Sequel time! Avengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to the Avengers movie from 2012. The title is taken from a Marvel Comics crossover event from a few years ago, but the story isn’t the same. Here Ultron is the creation of Tony Stark instead of Hank Pym in the comics. His ultimate goal is the same as the print story, getting rid of us people and taking over. And the Avengers have to stop him. The original movie six come back, and we get some new characters in Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision. It wraps up Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (although I do think Ant-Man is the official end of Phase Two), and is the swan song for Joss Whedon as writer and director, and overseer of all movie things Marvel. Sequels are always tricky of course because you need to recapture the magic of the first film without just rehashing it with a new coat of paint. Did they succeed here? Absolutely.
The action set pieces are all excellent, and we get more large scale fights than in the first Avengers film. The members of the team all had tandem moments that aren’t like anything you’ve seen in a superhero team-up movie. It’s helped a lot by the fact that Ultron and his crew are not just a bunch of cannon fodder like the Chitauri were in the first movie. There’s a much greater sense of danger in the throwdowns than before.
The action scenes alone would get this movie a B, but there’s more to the film than that. We get some real character development from Hawkeye, Hulk, and Black Widow. At this point we know all we need to about Tony Stark and Captain America’s respective personalities/backgrounds. They just need to get open for their shots and hit them, which they do here in fine form as usual. Hawkeye became a real person in this movie and not just a guy who had to be in the movie because hey, he’s an Avenger in the comic books.
Lastly, squeezing in all these characters can be a daunting task, but they nailed it here. In addition to the original six cinematic Avengers team members you had Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision. And you had to find some space for War Machine and Falcon because given how close they are to Iron Man and Captain America respectively it would defy common sense to have an epic scale conflict where all hands on deck are needed and leave them out entirely. But to Joss Whedon’s credit they were able to work them all in without the movie feeling overcrowded or like some people weren’t getting enough run. One great thing about succeeding in this connected universe is that you don’t have to spend big blocks developing every character now that they’ve been explained in previous films, and it paid off well here.
What didn’t work
This is going to be real short because there wasn’t much that didn’t, in my opinion. There were some things that I thought were not explained to my satisfaction, although I very well could have just missed some details that I’ll pick up on a second viewing. The how and why behind the Vision’s creation, for one. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s changing allegiances seemed to happen too quick and easy. And as much as I loved Ultron’s physical presence, and James Spader’s overall performance, I was expecting a more instant quote-worthy performance along the lines of Bane or the Joker from the Dark Knight movies or Magneto from the X-Men films. Now there are some lines that I’ll probably remember well and be able to recite after repeated viewing but nothing that sticks with me immediately like with those I just mentioned. OK, that’s pretty much it for the bad stuff.
I give it an 9/10. No movie is perfect of course, but there isn’t anything here that will make me look back in ten years and say that in hindsight it had some real problems or that it wasn’t as good as I thought it was when I was in the moment amidst all the hype. It does all the good things you want from a superhero movie with then some. Go see it. Multiple times.