For three years now we’ve known that we were going to get a direct sequel to the worldwide phenomenon, The Avengers, and the one question that has remained on my mind for those three years was: How are they going to top it? Well, it seemed that director Joss Whedon and producer/creative leader Kevin Feige were going to take a “go smaller” approach upon announcing that the sequel would be titled Avengers: Age of Ultron and that the villain would indeed be the AI known as Ultron (a formidable threat on paper but much smaller in scale than the galactic villains of the first film). However, the finished product is anything but small. Age of Ultron is a film that is bursting at the seams as it tries to take on a few too many plotlines. This is still a fun film and there is still a sense of wonder about it (even if it is not as strong as the first experience), but Avengers: Age of Ultron is not the wondrous liftoff to the summer season that many had hoped for.
Age of Ultron picks up with the Avengers trying to take out the last remnants of Hydra. It is here they come into contact with Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), enhanced humans. The later has the ability to plant the worst nightmares of her victims into their heads, and upon using that power on Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), convinces him to use the power of Loki’s scepter from the first film to create a protective AI interface. Unfortunately, for the Avengers that comes in the form of the homicidal Ultron (voiced by James Spader).
Whereas the first Avengers film was more of an introduction, this film is definitely more about character development. In theory that is a good idea, and it does allow some great material for characters like Captain America (who has a small but interesting plotline about whether he can live in a world without war), Hawkeye (who gets a surprising amount of screen time) and the Maximoff twins (who are both solid additions). However, it really kills the pacing when you are trying to balance between nine major heroes and many other supporting characters. This film is almost two and a half hours long and you can really feel that length.
It also doesn’t help that this film is in autopilot mode with the usual Marvel Cinematic Universe clichés. Characters are randomly resurrected, the plot once again resolves around a McGuffin and Iron Man of course saves the day at the last second in an air borne battle over a major city. In most of the films, there is a sense of fun with these repeated plot points but here they seem like tired additions.
All that being said there is a lot to like with this film. Joss Whedon does a fantastic job of directing this film, and the action scenes are all top rate. The characters are also just way too much fun to hang out with to truly not like this film. It’s an underrated quality to have the ability to make fun of yourself, and Whedon does a great job of displaying that in this film.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is quite a mess but with great characters and spectacle it is still a joy to watch.