It is hard to do a sequel right. It is even harder when the first movie was pretty much a masterpiece. When Marvel released Captain America: The First Avenger, it was a good movie but it wasn’t a great movie. That made the expectations for Captain America: The Winter Soldier a little lower and that movie blew me away. When Marvel released The Avengers, it was in my opinion the perfect comic book movie and was pretty much everything I ever wanted to see from The Avengers, one of my favorite comic books as a kid.
That is probably why Avengers: Age of Ultron was slightly disappointing to me in the end.
Don’t get me wrong, Avengers: Age of Ultron was a really good movie, but it wasn’t as good as the first Avengers movie and isn’t really up to the task of supplanting Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy on the rankings of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies either. There was just something off about Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Of course, the movie was about Ultron, who is really the greatest Avengers villain of all time (yes, he is even better than Thanos, no matter how much the movies make him seem like the ultimate end game). Ultron is a robot who was created in the comics by Hank Pym to help save humans from whatever evil endangered them. If course, robots are scary smart, so when Ultron realized that humans were the greatest evil to themselves, it was obvious that Ultron had to eliminate humans.
Same thing in the movie, except that Tony Stark created Ultron because Hank Pym won’t be introduced until Ant-Man later this summer. Anyway, Ultron as a visual creation was awesome, but I really had a problem with James Spader’s voice as Ultron. I think that maybe, when I have seen it one or two more times, I will appreciate his performance, but honestly it was not what you expect when watching a robot on the screen.
I get what they were going for. Ultron learned everything he knew from the Internet, so therefore, he talks like someone who learned how to speak from watching countless hours of videos from the Internet. But, it wasn’t what a robot should sound like and that took me out of the movie every time he started talking. The only time it really worked was the moment in the movie that the trailer showed where he spoke to The Avengers in their tower. After that, it was just weird.
Now, if you want to know how an android should talk, listen to Paul Bettany as The Vision. Unlike Ultron, The Vision was complete perfection. He was designed beautifully and is one of the best looking characters I have seen created in a movie. His voice and his demeanor was just absolutely brilliant. I loved Groot and Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy, but The Vision might be the best character that the Marvel movies have put up on the screen.
Of course, that is all just design stuff. What about the story?
Avengers: Age of Ultron introduces us to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver early on, and this is really their story. The twins watched their family murdered thanks to a bomb dropped on their home, a bomb that had Stark International etched into it. So, of course, they knew no better and blamed Tony Stark for killing their family. That allowed them to join forces with HYDRA and Baron Von Strucker to develop their powers to one day gain vengeance against The Avengers and Tony Stark.
Quicksilver is great as played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Unlike his namesake in X-Men: Days of Future Past, which was just used to look cool, Quicksilver here served a purpose and was just a great, well-rounded character. Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch was pretty much just left to look pained and angry, but when she got angry, it really showed how powerful she could be. Their story, from orphaned children who blamed Tony Stark to eventual heroes was a great character arc that was very well done.
It was also nice to see Hawkeye finally getting a lot of nice screen time. He spent most of the first movie hypnotized to do whatever Loki ordered him to do, and Avengers: Age of Ultron even used that fact as a joke, but this movie actually showed Hawkeye as he is when not fighting crime. It was a nice portrayal of Clint Barton and Jeremy Renner finally got a chance to shine. There were also nice moments between Black Widow and Bruce Banner that really seemed to come out of nowhere.
However, this movie raised the stakes from the first Avengers movie. Whereas the first movie was about a lot more of the relationship between the team, Avengers: Age of Ultron was about just a whole lot of action. The movie kicks off with the Avengers on a raid of Strucker’s base and we learn that they have been seeking out HYDRA bases since the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There was even a nice mention by Falcon in a small scene that he has been looking for someone, hinting at Winter Soldier.
There is a giant battle in the middle of the movie where a Scarlet Witch possessed Hulk is rampaging through a city, destroying everything while trying to kill Iron Man, who has donned the awesome Hulk Buster armor, which was even better in the movie that it was in the comics. Finally, there is the final all-out battle royal with Ultron and his robot army. This is where my final complaint comes in. I felt that the battles were a little too much and was exhaustive rather than enjoyable. The first movie felt like a comic book come to life. This movie felt like an onslaught to my senses, and instead of leaving the movie excited and enthusiastic, I left exhausted and worn out.
I also felt that the reason I felt so exhausted was because the battles, shot in so many long takes and dizzying camera moves, just dominated the running time of the movie. It seemed like Joss Whedon would take us to Hawkeye’s home or to a fun moment in Avengers tower and then rush right into the next battle without taking long enough to breathe. There are rumors that Whedon shot a three-hour version of Avengers: Age of Ultron and this trimmed about 45 minutes from that. Maybe that longer movie will be more enjoyable to watch when it hits Blu-ray (if it does come in a director’s cut).