Earths mightiest heroes are back, continuing their efforts to rid the world of evil. Not the squabbling batch of egos and personalities who may not like each other that was shown the last time they were brought together in Avengers. Now they are a squabbling batch of egos and personalities who actually like each other. But as most epic sequels go, a new enemy threatens to derail the good friendship and comradery that has been built. Much like the first film in many ways, but more expansive in every way, Age Of Ultron is a more complete picture that throws everything at you while dropping off tantalizing bits for future adventures. It will leave you chomping at the bit for more while having you more than satisfied. As the middle film in a trilogy, it’s the perfect calm before the all empowering and terrifying storm of Thanos rears its ugly purple head. Age Of Ultron is the perfect way to begin the summer season with earths mightiest heroes banding together to save the world once more.
Captain America/Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) are now a cohesive unit taking down armies of Hydra forces with literal ease and seem to catch a major break in reacquiring Loki’s scepter that was used in the first film. Stark hopes to use the scepter to create a universal peace keeping program called Ultron that would cause for an end for The Avengers to be The Avengers. But of course when it comes to anything involving artificial intelligence, it goes awfully wrong and Ultron (James Spader) becomes sentient of its existence and realizes that the only way to keep peace all over the world is to eradicate every living thing on the planet. Along with Ultron the Avengers have to contend with a pair of twins in league with the mad villain in Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The former having magic, hypnotic and telekinetic powers and the latter being attuned with super human speed. Along the way, sentient robot Vision (Paul Bettany) is created who helps The Avengers in stopping Ultron.
Age Of Ultron has a tall order to follow with Avengers being one of the biggest hits of all time and the first time so many heroes were put on the same screen. but it is more than up to the task of outdoing what was done before and upping the proverbial ante up a few notches. I found the story to be more conclusive and crisp than before where it allowed for more freedom from everyone involved and went off in many varied directions. It did stray from the original source material in that Ant-Man/Hank Pym created Ultron instead of Tony Stark, but it makes sense that Stark would have such an ego to think that he himself could save the world and put an end for a need for superheroes.
It goes well perfectly with his character as well as harkening back to Avengers where Captain America called out Stark for always finding the easy way out, not risking one’s life for the good of the team and laying on top of the bomb where Stark would rather just cut the wire instead. The fact that Stark isn’t straying from Captain America’s first perceptions of him from the first film is rather telling which should make their smack down in Captain America: Civil War a rather crackling affair. The two characters that haven’t had a solo film (yet) get some much needed screen time that sheds some hints into who they are and what makes them tick. Hawkeye especially, who was relegated to a zombie for nearly the entire running time of Avengers. He even makes a great call back to his former fugue state in a hilarious joke, which may be Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner or both stating on how pissed they were to be treated so lightly before. He is allowed to show so much more of his personality and you see what he’s been up too lately as he hasn’t been seen since Avengers and also not much else is known about him. You finally see how funny he is as well as integral to the entire team.
Black Widow has some startling revelations about her past, which couldn’t have come at a better time since she’s been around for quite a while in various films. You see how desperate and damaged she is as she is still trying to find a place in the world. Her character trajectory is quite tragic in the grand scheme of things as real happiness seems to elude her at all costs. On paper it doesn’t seem that a relationship between Natasha and Bruce would work and would bother too many people, but I actually liked it. Regardless if it felt cheesy or forced, I liked how they presented both of them as two sides of the same coin. Natasha wants some complacency in a relationship with a man who isn’t a trained killer and would rather not fight while Bruce wants to lower the interactions the Hulk has with anybody he gets close too.
When one is fighting alongside a person for so long, it’s rather inevitable that two or more people would get close and intimate to one another. Not that Natasha needs saving of some sort as she is more than capable of handling herself but she clearly has some guilt for the terrible things she has done as Banner feels the same way. She sees a kindred spirit in Banner that she can’t find in anyone else and from past supposed relationships in Hawkeye from Avengers and Captain America in The Winter Soldier. Banner shows the reluctance and frustration in being the Hulk with the needed emotionality to further flesh out his pains and struggles. It’s too bad that Hulk has been getting the deep end of the stick for so long in regards for another solo movie but by the end, you see that he deserves another shot at it. It ends so emphatically that it makes you hate that you have to wait three years to see what happens to Bruce when Infinity War comes out.
The relationship between Captain America and Iron Man is front and center like you would expect since it will encapsulate an entire movie next May. You can see the relationship show some signs of strain, especially in terms of leadership and the creation of a maniacal super intelligent computer being built behind everyone’s back. One of the better gags in the entire movie is Stark constantly making fun of Cap who says language anytime anyone says a swear word. Stark may not have as many quips, insults or comebacks as previous films, but the amount of screen time that is offered is more than needed. He is still just as funny and the movie didn’t need full blown Stark throughout the movie as there were plenty of other factors to offset that. Captain America was a standout who always seems to strive when times are at its worst.
