THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS
After the incredible success of The Avengers (I’m still refusing to call it Avengers Assemble), Joss Whedon was hired to write and direct the follow-up. The film, titled Avengers: Age of Ultron, had a lot to live up to considering the overwhelmingly positive reaction to The Avengers, so it’s not surprising that for some, the film was a massive disappointment. It is fair to say that Age of Ultron is not as good as the first film, however, to say that it is a massive disappointment is a totally undeserving criticism of an extremely enjoyable film.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the team are forced to reunite to fight Ultron (James Spader), an artificial intelligence, created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who believes the only way to save humanity is to destroy it.
The most important factor that The Avengers had to get right was the character dynamics. It’s safe to say that Joss Whedon absolutely nailed it, in both The Avengers and its sequel. The interactions between the heroes felt natural considering the personalities of the heroes. However, Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) role was criticised by audiences and Renner himself, as he was relegated to a brainwashed slave for the majority of the runtime. Fortunately, Hawkeye is given much more to do in Age of Ultron, with what is easily his most significant contribution to an MCU film so far. There is a fun rivalry between Hawkeye and “enhanced” Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). It could be said that Hawkeye is the most important Avenger in the film, with the introduction of his family, giving the character a sense of purpose and an emotional conflict throughout the film.
Age of Ultron attempts to make the action more gritty and realistic, and it is safe to say that it accomplishes this. Right from the fantastic opening tracking shot, which showcases all of our heroes taking on Hydra agents in impressive fashion. As the film plays out, the action never feels overdone.
The film also looks brilliant. A common criticism of the first film was that it looked very cheap, whether it was the costumes, production design, CGI or cinematography. The film looked more like an expensive made-for-TV film rather than a Hollywood blockbuster. However, for Age of Ultron, there is a change of cinematographer with Ben Davis replacing Seamus McGarvey, and this results in an at-times stunning film.
Although the MCU is often criticised for having a problem with creating compelling villains, Ultron is an exception to this. Thanks to James Spader’s excellent voice work, and the sheer brilliance of Joss Whedon’s writing, Ultron ends up being a memorable villain, whose motivations are easily understandable. There is a sense of a child-like innocence with Ultron that makes him a rare sympathetic villain compared to the murdering psychopaths that we constantly see in Marvel films.
Due to the ever-growing plans for future films in the MCU, it is not surprising that these future films are set up earlier on. Age of Ultron, however, is guilty of including scenes which exist in the film solely to tease whats coming next. The likes of Thor’s trip with Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) to a pool and the mention of the Infinity Stones feel totally unnecessary and had no purpose being in the film.
Another factor of the film that feels out-of-place is the romance between Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). It feels far too random as there had been absolutely no establishment of their relationship for this in any of the earlier films and ultimately feels too forced.
Lastly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson on paper is a great casting for a role which had been made famous by Evan Peters in Fox’s X-Men films. Although it’s not surprising that he did not manage to live up to performance that made Peters’ version so popular. Taylor-Johnson delivers a surprisingly below-par performance as the speedster with an atrocious attempt at a Russian accent.
In the end, Avengers: Age of Ultron is not as good as the first film, however, it is nowhere near as bad as some fans will claim. Benefiting from a larger budget and a different cinematographer, Avengers: Age of Ultron is an incredibly underrated film that succeeds as a piece of blockbuster entertainment.