The summer movie season kicked off with a loud and powerful bang last night in the form of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s The Avengers, the highest grossing film of the decade (if you don’t count what Avatar made in 2010). The anticipation for Age of Ultron has been massive, as fans of the original film (myself included) have been following the development and every little piece of news on the film since it was announced just days after The Avengers was released. Age of Ultron is expected to be just as successful, if not more than the first film. Marvel has finally found its groove, and knows what to do with these films. They had two big hits last year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the spring, and Guardians of the Galaxy in the summer. A few years after this release, Marvel has a massive two-part Avengers film, which this film will help prelude in a way. Is Age of Ultron worth the hype (and having to buy my tickets a month in advance)? Let’s find out.
We find our heroes still saving the world, but in a wholly new world now. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been disbanded, and Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, played wonderfully again by Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, develop a piece of A.I. called Ultron, which will hopefully be able to make the world a better place and not make The Avengers have to come in and save the day all the time. As you may have guessed, the Ultron experiment goes awry and the A.I. grows a mind of its own (and a terrific motion-capture/voice performance by James Spader), with Ultron being hellbent on ridding the world of its human population. It’s then up to The Avengers to stop the unstoppable in the form of Ultron, their fiercest foe yet.
Whedon returns to write and direct this follow-up, and while it’s not quite as fun as the first Avengers or even last summer’s Guardians, my hat still goes off to the man. You can tell that Whedon worked his ass off making the film, which was made apparent by his exhaustive state during every promotional bit he was used in leading up to the release of this film. As of now, this is the last Marvel film Joss Whedon will ever make, primarily because they are tiring films to make, and you feel begin to understand the exhaustion of making a film of this scale while you watch it. If you thought that Marvel couldn’t get any bigger with its next Avengers film after the destruction of New York in the last film, think again. The action may now take place in Eastern Europe, South Korea, and other parts of the globe, but this is a bigger and more action-packed sequel. While Age of Ultron does lack a couple of things that made The Avengers so fun and memorable, this is still a really exciting and fun sequel that will thrill audiences all around the world for this coming summer.
The best thing about The Avengers is still the dynamic and chemistry between the characters, and all the actors are terrific in the film. Chris Evans is still great as Cap, Scarlett Johansson is still great as the Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth is still great as Thor, etc. What I really dug about the film is that not only did they give more screen-time to Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye in the film, but they actually made him a badass, and he’s got some of the best scenes (and lines) in the film. We also get an introduction to the characters Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen (a little odd since the two played a husband-wife duo in last summer’s Godzilla and play brother and sister in this film). You could tell that Whedon wasn’t entirely sure of how to use these characters in the beginning of the film, but toward the middle and end of the film, he was able to use these characters to the best of their abilities, and both actors nail their roles respectively.
I’m also really happy that Marvel has finally been able to nail a villain in these films that isn’t just Loki. James Spader is fantastic in the role of the titular antagonist. He’s scary and menacing, but at times he can have some dry whit that helps make the character oddly charming at times. It’s a great performance that made it a joy to see him on-screen whenever he came on. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Banner and the Black Widow in the film, which blossoms into a possible romantic relationship throughout the film. As great as the performances were, there were some problems that I had with the film that prevented Age of Ultron from being the best Marvel film yet. There are a great deal of action set pieces throughout the film (the film opens with this great sequence of the team infiltrating a Hydra base), but there also may be too much action at times. What I admired about the first Avengers film was that it had a great deal of action, but there was also time for the characters to relax and play off of each other. There are still moments of that, but each action sequence felt massive, and when we got to the big climactic battle at the end, which was fantastic by the way, you felt incredibly fatigued by the end of the film (I went to sleep almost immediately after the film when I got home).
But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like Age of Ultron, I had a blast watching the film, just not as much as the first Avengers, but I don’t think that will prevent people going to buy tickets to this film. Age of Ultron will probably make a billion dollars by this weekend, and it deserves it. It’s a terrific popcorn film, and is one of the best films I’ve seen this year (even though I haven’t really seen anything this year outside of SXSW films). I will of course be in line for the next big Marvel films to hit theaters in the next coming years (except for Ant-Man, because that opens the same weekend as Trainwreck in July). I’d recommend you go see Age of Ultron, but chances are you already have your tickets and/or you’ve already seen it.