There are two different ways to look at “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. The first angle to analyze would be for your average, run-of-the-mill movie goer, who came out in droves to see the first entry into the “Avengers” franchise. The second way to look at this 141 minute spectacle would be through the eyes of the comic book devotee, who understands all the ins and outs of all the heroes, villains, and the part they play in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is undoubtedly entertaining, each of those groups may be a tad disappointed.
That being said, this is still a much darker tale of super hero woe. The movie opens up perfectly, highlighting every single Avengers member and their particular set of skills. Led by Captain America (Chris Evans), the entire gang is attacking Hydra, a weird Nazi-ish offshoot led by Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), who has stolen Loki’s magic stick after SHIELD fell apart in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is particularly interested in recovering Loki’s staff and returning it to Asgard. In what is called a “Code Green”, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) becomes the Hulk and can only be calmed down by Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who was along for the ride in the first movie, becomes a much bigger player right from the start this time around.
And of course, flying high above the proceedings is Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), motor-mouthing and quipping away, creating the best running joke in the entire movie.
As you may have guessed, there is a lot going on. Things get out of control once Stark gets his hands on Loki’s staff and he and Banner start working on artificial intelligence. That intelligence becomes sentient (naturally) and essentially “murders” Jarvis, Stark’s trusty computer assistant (voiced by Paul Bettany, who eventually becomes much more than just a voice).
Thus Ultron (voiced by James Spader) is born. He takes over the metallic body of one of Stark’s unmanned Iron Man drones and wreaks havoc all over the world. He enlists Strucker’s two “enhanced” humans, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson), who have their own personal reasons for wanting to take out the Avengers.
There are a few problems with all of this. The first being that the amount of future movie development stuffed into “Age of Ultron” is overwhelming and will without a doubt mean nothing to casual movie fans. Andy Serkis shows up as an arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue and is fantastic, but his name and what happens to him will only strike a chord with those who have the highest knowledge of the Marvel Comics world (Klaue will be the main villain in the upcoming “Black Panther” movie).
While the previous example will excite the Marvel fanbase, the nonstop, fairly pedestrian action sequences may become a bit of a bore for that demographic. After seeing all of the setup for future movies and brilliantly inserted Easter eggs, the hardcore Marvel geek will be begging for more and the final showdown with Ultron may seem anti-climactic.
Is it cool to see all your favorite heroes lined up fighting to save the world? Yes, it definitely is. Does it elicit the same giddiness as the first movie? Almost, but not quite.
All of the actors get solo moments with Renner’s Hawkeye potentially being the most pleasant surprise. He’s blunt, sarcastic, and has the best character development and reveal in the entire movie.
The smoldering romance and perfectly sweet chemistry between Johansson’s Natasha and Ruffalo’s Dr. Banner is also a fantastic subplot. It’s a classic example of beauty and beast and once Romanoff’s backstory is shown, it becomes even more tragic.
“Age of Ultron” is stuck in a tricky place. It’s the bridge to a laundry list of movies and the first movie holds this one to a standard that is almost impossible to reach.
For the most part, Whedon and Company pull it off. However, there is a bit of fatigue setting in. While the one-liners and zingers are still fresh and funny, the action in this sequel is a bit repetitive and has the same look and feel as the first, which may be due to Whedon’s ceiling as a filmmaker. There’s also the inherent problem that most of these characters are already slated to appear in about a dozen future movies so Whedon is a bit handcuffed to the Marvel agenda.
If all this makes it seem like “Avengers: Age of Ultron” isn’t good, that is not the case. It’s very good. This is still a must-see movie with the thought that this world is building and when it’s all said and done, the payoff has the potential to be the greatest piece of continuous, linear storytelling in cinematic history.