By TheAcidSkull 28 Comments
When the first Avengers movie came out, it was one of the greatest moments in a comic book fans life. Seeing all these iconic heroes come together, in a shared universe, on screen was one of the greatest cinematic spectacles ever. Sure, it was a heart-warming superhero film with some one-liners, but it understood what it was and what story it wanted to tell, and because of that, us fans got two and a half hours of pure fun and joy. However, what the first Avengers movie managed to accomplish was so great that it set a serious standard for not only superhero movies, but Blockbuster actions flicks in general. Now, I had no doubt that I'd love the second Avengers movie, but I was seriously skeptical if it could measure up to the first one, considering that it seemed jam-packed with a lot of different concepts, characters, plot-points and so on and on. Plus, some questionable decisions before the trailers were even unveiled which sort of discouraged me. Having said all that, I'm happy to say that AoU is not only better than the first Avengers in my personal opinion, but it's my favorite superhero movie to date (I consider the Nolan trilogy to be a bit beyond superhero movies at this point, so they don't count).
First and foremost, my biggest fear was that the Avengers movie would go down with the same formula, and while it does obviously maintain some familiar elements, it manages to evolve and learn from it's previous shortcomings, even if they were minor one's. For example, while in the previous films some characters like Clint were neglected for the most part, due to the larger focus placed on other characters, this time around almost every integral character receives some sort of development, despite the insane amount of content crammed into this movie. It never feels like one thing is being sacrificed for another. What I mean is that the movie is subtle in it's developments. The problem with a shared universe is that sometimes, writers know you don't understand certain stories you plan on telling, so they use other movies within this universe to explore certain elements and promote the stories they are about to tell. Whedon doesn't do this, instead, he carefully lays out the themes for the future that WORK contextually within the story currently being told. We know that there's soon to be a Civil War movie involving Iron Man and Captain America, but what sparks this, yet small, conflict between Tony and Steve is the reasons behind Ultrons creating, meaning that it not only hints future events, but it also develops the main story in Age Of Ultron.
And speaking of character evolution, as I said, almost every integral character gets a decent amount of screen time. Whedon found a very decent way to utilize every character in one way or the other. There's a certain moment in the movie where everything takes a turn for the better (for the viewers, that is). Lets just say there's something that happens, which basically jump starts individual character segments that both explore separate elements of the each protagonist, but also tie and coverage within the AoU plot perfectly. Thor, for one, is much more down to earth and "human. Instead of some foreign, alien being, he feels like a friend to the Avengers, not to mention that he is a lot wiser and helps move the plot forward instead of just standing there looking tough and "mighty", which, while cool on it's own, isn't enough anymore. I had my gripes with the direction they were taking with Natasha and Bruce, but after giving it some thought, it made a lot of sense, within the cinematic universe, of course. Since the movie has been out for a while, I don't see why it's too much to talk about why the relationship works. I see it this way, both characters have gone through some serious life-changing experiences that sort of inadvertently "unleashes" a very dangerous force. For Widow, it was her life as an assassin and emotionless killer, whereas for Bruce, it's his life as the Hulk. It seems like a "beauty and the beast" kind of ordeal, but it's more like two unwilling monsters meeting and understanding each other. Also, as a huge Hulk fan, I was immensely pleased with his portrayal. Bruce has adapted a more confident and determined personality, which I much enjoyed. Sure, most of the time he seems like a nervous dork who tries to keep to himself, but there are certain moments were you get a peak at an angry Bruce Banner, which seems quite intimidating. That's quite the compliment, given that this is the same man who can transform in to a 2 ton engine of destruction. I plan on discussing how Hulk was portrayed, but it feels more appropriate if we talk about him when discussing the action sequences. Also, I'd like to give a special shutout for Hawkeye and the Twins. While, as I said, Hawkeye was second fiddle in the first Avengers, he's kind of the conscious glue that holds everyone together. In many ways, he's the heart of the show, which I found to be both surprising and amazing. What makes his character development greater is that he sort of serves as gateway to explore the personality of the twins, since he is the one to have the most interaction with them.
As for now, lets get into the more "synthetic" aspect of the movie. Given that there have been many MCU films so far, we've had are fare share of colorful villains. However, not a lot of them really stood out for me. That's not to say that the actors portraying them are bad, nor does it mean that there were't any good villains, but sadly, most of the phase two bad guys like Ronin and Malekith weren't all that memorable, mostly because the lacked any layers. Loki may not have been powerful, but he was well developed and interesting. He was a developing characters just as much as Tony Stark, or Thor, per say, which made him stand out. He had charm, is what I'm trying to see. Same goes for Obediah Stane from Iron Man and Wilson Fisk from the Daredevil TV show. These guys were layered and complex, and were just as important as the main heroes. So I'm happy to say James Spader absolutely killed it as Ultron.
