You walk out that door, you’re an Avenger.
When it was first revealed that Marvel were making a series of films which would lead up to one big crossover, I expected something grand. Not saying that those expectations failed to deliver, but I felt that the first Avengers focused on scope rather than dynamic. In The Avengers you had several superheroes joining forces to fight off a horde of aliens led by a British demigod. While it did not fail in terms of action and laughs, the issue was it did not feel like a proper crossover. Crossover’s are supposed to combine drastically different series and explore how the tones and character’s clash. However, The Avengers felt like a series of expensive action sequences involving people with different powers and abilities. What I am saying is that the film focused on the superheroes instead of the characters. We saw mostly Iron Man and Hulk fight together to defeat aliens, but very little interaction between Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. Sure, the film was sprinkled with plenty of character interaction, but not enough to satisfy my expectations.
The focus on action over story was a main issue I had with the first Avengers, but it made me came to realize just what the Marvel Cinematic Universe was trying to be. It was not trying to provide a compelling story where you watch characters develop while dealing with external factors, but rather how their powers can help create unique action to appease to the masses. What The Avenger’s made me realize was that if you want to watch a film with more than just mindless action, you should not be looking at Marvel.
Avengers: Age of Ultron surprisingly went against this belief, and that is why I believe it to be the best Marvel film to date. The film could have easily been the same story as the first; where the Avengers work together to stop an invasion (this time being machines). While the film was still this idea, it was also something a lot more detailed and deep. It did have explosions and destruction, but it also has quiet scenes where you get to understand the characters better. Unlike the first, these moments were not just a handful (which often led to bickering), but the film managed to strike a balance between characters and action, while the first was mainly action. You get to understand who these characters are, what they are feeling, and most importantly, why they fight.
For example, examine Hawkeye, who is often regarded as the forgotten Avenger. He did not do much in the first film, and is consequently considered stale and boring. However, director Joss Whedon decides to give him ample screen time in this film in order to forge a three dimensional character. I do not mean he gets more action scenes, when in actuality he sits out in a lot of the action. His main role in Age of Ultron is something else which I do not wish to spoil. All I will say is you really get to understand Clint Barton, and hope he makes it out of the battle alive.
Newcomer Avenger’s Scarlet Witch and The Vision also receive a lot of character depth. Quicksilver, however, is sorely underdeveloped and unremarkable. His role is mainly a way to explore Scarlet Witch’s character instead of his. Due to this, Scarlet Witch’s character is a lot more detailed and developed, making her incredibly likeable despite being a newcomer. The Vision only shows up near the end of the film, but he is immediately captivating from the second he debuts (you will know why when you see it). There is something intriguing by the concept of his character based on how he interacts with titular villain, Ultron.
I was completely blown away with how Ultron was handled in the film. Ultron was a creation of Tony Stark who ends up going rogue, wishing to not be a puppet to his master. This made me feel unsettled due to the concept being recycled from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, another one of Whedon’s work. Season 4 of Buffy had a similar villain, but was executed horribly and is Whedon’s worst villain ever created. However, Ultron is handled in an extraordinary matter. Despite being machine, Ultron has a sense of wit and character to him that prevents him from becoming stale. The film also manages to invert the cliché regarding Artificial Intelligence, where they typically wish to wipe out all of humanity because they are evil. This still comes to play in Ultron’s motivation, but human nature is not the reason upon his wish for extinction. Instead, there is a more specific reason for Ultron’s villainy, one that ties into the grander universe Marvel is building. This makes Ultron incredibly enjoyable as a villain; one who I would argue even tops the former best villain of the Marvel Universe, Loki.
While linking Ultron to the grander universe was exciting, the rest of the ties end up feeling more like a hindrance to Age of Ultron’s quality. You have nine superheroes banding together to fight a common enemy while blending action sequences with character studies. As a result, the added amounts of foreshadowing and world building make the film feel a little too bloated. You can easily tell what Joss Whedon wanted this film to be, and how the connections were shoehorned in at the producers’ behest. A lot of scenes and moments end up feeling like they do not matter within the context of the story itself, and are merely setting up for future films.
The rushed nature of the film also led to a few unresolved issues. Most notably, one character just completely vanishes towards the end of the film. His/her fate is left completely unclear, which felt like Whedon wanted to include a conclusion for the character but simply did not have enough time. Instead, their fate is mentioned ONCE after the final appearance, and it oddly felt bizarre and unsatisfactory. Knowing how these movies work, the likely scenario is that their return will not be addressed and that they will just be there the next time Marvel wants them to appear. The fact that this character simply disappears was incredibly jarring and made me unsatisfied with the turnout. Then again, this is just one of the character arcs…out of eight (Quicksilver does not count).
A common complaint critics had with Avengers: Age of Ultron was that it was more of the same, yet I would argue it is the best version of the same. The film did have its issues with a little too much going on, and some scenes that were clearly shoehorned in, but nonetheless it was still what I wanted an Avengers film to be like. It was not just about the Avenger’s fighting, but it was instead why they were Avenger’s. Ultron’s character was also a captivating take on a tired concept, which led to the film being highly enjoyable. Overall, Age of Ultron successfully juggles an intriguing plot, three dimensional characters, and intense action sequences. This perfect balance is exactly what I enjoy in a film and is what makes Avengers: Age of Ultron such an enthralling film.