He feels right at home when right in the thick of battle, while dispensing some much needed words of knowledge of what it takes to win and make the ultimate sacrifice. Captain America is such a compelling character that has gone through some very tumultuous times as he grew up in two different eras, centuries and times. What he was in The First Avenger is different in Age Of Ultron, which will go through another dramatic change in Civil War. As the most battle worn and experienced member of the Avengers, it’s cool to see him in full leadership mode, dispensing orders and push his teammates to the limits. You feel pumped up yourself and feel as if you could take on Ultron yourself. Thor didn’t have as much to do as before but that makes sense given that his step brother Loki was the main villain of Avengers and had much to gain and lose. A side story that takes Thor out of the picture briefly will have much more meaning when Thor: Ragnarok comes out in November 2017 as well as Avengers: Infinity War in 2018.
The acting from everyone involved felt like watching old friends reunite as they have been doing it for years. Which they have as the friendship off screen permeates on screen flawlessly. Downey Jr., Evans, Hemsworth, Renner and Johannsson all portray their respective roles so well that I can’t picture anyone else behind them. The only character that has had more than one portrayal has found its groove in Ruffalo who shows the needed emotionality as well as inner turmoil as Bruce Banner Hulk. He’s the most troubled and sorrowful of the Avengers whose actions as the Hulk have serious repercussions on his mental psyche. It makes for an increasingly intriguing character as well as the most unpredictable. Olsen was great as Scarlet Witch and while she didn’t have much character development, it was a great introduction of the character. I loved how her powers were used and you can see inner rage that may be hard to control, much like the Hulk.
It’s a person you’re glad to have on your side as the nightmarish visions she can put in your head is just as powerful as a punch in the face or a pulsar blast. While we have already seen Quicksilver portrayed on screen before in X-Men: Days Of Future Past last year with Evan Peters as the speeding dynamo, Taylor-Johnson did a great job at differentiating him to make him different. He wasn’t as funny as his other portrayal in DOFP or have the rapid wit, but you could say he was more accurate to the comic portrayal. He didn't need to be overtly funny to be effective but a few more scenes from him would have fleshed him out more. Tough, rugged and ready for battle, the portrayal was more in line with this cinematic variation. Comparisons will end up being made even if they are completely different universes as Quicksilvers now iconic Pentagon break in scene was always going to be hard to top. Spader as Ultron was even more amazing on screen than originally anticipated. Spader has always played a great villain or a character you love to detest with his classic turn as a yuppie jerk in Pretty In Pink a clear standout. He knows how to play up the needed smarminess as well as the self-inflated superiority to make you believe that he is that great. Bettany was awesome as Vision like one would expect as he also has a great voice for voice overs with his other role as Tony Starks butler and right hand man, J.A.R.V.I.S. If I were to choose a voice for Vision, it would definitely be British and Bettany fits that bill perfectly. He presents a perfect counter balance to Ultron and a great addition to an ever expansive universe.
It’s surprising that he hasn’t done more noteworthy voice over work as I never tired of hearing him talk about ending all civilization on earth. It was soothing as well as menacing that just envelopes you where you can’t help but be mesmerized or terrified of him. Villains in the MCU don’t always have the best portrayals but Ultron is right up there with Loki when it comes to great villains. Cunning, intelligent as well as funny, he was very memorable that made you wish that he had to be defeated by the end of the film. Vision was one of the biggest wildcards in any Marvel movie as he is very unlike any major character that has been shown thus far. It was difficult to see how he would be shown but the massive anticipation as well as the mystery of him made the payoff that much more pleasurable. In a world of gods, super soldiers, assassins, rage monsters and alien races, Vision remains the most out there by a mile. A synthetic robot with a mind of its own, it’s the ultimate fish out of water story set in a comic book world that bases most of its characters on that arch type. He is like a newborn baby but with powers unlike anyone has ever seen and the mind to make important decisions. It’s a rare combination of things that could really go in any number of directions for the character. there is so much to play off of which made it easy to see why he is a major highlight in Age Of Ultron that already had a trove of great moments to choose from.
Director Joss Whedon has the insanely difficult task of organizing multiple characters and future films while at the same time, have them be easily viewable to a mainstream audience who may not have seen all the previous films in the MCU. But even then it’s puzzling if one isn’t already watching the Avengers films and not watching the previous films centering on singular characters. He counter balances the comedy in many unexpected places along with the action in rather amazing places. While it may seem overstuffed, I think its par for the course when it concerns a fully functioning comic book universe on the big screen. other movies have tried and failed when trying to make superhero films bigger than one would expect. Spiderman 3, Batman & Robin and The Amazing Spiderman 2 can fully attest to that. Although I happened to like the latest Spiderman film even if it had its issues and problems. It’ll be sad to see him go as he won’t be directing Infinity War but a new voice and vision will be really refreshing. Hopefully it won’t be his last film in the MCU but if it is, he really went out with a thunderous bang.
