The movie event of the summer, possibly the year, has arrived. Months of anticipation and buildup after the first team-up, the crowning jewel of Marvel Studios’ phase two blasted into theaters this weekend. All the key players from the first Avengers have returned, led by the genius writer-director Joss Whedon.
The movie centers around Ultron (voiced by James Spader), an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) in order to act as a shield to the world and give the Avengers time off of saving the world. Through his cold, robotic logic, Ultron sees humanity as the disease that needs to be wiped away in order to protect the world. It’s up to Stark along with Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to stop the mad program.
Let me be clear: Avengers: Age of Ultron is flat-out amazing. It throws the audience right into the action with the attack of a HYDRA base. You get to see how well the team works together after a shaky start in the first film. It shows how much of a difference three years makes, showing that they have a great level of trust among them. Once Ultron is operational, you can cue epic battles, group conflicts, visions of the future, and proper buildup for phase three of the Marvel Cinemative Universe. As a supervillian, Ultron does need help and he finds that in Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), the two “miracles” we were introduced to in the post-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Their gifts helps Ultron’s plans of distracting the Avengers and having them fight among themselves.
With all of these players, there is a lot going on throughout the course of the two-and-a-half hour epic. Every single character from the first film got their fair share of screen time, which is difficult when you have those many moving parts and characters. Two that got more screen time and back story were Black Widow and the previously underused Hawkeye. We learned more about the human sides of the former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
For the most part, Whedon does a great job of juggling these characters and their intertwining stories like the pro that he is. He can be forgiven for stumbling a bit by rushing the story along. There are few moments to breathe in between action scenes or cosmic bombshells. Whedon has helped establish a universe that has broken box office records and captured an ensemble crew of heroes on the big screen for the first time. Unfortunately, this is Whedon’s Marvel swan song and I think he’s done a great job of sending the Avengers off into phase three with the Russo Brothers set to take the reigns of Earth’s Mightest Heroes with the two-part Infinity War.
The dialogue is where the film really shines, as this is what Whedon does best in all of his projects. Specifically, the banter between Stark and Ultron provides some of the best lines of the movie (Stark’s one-liners were also the best), with Ultron’s severe father issues leading to some great verbal sparring with Stark. Ultron establishes himself as arguably one of Marvel’s best villains so far in the Universe through his dark sense of humor and philosophical monologues. James Spader’s voicing of the villain made Ultron all the more better.
Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a spectacular movie. While it may stumble occasionally with the plot and the glamour of a superhero team-up has worn off, it is still one of the best films Marvel has made so far. With Phase Two coming to an end with the release of Ant-Man later this summer, Marvel continues to display its staying power in Hollywood. I did come in with high expectations for this movie; while all of them were not met, I had a fantastic time at the theater and cannot wait for the two-part Infinity War sequel coming a couple of years later.