When Marvel brought us The Avengers, it was arguably the biggest movie ever made. Biggest when you consider the number of star actors involved, the combination of so many multi-million dollar blockbuster franchises and the way it spawned what is now the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was truly epic. Most of the Marvel movies that have come forth following it have been equally good, if not quite as huge, but The Avengers: Age of Ultron was set to tip the scales. It has the same players. I won’t even name all the cast. It’ll take too long. It was touted as everything the first film was, but with more, more and more more. All the supporting characters from the individual films were cast, new characters were added and the stakes were raised. But sometimes those things don’t lead to a better film. Sometimes, they make it worse. How did Josh Whedon manage so much scale?
The film starts off pretty calm. Yeah. Eases it’s way into the proceedings with what is one of the most epic, thrilling, comic book nerd’s dream action scenes ever filmed. It was filled with crazy stunts, insane special effects, every character we know and love and a ton of fantastic humor. I smiled for the first ten minutes of the movie. Age of Ultron was off to a fantastic start. That didn’t change much, as the film is packed with fantastic action on the biggest scale, and it never disappoints. The intro infiltration of a Russian base. The battle between Iron Man and Hulk in an African city. The many battles with James Spader’s Ultron, one inside a semi truck barreling along the highway. How about the Avengers vs everything battles with Ultron’s masses. It’s all great stuff, and each superhero gets a chance to flash their skills on the big stage, almost taking turns. It’s the epitome of cinematic fun.
So action is one thing, and nobody is surprised that Age of Ultron packed a mighty punch. But that doesn’t always make for a good movie. The latest Transformers film was full of great action and it was still a steaming pile of crap. Well, Josh Whedon didn’t have that problem. A lot of critics might disagree, but I’d argue that Age of Ultron was funnier than the original, perhaps even the funniest Marvel film yet. Some of the banter and one liners are just fantastic. I’d also argue that it has a tiny bit more character than the original. We see a little bit more of the personality of many of the characters, for example the often overlooked Hawkeye gets a ton of screen time, and some back story revealed. There’s a little romantic element squeezed in, albeit a little rushed. Trying to squeeze all this in often fails, but I have to admit, it all felt pretty well balanced.
The villain of the film is always of huge importance in these superhero movies. Ultron is a machine. An artificial intelligence. That can be risky in a film like this because things that aren’t human can be difficult to hate. But Marvel wisely brought James Spader in to voice Ultron, and it works really well. He becomes an AI with a personality that is very real, sometimes darkly funny and definitely easy to root against. The fact that he is accidentally created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner creates a great dynamic as well, where the Avengers are pitted against each other somewhat, particularly Captain American and Iron Man. That’s of course setting up nicely for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, which is sure to be fantastic.
The new characters that are introduced here are a mixed bag. Quicksilver and Scarlett which, played by Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are decent but unspectacular. Vision is the real draw, played by Paul Bettany, and he has the potential to be a potent addition to the Marvel Universe. It’s sort of weird seeing huge, big time names like Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie making tiny appearances where they just kill a few robots and tell a few jokes, but it adds a little credibility and basically just makes this Marvel Universe legitimate. It’s the real deal.
All in all, I can’t believe how good this film was. It was far better than I expected, and I expected a lot. I didn’t know if it would surpass the first Avengers, but it did. The action was immense. The plot was interesting. The acting was great. The jokes were hilarious, hitting their mark almost every time. Most importantly, the villain was great and the stakes were high. It’s by no means a perfect movie, but it’s sheer entertainment factor combined with some legitimately good storytelling and fun makes it the ultimate blockbuster.