Prior to seeing this film I will admit that I had indulged myself with a couple reviews. Luckily I wasn’t spoiled any story details, but I was spoiled in a different way. The reviews that I read warned that this movie was one of the weakest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That it was dry and lifeless. That Joss Whedon had lost his touch.
They were oh so wrong.
Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon’s second outing at the helm of a Marvel movie (the biggest ones, mind you), takes what made the first Avengers so great and amplifies it. The action is bigger this time around, and it also feels more focused and energized. The action scenes are breathtaking and relentless, jumping from hero to hero as they destroy wave after wave of robots. CGI has never looked so damn good.
Despite the action scenes being better choreographed this time around, they all lacked a sort of tension. In fact, the whole movie really lacked this tension until the climax, and even then it wasn’t very strong. The signature Joss Whedon touch of wisecracking characters was way overblown throughout the movie. How am I, the viewer, supposed to feel scared for these characters or feel the pressure of Ultron potentially killing everyone if they’re cracking jokes every couple minutes? This type of writing works well in small doses and with a limited amount of characters; but when every single character begins dropping one liners it starts to turn into a comedy and not an action movie.
Besides this one quirk, the writing is fantastic throughout. I’d heard before hand that Whedon wanted to take the film in a darker direction and he sure did. The introduction of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) allowed Whedon to play around with the idea of what each Avenger is truly afraid of. This gives an interesting look into the minds of the heroes we love, and lots of character development.
Speaking of character development, holy cow did Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) get some major love. I won’t spoil anything here, but just know that they really flesh out his character and I couldn’t be happier. After watching Age of Ultron twice now, I can say with certainty that Hawkeye is one of my favorite Avengers. Jeremy Renner steals the show a couple times during the film.
Hawkeye also wasn’t the only one to get some cool character development. Black Widow (Scarlet Johanssen) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) are given some major screen time as they tentavily explore a possible relationship. This storyline had me a little worried at first, but Whedon handled it masterfully and I’m fully vested in whatever happens to the characters next.
And while we’re on the subject of characters, I’d be doing a disservice by not mentioning the two new heroes introduced in the film; Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Both bring some unique power sets to the battle field and Whedon obviously had a lot of fun playing around with their powers. And their transformation from human lab experiments to official Avenger members is an exhilarating one.
One of the biggest draws to this movie is obviously Ultron (James Spader). We really couldn’t have asked for a better Ultron. Spader’s voice is so menacingly perfect and due to the fantastic technology of 2015, so were his mannerisms. He really made Ultron feel like more than just another android on the loose. He felt like a real, living thing with ambitious, terrifying plans.
In the end, Age of Ultron really does improve on everything that made the first movie so great. The action scenes are taken to another level (Ultron’s final plan is actually really unique), as are the characters themselves. My only real complaint about the movie would be that the tension was practically nonexistent. Due to the constant one liners being dropped every couple minutes, it felt like the Avengers were never in any real danger. Despite that, Whedon does take some chances and has a lot of moving pieces this time around. Yet it all works. Everything fits together and you’re never lost.
While not on the level of Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America: Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron is still one of the strongest Marvel movies yet and definitely worth seeing on the big screen.