Avengers: Age of Ultron is the latest attempt by Marvel Studios to conquer the box-office world, and the only way that’s not happening is if someone accidentally steps on an Infinity Stone and sends us all to a parallel dimension. Yes indeed, the long-awaited sequel to Thor 2 has finally hit theaters, and I am happy to say that, for the most part, the hype surrounding this flick is truly warranted. Joss Whedon has once again done the impossible and managed to create a story that is all at once entertaining, moving, and (most importantly) coherent, while at the same time checking off the multiple items on the Marvel Grocery List. I can’t say that it’s a perfect film, but it’s one of the best efforts by Marvel so far and a worthy successor to the first Avengers film. Caution: there be mild spoilers below.
By now, the plot to this little indie effort from Marvel should be pretty apparent, given that the internet has nearly popped due to the amount of trailers, clips, and articles on the movie. So, just one more tiny wafer thin article shouldn’t make too much of a difference. The Avengers are back (believe it or not), and this time the threat facing them comes from within, as Tony Stark uses the alien scepter from the first film to create an artificial intelligence (Ultron) for peacekeeping purposes. But, seeing as how Thanos’s little walking stick tended to radiate hate-energy, it’s no surprise that Ultron gets angry very quickly at the world and its violent ways and decides to revolt against his creators. Aided by a pair of super-powered siblings with a grudge against Tony Stark, Ultron plans to bring peace to the world even if it means destroying it.
Out of the 275 action scenes that take place within the film, none of them have a false note or seem unwarranted, because they are powered by the true force that makes this and the previous Avengers film a success: the relationships between our characters and their ultimate evolutions. The film is a giant storm of spectacle, but Whedon’s greatest gift is creating the eyes of the storm that allow for us to see just what makes our lead characters tick. Tony Stark knows he now lives in a world where alien invasions and mad gods can potentially destroy the world, and he wants nothing more than to use his power (AKA his intellect) to keep those mind-boggling threats from ever hurting anyone ever again. He is so unsettled by this new world that he lives in that he can sort of be forgiven for taking some preemptive steps. Captain America does point out that trying to end a war before it starts usually leads to people getting hurt, but Tony cannot get the fact that we were attacked out of his head. To him, the bigger picture is more important than... the bigger picture. These themes were explored very nicely in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and their reemergence in Age of Ultron is welcome because it allows for this fantasy to be not only fun but cohesive as well.
If there was anything negative to say about the film, it would be that it’s not long enough. At a running time of 141 minutes, some might think me crazy for saying that, but I can assure you that Scarlet Witch has not been poking around in my upstairs attic. The differing ideology between Stark and Rogers is interesting and will come to a boiling point in Captain America: Civil War. And while that’s fine and dandy, I would’ve liked to have seen more of that conflict in the movie that I was currently watching, as opposed to imagining it down the line. That being said, another little item on my wish list -- and this one might sound even more nuts -- is that I would’ve liked a little more Ultron in my Age of Ultron movie. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he gets plenty of screen time, and James Spader’s portrayal of the legendary comic book villain is wonderfully entertaining, but I would’ve liked to have gotten a better sense of his philosophy as to why the world should end. It seems like every villain wants to destroy the world, but Ultron actually has some reasoning behind it, which was poised to set him up as an incredibly memorable villain. I understand Ultron’s motivations, but I wanted to go beyond understanding and really be swept up by them. Remember, the reason Loki achieved such a success as a villain was because you empathized with him to a certain degree. But since this movie is busier making more moves than Tony Stark at a swingers party, some things were probably left on the cutting room floor. Hopefully these deleted scenes will be be made available to us on DVD.
It’s a pretty good indicator of a film’s fine quality when the only negative things you have to say are in regards to wanting more of what you already have been given. We know that Whedon is no slouch when it comes to storytelling, and his impeccable cast provides even further support that allows for this film to be more than just a 2-hour rollercoaster ride whose effects wear off by the time you get home. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Robert Downey Jr. remain fantastic in their respective roles, but high marks this time around go to Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner for stealing the show in some of the more quieter (but no less important) scenes. Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson make for a fine Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and Paul Bettany is memorable not just as the voice of Jarvis but as the latest addition to the avenging roster: The Vision. Everything but the kitchen sink and Whiplash’s bird has been thrown at you in this flick, and it’s a minor miracle that it actually works. The Avengers will, of course, have to assemble again, but sadly without the guidance of Joss Whedon, as this is his last directorial effort for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His impact on the superhero genre was a positive one. and Avengers: Age of Ultron is an absolute testament to that.