The Avengers are needed once again to protect the world from catastrophe in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Joss Whedon has returned to direct the sequel to one of the biggest grossing films of all-time and expectations couldn’t be higher. Does the film suffer from fatigue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or does it reach the heights of the original?
For those that follow everything Marvel, Age of Ultron takes off literally from the last reveal of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Avengers have located the staff Loki once processed and are determined to retrieve it. The film wastes no time in reintroducing the audience to the superhero cast which includes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr); Captain America (Chris Evans); Thor (Chris Hemsworth); Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner); and The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), instead focusing on a new threat to the team. The man in procession of Loki’s staff is Baron Strucker, who has created his own set of super powered phenoms: the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).
The biggest problem that seemingly always challenges The Avengers is themselves. In his haste to protect Earth, Iron Man creates Ultron (voiced by James Spader), an A.I. set on eradicating the world of its biggest problem, which happens to be humans. Furthermore, the Scarlet Witch has the ability to bring out the biggest fears in her victims, leading to more Avenger vs. Avenger combat. When there’s that much testosterone involved, the egos always lead to the downfall of men. For a movie that has so many characters, the woman are vastly outnumbered. Outside of Olsen and Johannson, there are some brief roles for women including appearances from Cobie Smulders and Linda Cardellini, but they are definitely supporting roles. Speaking about characters in Age of Ultron, including the previously mentioned new characters, there are countless cameos from other superheroes that have appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and things can easily get overwhelming if one hasn’t seen all eleven movies in the franchise.
Joss Whedon is able to inject quite a bit of his magic into the script, but it seems that his hands were tied to a specific vision more in this entry. Most of his touch can be seen in the moments when the team are interacting with each other instead of beating up on more CGI villains. Whedon even gets the opportunity to build more on Ms. Johansson’s character, humanizing her with her tragic past and giving her a romantic interest to interact with. There just isn’t enough of these moments especially when the other moments are blindingly fast action sequences. It doesn’t help that Ultron just isn’t as compelling a villain as Loki was in the previous Avengers film.
With all that being said, Age of Ultron is still a whole lot of fun. There’s something special about getting all these superheroes together for a mission of this scale. As expected the special effects are incredible and the script does leave space for some great team special moves similar to the first installment. It also seems that extra care was used in showing just how much these superheroes care about protecting innocent bystanders, something that a film from their rival, DC, completely missed.
Instead of seeming like an ending point, The Avengers: Age of Ultron is instead another chapter in the overall Marvel Universe. The film just isn’t the crowd pleaser that the first entry was, but thanks to the chemistry with the cast and injections of emotion into the script, it never becomes just another CGI explosion fest. There’s plenty to love with this latest entry into the Marvel Universe, but hopefully we haven’t already experienced the peak of the franchise.