Anime Reporter takes a break from the world of manga to bring you my take on Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.
Please, for the love of Thor, if you have any interest in seeing this movie but haven’t seen all/most/any of the other Marvel cinematic universe superhero films (the Iron Man, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Incredible Hulk, Avengers, and Thor movies and even the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series), then do it. Watch them. Stop whatever you’re doing and watch them. I have admittedly lost my interest in a lot of Marvel comics in the last few years but these films are something that they’re really getting right in terms of tone, humour, action and story-telling. These films are also very much designed to be part of the same ongoing continuity so this isn’t just a case of “watching Avengers 2 without seeing the first one”, it’s more like “watching Marvel 11 without watching the first ten”. Start with Iron Man and, if that doesn’t grab your attention, then these films probably aren’t for you.
I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free for Age of Ultron, but there are going to have to be some details from other Marvel films so tread carefully.
Well, following on from what went down in the second Captain America film, SHIELD is, as far as the Avengers are concerned, no more and that means that it’s up to our favourite heroes (plus Hawkeye*) to retrieve all the dangerous bits and pieces have the evil HYDRA snatched when they tore SHIELD apart from the inside. We join the Avengers just as they’re closing in on the last, and potentially most dangerous of these secrets; Loki’s staff.
Ahem. “Loki’s staff”.
Okay, I’m not sure if I got that to work properly, but there was supposed to an ominous thundering sound when you read the words “Loki’s staff”. It’s a new app I downloaded, not totally sure if it works properly yet.
Well, the point is, that this staff, as we all no doubt recall from the first Avengers film, is a pretty darn powerful piece of cosmic weaponry and so it’s pretty good that it’s out of unsafe hands and into the hands of the eccentric genius ex-weapons manufacturer and the guy who accidentally turned himself into a walking green natural disaster. Maybe not.
Since the events of Iron Man 3, Tony Stark has been looking for a way to keep the world safe on a whole new scale and he’s not exactly the type of man who’s afraid of poking the bear, or lightly tasing Bruce Banner for that manner. What follows is a very different type of threat than what went down in the first Avengers film, but with a nice build on the team dynamic and interactions between larger than life characters and egos.
Joss Whedon, who should need no introduction (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, the Cabin in the Woods, the first Avengers film), does a sterling job of maintaining his excellent ability to tell a great team story, and does what none of the Marvel films has entirely done before; he really makes you feel like this film happens in the same world as the events and characters of all of the other films. For the first time, the Marvel films stop feeling like film adaptations and starts to feel like a comic-book universe come to life. In the best way.
There isn’t a huge amount in the way of character development, which is understandable, given that half of the main characters have their own films to develop in and any real growth, (though it’s not a whole lot), is given to Black Widow, Hawkeye and Bruce Banner. Out of all of the characters, the one that it’s harder to get a read on is the Hulk, who seems to alternate somewhere between being a wild animal and just a slow-minded angry man.
Without the need to develop too many of the Avengers themselves any further, the plot moves at a nice pace from the beginning, establishing a few new characters, setting up a few details for some more films and characters to come and then getting well and truly into the action and humour that the series does so well.
James Spader’s Ultron is, in a word, fantastic. I wasn’t completely sure what to expect from the character, but he topped it, adding both personality and intimidation to the titular villain. There are a number of new characters introduced to the film that I’d, frankly rather not go into detail on, just to avoid spoiling any surprises, but I was pretty pleased with how everyone was portrayed. Special praise has to go out to Paul Bettany, whom some viewers will recall is the voice of Tony Stark’s computer Jarvis, for his spot-on portrayal of an intelligent and incredibly likeable machine once again.
Sequels are never easy, let alone a sequel to a multi-film crossover series a decade in the making, but Joss Whedon pulls it off. Age of Ultron isn’t perfect, but at a time when it would be so easy for a superhero film to feel utterly stale and formulaic, Joss Whedon does what Joss Whedon does; he surprises, he charms, he entertains.
Final Verdict: Four Stars.
*- I actually don’t dislike Hawkeye at all. It’s just an easy joke because he’s essentially the Avengers’ Aquaman**
**-I actually don’t dislike Aquaman at all. It’s just an easy joke because he’s essentially the Justice League’s Hawkeye.