My Rating: *** out of **** B
From my review on FlickSided
Joss Whedon’s first Avengers film was the epic finish to Marvel’s big screen Phase One, herding all of the franchise’s seemingly unrelated elements in a stimulating, rewarding whole. Avengers: Age of Ultron, though, has a distinct mid-season feel to it, telling a compelling but never game-changing story while laying the pillars for the epic, two-part Infinity War due in 2018.
“I don’t want to hear the ‘man was not meant to meddle’ medley,” snarks Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), a.k.a. Iron Man. What he actually does want is “peace in our time,” and he thinks he knows just how to get it: by separating next-level artificial intelligence and imbuing his Iron Legion of peacekeeping robots with a harmless intellect that will joyfully put the Avengers away from the world-saving enterprise. However Stark’s mad science—whipped up in tandem with Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), a.k.a the Hulk—goes crooked with lightning-quick speed: the resulting intelligence Ultron (James Spader) has its own harmful notions of what it means to save the planet and get rid of the need for Avengers.
Along with Stark and Banner, the sequel reunites Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), as well as a gaggle of other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters. Orphan-twin newbies Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) add to the intrigue, and this time actor Paul Bettany graduates from voice-over talent (supercomputer J.A.R.V.I.S.) to a visible role with a Watchmen-esque flair.
Though the film’s astonishing scope disallows any great depth, Whedon does a heckuva juggling act. In part, that means winningly cramming in questions about the superhero-industrial complex and the duties therein at a time when mankind is thinking critically about the disturbing collateral damage trade-offs of modern fighting, and extinction-level threats to our existence. Scarlet Witch puts it to Stark: “Ultron can’t tell the difference between saving the world and destroying it. Where do you think he got that from?”
Age of Ultron is marginally worse than its predecessor, although through acts of sheer wit and will on the part of Whedon, is not a complete disappointment. Whedon has made known that his first cut ran for well above three hours, and it shows: Ultron feels excessively nipped and tucked, barreling from one intense set-piece to the next, leaving ideas half-formed and character motivations shadowy. While the introduction of new superheroes like Quicksilver and the confusingly multi-talented Scarlet Witch may rouse comic fans, it makes for such a busy field, that even star participants like Thor and Captain America are put to the sidelines.
This $280 million picture undoubtedly poses tremendously challenging logistics, and Whedon tames the beast into something spectacularly epic, if a bit grueling: packed with destructive chaos but grounded by appealing character beats, rife with dark implications but seasoned with superb wittiness (ever wonder what an Avengers cocktail party is like?).
Just about everything Whedon did so well on the first meeting of these Marvel comic book creations he does once again, which makes for a movie both fulfilling and somewhat tedious. In a film where the struggle to make a better future is a fixation, Whedon can’t quite escape the dictates of this franchise’s profitable past.
What transpires? Another pitched battle in a city’s ruins with the Avengers once again heroically taking on a immense army of faceless adversaries. Whedon shrewdly uses wisecracks and close-ups to interrupt the picture’s immense array of computer effects, so that the valuable all-star cast are never taken over by digital kneading, but the thrills here are generally familiar.
Bottom Line: Avengers: Age of Ultron, is a perfectly good sequel, but when/where does it all end? Will it ever? More, More, More, More...