Sequel to 2012’s Avengers Assemble and the eleventh installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Age of Ultron, directed by Joss Whedon, picks up with our favourite superhero team. When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) jumpstarts a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry, calling for the need of The Avengers once again, bringing back together Iron Man, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). To save the planet from destruction at the hands of the villainous Ultron (voiced by James Spader), The Avengers are put to the ultimate test.
Since The Avengers first collaborative effort in 2012, Marvel began phase two of their cinematic universe with sequels Iron Man 3, Thor 2: The Dark World, and Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, as well as expanding into the universe further with the introduction of the Guardians of The Galaxy. After seeing all of the Avengers together for the first time, it was great to go back to the individual characters and also to meet some new ones. But three years later, audiences were eager to see them reunite again, to see the epic superhero team working together with all of their powers, but also to allow us to enjoy the talents of those without their own films yet (Ruffalo’s The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye).
Not only does Age of Ultron follow on from its predecessor smoothly, it also ties up all of the other films in phase 2 that were released in between them, leading to another hugely anticipated finale battle that sees the effects of the other films come together brilliantly.
In many ways Age of Ultron is better than its predecessor because it does well to focus on the characteristics that took a backseat in the first film. Whilst Avengers Assemble took time to play on what we loved about the individual characters beforehand, attempting to bring the strengths of the origin films together – Iron Man’s wit, Thor’s use of language, The Hulk’s anger, Captain America’s confusion of the modern world – Age of Ultron puts more time into the characters we don’t know so well, and into the depths of the heroes’ minds that often get put aside.
Age of Ultron certainly has a much more personal touch, and, whilst full to the brim of fantasy, feels as authentic as a superhero film can get. There’s a much better focus on Black Widow and Hawkeye this time around, two assassins who weren’t born with godly powers or who have since been genetically modified, giving us insights into their background stories and average lives outside of SHIELD, reminding us that it’s not all about fighting aliens and driving fast planes. With the use of Scarlet Witch’s (Elizabeth Olsen) mind-control powers, as well, we are able to see into the heroes’ minds, showing sides to their characters that we haven’t seen before, and showing us the pressures of what being a superhero can have (something easy to forget when you’re blown away by the excitement of it all!).
Whilst the film focuses on the individual characters excellently, it also brings everyone together just as well, including sidekicks War Machine (Don Cheadle) and The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and supporting ladies Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) – although it does severely lack a Natalie Portman and Gwyneth Paltrow who would have made the reunion complete. These scenes of everybody joking around and bouncing off each other’s characteristics, as well as a number of slow-motion scenes of the group working together, were truly brilliant, proving that even without the action and conflict that we could watch these guys for hours.
And then there’s the new characters. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are excellent additions to the cast, and both were cast perfectly. After seeing the two work together in last year’s Godzilla, it was great to get to see their talents and chemistry put to use once again. Whilst we’ve heard Paul Bettany throughout the Iron Man films, we also get to see him in his full glory in Age of Ultron which was a great call, and the voice of James Spader as Ultron echoes throughout the film with such perfection.
Age of Ultron undoubtedly puts a lot of attention to detail and character development, and whilst there are so many qualities that have been improved from the first film, I still don’t prefer it overall. Yet I have no criticisms of this sequel either. Age of Ultron is another brilliant film from Marvel, moving the story into phase three with the promise of new characters, the explorations of more galaxies, and the threat of even bigger villains.