I'm not sure why people have a problem with how Ultron was portrayed.Was giving him a personality a bad idea? As far as I know, he's always been more human than machine, and given that he was essentially created by Stark, it's not all that shocking he'd mirror Tony's personality. Ultron was a character, and not some ominous monster who appeared here and there, did something "evil" and then took off. We got to see his side of the story. Ultron was the kind of villain you just enjoy watching, only unlike Loki, he can carry some serious presence. He was creepy, calculating, smart and sadistic, all of which was enforced by James Spaders terrific acting and fantastic voice. What I found particularly interesting was that Ultron was never a Stark villain, despite his origins and development. In fact, my fears that he would remain in Iron Man's shadow never came to fruition. Instead, he was kind of the nemesis of his own creation, Vision, who by the way is one of the coolest additions to the roster. Sure, he's new and doesn't get the same level of screen time, but when he does appear, he literally steals the show. He's so different and similar to Ultron that you can't help but like the guy. Ultron is the personification of human produced death and destruction, where as Vision represents life and prosperity. This dichotomy and opposition between two integral characters leads to some seriously memorable and beautiful moments.
My only true problem with Ultron, and this seems to be Whedons crutch, is that he wasn't all that powerful. He was though, sure, but having an iconic villain like that in a movie does kind of give a fan hope that there will be a huge brawl between all of the Avengers and the main bad guy. It was clear that Ultron wouldn't really last in that kind of fight. They gave him a different KIND of menacing power, which worked in it's own way, but still, I think the first option would have been better.
That's not to say that the action in this movie wasn't amazing, quite the contrary, it was fantastic. The Hulk vs Hulkbuster fight scene was, without a doubt, my favorite comic book movie fight scene, hands down, and there are quite a few reasons for that. First of all, the tone of the fight was balanced, and this extends to the whole movie to be quite honest. You knew the stakes and the seriousness of the threat. The writers never denied us the chance to laugh and have fun, but we knew when things got serious, and I liked that. It never felt that the movie was sacrificing story for the sake of delivering the punchline, and the Hulk vs Iron man fight was a testament to that. I loved the last battle in the first movie, but apparently, a lot of people died in that fight, and it never occurred to us because the tone was light-hearted and fun, which is fine, if it's consistent with the movie, but this time around you feel that there's some serious damage being done. Hulk lost control, and he was manipulated into hurting a lot of people. This is a good way to develop Hulks individual character, and the end of the fight showed us how the Jade giant truly thought of his actions. You can see the regret and sadness in his face, and as a huge Hulk fan, you can understand why I was personally touched by this scene. Hulk couldn't have gotten a lot of screen, but when he did show up, he had key moments of development and character evolution. Secondly, the choreography is absolutely brilliant. You can literally feel the weight and power of these two characters as the bash it out on each other. I wish Hulk would use more of his signature moves, but given his condition, it was a smart move to make him fight like a mindless monster, as having Hulk utilize other branches of his power would demean Iron Mans only true advantage, which was his intellect. And with that said, you can definitely feel who was stronger in the fight. No matter what Iron Man threw at the Hulk, the big guy kept coming back and nothing seemed to slow him down, which made me insanely happy. Tony did get more hits in, but he was still shown to be the underdog throughout the whole brawl.
But as much as I personally enjoyed this fight, the final battle was just as breathtaking. I can't say much without spoiling it, but know this. You can feel how serious the situation is, and it's a true wonder to see these avengers work so well with one another. You can tell that they have legitimately come a very long way after the events of the first film, and seeing them work so well in synch with one another not only brought forth some fantastic sequences, but also brought a genuine smile to my gloomy, angry face.
It feels like I should say a few words about the story, but I feel like I've spoiled a lot as it is, so without going into to much detail, the plot is very complicated but it works out very well. The plot is very character driven, and while it feels as if it's trying to tell individual stories, Whedon manages to balance it out by making it relevant to the main narrative, as well as subplots, which, by the way, is a pretty amazing feat given that there are so many things happening at the same time. Unfortunately, There is one huge glaring plot hole, or better Dues Ex Machina moment, which for some odd reason NO one has mentioned yet. I understand why they did it, but seriously, they could have gone with a completely different route that would have made much more sense both story and context wise. I mean, a SHIELD "spaceship" just pops up after SHIELD was successfully destroyed and no one notices this? Fury gives like a one word explanation for this and then it's literally never touched upon. They could have had the starkbots help or something along thous lines. It would have made more sense, since we've SEEN that Stark had been developing crowd control measures.
In conclusion, Age of Ultron had a lot to live up to, and if this were a test, I'd say it passed with flying colors. The second installment is well acted, written, directed, choreographed and balanced. Even if you don't like it more than the first one, it has enough action and fun that I'm sure at least the majority will enjoy it very much. I've seen the movie twice already, and I'm sure I'll probably see it a couple of more times as well. Yes, it was that good.