After three years and four Marvel Cinematic Universe films later, the Avengers have returned.
After the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Avengers have reassembled to take out any remaining Hydra bases. The film opens on an assault on a base in Sokovia, where Hydra leader Baron Von Strucker has possession of the scepter, Loki’s weapon from the first movie. The Avengers reclaim the weapon, but before Thor returns it to Asgard, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner use a mysterious artificial intelligence program within the scepter in hopes to perfect a peace keeping program they're been working on called Ultron. Unfortunately Ultron quickly becomes self-aware and realizes that the only way peace can be maintained is if the Avengers and humanity is wiped from existence. So it’s up to the Avengers to stand and fight an enemy that no single Avenger can take on alone.
When Marvel’s The Avengers came out in 2012, I absolutely loved it. I saw it four times in the theater and talked about it non-stop (at least until the new year). Not only was it my favorite movie of the year, but it was also my favorite superhero movie of all time. So you would imagine that my anticipation for the sequel will be astronomical. However I tried to keep my expectations neutral because there could always be a chance that it would be bad. Luckily that wasn't the case for me. While I don’t think it’s as amazing as the first movie was, or even some of the past Marvel films like Iron Man or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s definitely a well made and fun movie.
There are some improvements from the first movie however. Some of the characters get more time to develop, most notably Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. When the first movie came out, I was actually kind of shocked that everybody disregarded Hawkeye and thought of him as useless. I thought his character was actually a lot more important than people give him credit for, and this is the movie that definitely proves that. We get an understanding on why he’s fighting with people with god-like powers, when all he has to work with is a bow and arrow. Renner makes it believable and he proves to be one of the stand outs of the film.
We also get some more time with Bruce Banner and his relationship with the Hulk. In the comics, it’s usually the rest of the team that see’s the Hulk as a threat, despite being an absolute powerhouse. That’s what leads to the inevitable Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines. In the movie it’s changed to where the others see the enormous green rage monster as a strong alley in the right situation, but Banner is the one who still see’s it as a threat. I don’t mean to compare this movie to the comics since it should be able to stand by itself as a movie, but I think it’s a great change that adds more complexity to Bruce Banner. Mark Ruffalo still manages to make a great Banner and his role as the Hulk is better than in the first movie.
Let’s talk about the film’s villain, Ultron. Ultron proves to be one of the best villains that the MCU has, right up there with Loki and Wilson Fisk. James Spader gives Ultron more of a personality than I could’ve imagined, and there are times where he comes off as really creepy and often scary. I’ll admit that he does spit out a few too many witty remarks, but I would rather see that than another Malekith or Ronan type villain. So in the long run, I thought he was a great villain, one who’s motivation is somewhat understandable, even though at the end of the day he’s still the bad guy.
I really loved the Maximoff twins as well. We saw the X-Men version of Quicksilver last year and I think most people loved that character, even if he was a plot device to get Magneto out of the Pentagon. This interpretation of Quicksilver (played by Aaron-Taylor Johnson) I enjoyed just as much but for different reasons. He is more involved in the film’s narrative and I love his power base more than the mutant one. While he does get his comedic moments, Quicksilver is unfortunately not given that much time to develop and out of the twins, Scarlet Witch is actually given more development. Elizabeth Olsen plays Scarlet Witch and next to Renner, she’s the stand out of the movie in terms of the protagonists. She’s always proved to be an excellent (and sometimes underused) actress and her portrayal is outstanding. It’s no surprise that Joss Whedon is great at strong female characters, and Scarlet Witch is no exception.
As I mentioned, I don’t think that this is as good as the first Avengers film. There are parts of the movie that feel rushed, particularly with Ultron’s creation and Thor’s time away from the team to find answers due to a vision he had. For those two segments in particular, it feels like there are some missing scenes, and given that Whedon’s original cut was supposed to be around three and a half hours, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the reason. Now would I have sat down to watch a three hour plus Avengers movie? Probably, since these movies do a good job at being two and a half hours without you feeling the length. However those really aren’t the reasons why I like the first one more. The deal breaker is that the magic of seeing these characters on screen is lost since it’s the sequel. The first movie had that magic and while this one might be deeper in story and character, I ultimately have to come to an honest conclusion given my feelings on these two movies.
In the end though, Avengers: Age of Ultron is yet another marvelous effort from Marvel. It’s got everything you would expect from a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film. The amazing action sequences, the great humor, the witty dialogue and banter between the characters, great performances from these A-list actors, and little seeds that show a promising and hopefully exciting future for the MCU. I doubt I’ll be seeing this in the theaters more than two times, nor will I talk about it endlessly like I did with the first movie, but god damn is it awesome. (Sorry about the language, it just slipped out.)
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