine in this finale - giving Scarlet Witch a funny and rousing little speech about the inherent ridiculousness of the scenario and what it means to be an Avenger. When the wave after wave of robot destruction verges on becoming a bit boring, Joss Whedon wisely places some touching moments of humanity into the mix and it never strays too far into mindlessness. As odd as the floating city feels as a world threat, Whedon has set the stage for a grand finale when it comes to giving each character a final moment in the spotlight - including a special final moment that caused more than a few people in the theater I was in to shed some tears.
With the cloud city threat taken care of and Hulk deciding to hop in a jet and fly himself off the grid, we're treated to a very interesting coda for Avengers: Age of Ultron and more than a couple hints at what to expect for Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.
But perhaps most surprising was the final scene, showing Cap and Black Widow assembling the New Avengers of Vision, Falcon, War Machine and Scarlet Witch. Yes, this is the team we can expect to show up and be split apart in [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409). The fate of Thor and Hulk's membership in the team is set up to be put on the back-burner until Avengers: Infinity War, with Thor: Ragnarok falling in between and looking like it will play a big role in the Infinity Stone saga.
What do you think? How did Avengers: Age of Ultron live up to your expectations? Take to the comments or become a creator and write your won review!