You have to hand it to Joss Whedon for is his visionary style of direction and writing. He’s been notorious for having quite the imagination for a while, but if both The Avengers and its sequel Age of Ultron are any indication, he and Marvel are a match made in heaven. If you’re expecting the same formula of witty dialogue mixed in with breathtaking action sequences and mind-bending storytelling, this film has just that, and then some. Sure, it could possibly be hard to imagine a world where the Avengers exist after the rather apocalyptic results of the disastrous conspiracy that tore S.H.I.E.L.D apart in The Winter Soldier. The latter was a film so intense from start to finish you’d find it hard to believe it was a sequel to the homage-frais, The First Avenger. The endings of Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3 were rather conclusive but if the opening action sequence of The Avengers: Age of Ultron is any indication, a sequel is not only justified, but also greatly welcomed. Especially after watching our favourite characters be put through the ringer in said previous films. While Age of Ultron may not be as good as the preceding film, and a tad overstuffed here and there, those are really only minor complaints when as a whole, it’s not just one of the most fun movie-going experiences you’ll have all year, but also one of the most satisfying too.
Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead
It’s hard to describe the plot of Age of Ultron, because as I may have mentioned above, it’s rather quite overstuffed. The main story arc focuses on Ultron, an A.I. created by the same system that created JARVIS. The first time we see Ultron, he appears as a jellyfish-like hologram. He manages to enter the systems and is made into an android, using spare Iron Man suits as henchmen (and secretly creating several other clones using Iron Man suits- they’re quite terrifying, really). For much of the film, he has Eastern European twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, respectively named Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, working with him to take down The Avengers. Quicksilver can run at terrifyingly fast levels and Scarlet Witch can control peoples’ minds– to quote Maria Hill, “he’s fast, and she’s weird”. As for The Avengers, they’re still trying to recover from the events of the films that came before it. They have turned Stark Tower in New York into their new base, and it doesn’t take long for them to come under threat by Ultron and the twins. But there’s a little more that they have to worry about; they themselves have some problems of their own, Bruce Banner in particular.
That’s really all I can give away of the plot without much being spoiled. In fact, so much happens in the film, that even if it becomes a bit too much for you to handle at some point (expect that too), you still have to appreciate all the effort that has gone into the film. As far as sequels go, this film is bigger in scope, but despite being bigger and bolder, the film does manage to avoid the cardinal sin that most sequels do, trying to top the original. It almost seems as if the film is fully aware of it at points too, but self-awareness is one of the best things about the first film, and no surprise that it’s one of the best things about this film too. The film goes in a different direction than its predecessor too, but at the same time, still feels like The Avengers. The cast still give their usual excellent performances that are rife with charm. Cocky, smug and adorably arrogant Tony is still there, sarcastic, sexy and badass Natasha Romanoff is still there, grandpa-stuck-in-young-man’s-body Steve Rogers is still there, you know the drill. But the new cast members do not disappoint. Though his performance is limited to voice, James Spader gives a beautifully terrifying performance as Ultron. Ultron in general is also a major step up for the MCU. A common criticism of the MCU is that Loki has been the only truly memorable villain so far, but Ultron really does give him a run for his money. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are amazing as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch too, as their Eastern European accents are amazingly convincing, and Olsen is downright creepy at times, particularly when she puts people under her control.
Where the film falls short at times does lend itself to mostly the level of excess here. The extended final battle scene in Ukraine is freaking AWESOME, and thankfully there’s not an hour of throwing people through buildings. Thankfully it’s not as bad as in Man of Steel, but there are a few moments that do seem as if Joss is taking some rather unnecessary jabs at Man of Steel. There is a gag in the middle of the film that, while thankfully not outright aping those dreaded scenes in Man of Steel, is similar, and does kind of exist only to take potshots at Goyer. I didn’t like that movie either, but come on, Joss. Let’s not try to fuel the war between fandoms any more than it already has been. Another flaw is the character of Vision. While he’s an awesome character, he comes into the film a bit too late to make the impact that Joss hoped for. Maybe bringing him earlier would have helped, when the film wasn’t knee-deep in subplots.
Despite these quibbles, I still really enjoyed the film for the most part. The film might lack a few of the things that made the first film the instant classic it is, but it’s fun all the same, and it’s The Avengers through and through. The ending does seem to point at some bright and upbeat future directions for the franchise, and while it is a bit of a drag that Joss Whedon is bowing out from Marvel as of this film, if the franchise is in good hands, then future MCU instalments will be something to look forward to. Even despite the film’s flaws, the best thing is that you’re still left walking out anticipating Infinity War and Civil War. I’m still looking forward to multiple viewings and owning the blu-ray so I can watch that spectacular finale all over again with BOSE sound and on a 58″ screen to boot. I’m still looking forward to hopefully being able to use some of Tony’s funnier lines at the pub in the future. Long story short, go for the cast and action, stay for the spectacle and loads of funny moments that come your way.
While it may lack a few things that made the predecessor so good, Age of Ultron is still one hell of a ride.