With each new Marvel film that comes out there is always a fear. The fear that audiences are going to experience “superhero fatigue.” The idea that the market is oversaturated and we just can’t take another film featuring a hero in a costume saving the world. There is another fear that with so many comic-book movies coming out that the creativity well is going to dry up. I don’t know if a day will come where audiences are sick of superheroes or filmmakers run out of new stories. What I do know is that Avengers: Age of Ultron does not fall prey to either concerns.
Instead of hiding from the fact that it is a comic book film, Age of Ultron fully embraces it. Not only does it embrace it, it might just be one of the nerdiest movies a major studio has put out in recent memory. There are so many things happening in the film it can seem intimidating at times. With all the different action set pieces and expository dialogue scenes needed to make this a mainstream blockbuster, director Joss Whedon makes it all work by keeping the story nerdy and making sure characters come first.
Age of Ultron follows the band of super heroes after their recent adventures. Its strange, the film is as much a sequel to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and it is to 2012’s The Avengers. They are chasing down Loki’s scepter (from the first film) but it is in the hands of Hydra (an entity introduced in the Captain America films). The film starts off with a bang. A huge action scene that sees the team working together taking down foes while also featuring witty banter synonymous with both Joss Whedon and the comics themselves.
After the opening, the film moves into the meat of the story: the creation and threat of Ultron. In the comics, Ultron is created by Dr. Hank Pym (Ant-Man). With Ant-Man coming out later this year, Tony Stark has taken his place as the creator of Ultron. Having Stark be the creator behind Ultron works both as a logically (he has already worked in the realm of A.I. and metal suits) and thematically (after The Avengers and Iron Man 3 he feels the burden to protect the world and redeem himself). After a series of events Ultron is created, the threat is introduced and the team must work together to not only save the world, but remain strong as a team and stick together.
Writer/Director Joss Whedon gets it. He is a master of witty dialogue. He recognizes the importance of character development/moments. He is “one of us” when it comes to displaying the comic-book nature of these films. We said all of this when the first film was released; again we see that Whedon is the man to trust when it comes to our Avengers.
The film is grand in scale. It is huge. In the midst of the world ending and a globe-trotting adventure, Whedon keeps the focus on the characters. Just a quick rundown of what Whedon accomplishes here: Iron Man, Captain America and Thor continue their quest of saving people while also being part of a team. Black Widow and The Hulk continue to get character beats and backstory while also developing a romantic relationship. Hawkeye, after getting the shaft in the first film, almost becomes the heart of the film (“why is he even on the team?” is answered with emotional resound). All of this, while also introducing the brother/sister duo of Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch and the new world of artificial intelligence in the form of both Ultron and The Vision. That’s alot, but please believe me when I tell you,
Even as I wrote out that last paragraph I recognize that it is a little too much movie for 2 ½ hours. But as I think back on the film (I’ve seen it twice at this point) I can confidently say that it works. The plot is constantly moving forward, going from the fictional african country of Wakanda, to eastern Europe, to Seol, Korea, and even featuring the brand new Avengers Tower in New York. The Avengers are chasing down Ultron across the globe while also going on various subplots that develop the characters and flesh out the world even more. Whedon loves these characters and rewards you for investing in them (Black Widow and Hawkeye get the attention they deserve).
How can a blockbuster this dense work? Whedon succeeds by keeping the comic-book nature of the source material in tact. The action is weighty (no pun intended with regards to Mjolnir) and fun. I mean it is extremely fun. There are various character combinations and different “moves” that make this feel like a living comic book. In addition to the action, the movie is really funny. Though this is the “dark sequel” and the trailers show the grim nature of Ulton, the film has tons of laughs. There were lines of dialogue that I missed due to my audience laughing so hard during the opening night showing.
It would be one thing if the film had big action and tons of laughs and that was it. You would enjoy yourself but upon further reflection the film would disappoint. That is not Age of Ultron. Age of Ultron features a dense story (that is not an insult) that is rewarding upon multiple viewings and is a film dedicated to making sure characters drive the plot. Ultron’s villainous motives and humourous mannerisms are based within the fact he was created by Tony Stark. The “movie romance” between Hulk and Black Widow is driven by the character design of two scared characters opening up to one another. Scarlet Witch’s telekinesis is not only cool to look at, but also serves as a way to (literally) get in the head of the characters and teach us about them through their fears. Character beats. Character moments. Character development. Thank you Whedon.
While the film may be a bit too stuffed, that is not something that holds the film down. Big action, funny dialogue, character-driven plot, fan service to those devoted to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Age of Ultron is the real deal and a huge success. If I were 10 years old this would be the best film of all time, but not being a kid doesn’t make me appreciate the movie less. As an older audience member I am able to recognize the beauty of character moments and appreciate the complexity of the script…….oh and also Thor and Captain AmeRICA USE MJOLNIR AND HIS SHIELD TO TAKE DOWN A BUNCH OF BAD GUYS IN ONE MOVE OH MY GOSH I LOVE THIS MOVIE…sorry, I’m back (gotta keep it together Josh, can’t let your fanboy nature discredit your critical legitimacy).
All that being said, Marvel is still king of the franchise picture, these characters hold a special place in my heart and Whedon has yet to disapoint. Avengers:Age of Ultron is another perfect piece of blockbuster filmmaking. Whether it be the continuing saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Joss Whedon’s next project, I can’t wait for what’s to come.
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