After the first phase of films, The Avengers (2012) was a culmination everyone was waiting for. Now, after a second phase, would The Avengers: Age of Ultron be able to live up to the excitement and just plain goodness of THE AVENGERS? Or would this be another slight miss by Marvel?
Thankfully, the full superhero team from The Avengers (2012) returns for Avengers: Age of Ultron…and they are almost as fun as they were the first time around. In fact, this time, the viewer gets to see a fun scene they aren’t expecting, when they all try to pick up Thor’s hammer. It’s great to see these characters kind of out of their big-time action sequences, just having a good time. And yet, even in that sequence, each personality is still there. Tony Stark trying to prove he’s that good (with his Iron Man armor) – in fact, trying to cheat by having James Rhodes help with his War Machine armor; Thor getting worried when “goody-two-shoes” Captain America gives it a try; Hawkeye just trying to see if he can; Black Widow, realizing it’s just a testosterone thing, not needing to prove anything, and declining. It’s probably the best scene of the film, just getting to watch them play “normal” for once.
There are some new faces in Avengers: Age of Ultron as well. Fans of the comics will quickly recognize Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, respectively. Sure, it’s odd to see them without Magneto (and even odder to see another version of Quicksilver, after his scene-stealing appearance in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)), but this film provides a solid introduction to a dour pair of twins. If X-Men ever ties in with The Avengers, this seems a logical place to do that…but also complicated in so many ways. It’s interesting that both franchises decided to latch onto the same character at about the same time, and it may be a bit confusing to see the vast differences the characters go, but it’s definitely high-time the characters got some screen time. It’s also interesting to see The Vision (played by Paul Bettany) introduced in this film as well, especially (as fans of the comics are aware), he and Scarlet Witch become quite an item.
Of course, what would a Marvel film be without it’s villain? While the villain isn’t always the greatest (which, apparently, is why they keep going back to Tom Hiddleston time and again), without a villain, there isn’t really a point to the hero at all. How can they grow without a threat? Ultron, a classic villain that plagued The Avengers in the comics over the years, is introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron (obviously), and while his comic book beginnings are changed (Tony Stark creates him, rather than Hank Pym), it makes sense, as it seems like something Tony would do. Unfortunately, despite a creepy voice performance by James Spader (showcased to great effect in one of the trailers), he doesn’t really push the heroes as much as the film wants the viewer to believe. They get knocked down once, and almost give up – but it’s more due to the effects of the Scarlet Witch rather than Ultron. They then come back with a vengeance, and suddenly are an even better team.
But that’s kind of the point of Avengers: Age of Ultron. While the first film showed them working through each other’s egos and becoming a team, this film seems more to set up Phase 3. While the first film wrapped up Phase 1 nicely, this film is more about setting up Phase 3, where the heroes are put to more of a moral test than a physical one. Obviously, the brief fight sequence between Tony and Cap is an obvious lead-in to the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016). It’s kind of odd, as it makes the film seem more of a gap filler than a separate film unto itself, despite all the action on-screen.
And there is certainly a lot of that action in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The fight sequences are bigger, and seem even more plentiful than in The Avengers (2012)S. Still, one of the best action sequences is the one that occurs right at the beginning of the film, where the team is working together to defeat some Hydra agent and get back Loki’s scepter. The later sequences, especially the big one near the end, where they team up to defeat a bunch of robots, seem like a rehash of the action sequences in The Avengers (2012).
With the long-awaited debut of Ultron, and the introduction of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (not to mention a blossoming story between Bruce Banner and Black Widow), Avengers: Age of Ultron seems like it has everything to make it succeed on the same level as it’s predecessor. Yet, with all the time it spends setting up Phase 3, and the darker tone of the film, it just doesn’t quite work on the same level as The Avengers (2012). It’s still a good flick, but it just doesn’t quite capture the viewer the way the first film did.