The story isn’t as bogged down as some may say as I was fully entrenched with everything that was going on and each set piece moved swift fully and with much ease. Like anyone would expect, it covers a wide ground of exposition while showing off new characters so time is of the most essence here. Ideally, everything of importance would be covered and all the characters would get even screen time. But that simply was an impossibility due to an extended running time and fatigue to the viewer. It deals with past problems that have plagued the Avengers like Hydra, Loki’s scepter and a world where they might no longer be needed. It was a needed plot device that shows how much and how hard it can be to be a superhero. This takes the most toll on Stark who is the most reluctant of the group to save the world time and time again. It also handles the repercussions of the Avengers destruction really well and that no matter how much they try to help people and save the world from utter chaos, there will always be a group of people who bash them for the madness they inherently caused. The last ditch effort to save the citizens of Sokovia and risking life and limb for every person made for a great moment in the end. Of course as I’ve mentioned before, the backlash from people all over the world towards superheroes will inevitably lead to the Superhero Registration Act that will be acted out in Civil War.
With Age Of Ultron, it was a globetrotting affair that further explored the ever expansive world of superheroes by visiting the home of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, Sokovia and Wakanda, home of the Black Panther. I liked the story more so than previous other films in the MCU and found it much more comprehensive than Avengers. It felt more relaxed and willing to go in various directions without feeling forced or unwarranted. With everyone introduced and a cohesive unit, it can now delve further into their comradery, friendship, anguish and personal issues with themselves as well as their own teammates. It helps that Ultron isn’t the average everyday villain who wants to show the Avengers how futile their attempts at saving the world really are. He would give them a sliver of a chance of beating him if it allows him to crush their dreams all at once. Ultron gets pleasure out of watching people suffer and relishes the fact that he is seemingly unstoppable.
I loved how the film encompasses future films into proceedings and plants seeds here and there. It just gets me even more excited for what’s to come. It didn’t feel forced and was handled very well, but it might fall on deaf ears to those who aren’t die hard Marvel fans. I found it to be just as funny as the first with the comedy evenly split apart while having enough room for the more quiet moments. One of the better scenes was the Avengers hiding out and recuperating at a farm house and dealing with their own personal issues. Stark and Rodgers splitting wood was a great moment with some tension that will be revisited in Civil War.
I’d be hard pressed to pick out a favorite scene or sequence but Scarlet Witch’s nightmarish visions of the Avengers had some great moments. That showed another side to all of them at once where it otherwise wouldn’t have been said or revealed. You get a much needed dive into the minds of these literal gods among men and you see that they have fears as much as anyone else. Black Widow’s was particularly revealing, giving her more depth that thought. Iron Mans as well as Thor’s could be a slice of eerily foretelling in future films while Captain America speaks to his usefulness in a new world that is still somewhat frightening to him. Vision had a scene stealer that left everyone in the theater aghast. The party scene in Avengers tower may be the equivalent to the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, the most dominant sports team ever assembled, where the amount of awesome in one single room is simply too much to bear. It’s hard to not be giddy like a schoolboy watching superheroes riff off one another. Avengers: Age Of Ultron could have just been the Avengers partying for two and a half hours and I would have happily paid an Imax ticket.
The Hulkbuster vs. the Hulk is as smash mouth and insane as one would expect. Half a city gets destroyed as well as a whole building in one fell swoop. It’s not very often that Hulk can go toe to toe with someone on screen as much as everyone else in the Avengers so it was due for him to get a little rowdy. There was a nice throwback to Avengers at one point in the battle that made for a great gag. One of my favorite scenes in Avengers was when the whole team was on the same page for the first time and the camera swooped all around them as they got into battle mode as well as the scanning one shot where the team is disposing of Chitauri. Thankfully those scenes are present here with the Avengers storming a Hydra base as well as battling Ultron’s robot army in a circular building and the camera going over each character as they take out evil robots. Those action sequences were very well choreographed and executed and amongst the best in the MCU as well as films all together.
The obligatory Stan “The Man” Lee cameo in the MCU always leaves you laughing your ass off and wondering if it will ever be topped but this remains one of the best, if not the best. The ending is also one of my favorite parts as it did what any movie in a billion dollar franchise should do and that’s leaving you wanting more. Hearing the final words just gives you chills up and down your spine where you can’t fathom waiting till next year to find out what happened next. The after credits scene was also a spine tingler of the highest order. It got me pumped more than anything else would and is easily the best MCU after credits scene ever, right next to Thanos’s big reveal at the end of The Avengers. The only real problem I have is that there was no end credits scene like past films in the MCU. Surely Whedon could have managed to put a simple 10 – 15 second clip at the end but given how much we were initially given, it’s not that big an issue.
There was a lot to go through with Age Of Ultron as it covers a wide and varied ground of characters and plot, but it never really felt over done or diluted the final product. I was engaged the entire time and never once felt lost or out of place. But I guess if one follows the product and allows themselves to be immersed in the proceedings, it may be a little easier for a viewer to stay involved all the way through. At a run time of nearly two and a half hours and characters far and wide, scrunching it down to two hours doesn’t seem plausible. I wish there was more actually as I never tire of seeing my favorite superheroes kick some serious ass. I’m already salivating at the upcoming DVD which has over an hour of deleted scenes. Avengers: Age Of Ultron is what summer blockbusters are made of, pure unadulterated fun that makes anyone bring out the inner kid in them and just simply marvel at what is on screen. it’s hard to not have fun whilst watching it and want you to have another go around right after it’s over. Five wild parties in Avengers tower out of five.