Although it seems hard to believe, it was three years ago this weekend that writer/director Joss Whedon collectively blew our minds by unleashing onto the world The Avengers. It was an audacious film that brought together characters we had grown to know and love through their own individual movies and I think that I can speak for all films nerds when I say that seeing Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, and yes…even Hawkeye together on screen was enough to make a movie memory that will last a lifetime.
But now three years have past and in that time we’ve continued watching these characters do battle with the forces of evil on their own time knowing full well that they’d be gathered again for us in Joss Whedon’s sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron. And while the prospect of that seemed uncontrollably exciting leading up to the film’s release, I now have to wonder if we’ve already experienced too much of a good thing now that I’m on the other side of things.
The film picks up after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier with our favorite heroes working together to hunt down the last remaining agents of Hydra and recapture Loki’s scepter which is powered by a gem of unspeakable power. They succeed in this mission and then Tony Stark (who is for some unexplained reason back in the superhero business after destroying all of his armored suits at the end of Iron Man 3) takes possession of said scepter to work with Bruce Banner to create the ultimate piece of artificial intelligence in hopes of someday saving the world from extraterrestrial threats.
What Banner and Stark create though can best be described as a monster. Named Ultron (voiced deliciously by James Spader), this intense piece of software finds a way to manifest itself as a physical robot and sets out with a plan to kill the Avengers and ultimately destroy most of life on our planet.
The plot gets a little more complicated than that with a host of new characters including Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and The Vision (Paul Bettany) getting involved, but since most of the film’s genuine surprises revolve around them the less I say here the better. In a nutshell though, this is a movie about a bad guy trying to destroy the world – not exactly original or captivating stuff on a strictly story level.
Joss Whedon does an impossibly good job at juggling the seemingly infinite different characters populating the story but we’ve now reached a point where simply having them together isn’t enough to make a completely satisfying movie. As an audience we demand something new beyond adding yet more characters. Instead of thematic or structural curve balls we essentially just get more of the same with teases for even more movies tossed in to tickle fanboys in all the right places. But even the much-anticipated end credits scene felt redundant this time around with almost no surprise element to get us squealing in our seats.
All of this is not to say that the movie is a total drag. There are actually plenty of things in it to make you giggle like a schoolboy or daydream about taking flight to personally battle an army of robots (Hulk vs Iron Man in his Hulkbuster armor comes to mind as the film’s geektastic highlight) but the heart never soars quite like it did three years ago when the gang got together to avenge the death of a friend in the streets of New York City.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a truly wonderful thing that I can’t wait to see continue unfolding with new characters and worlds introduced, but this particular entry just doesn’t quite hit the mark in the way I was hoping. Here’s hoping Ant-Man can end Phase Two on a really high note…
OH, AND LET’S NOT FORGET ONE LAST SPOILER-FILLED GRIPE BEFORE I WRAP THIS UP…
Seriously stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie yet…
Okay…here goes… [Click to expand the spoilers][su_spoiler title=”Avengers: Age of Ultron SPOILERS” style=”fancy”]HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU KILL QUICKSILVER AND LEAVE HAWKEYE ALIVE AND WELL?!?! Sure, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye earns a little more love and respect this time around but the movie’s big emotional payoff is killing off a new character who has maybe five lines throughout the whole movie prior to a final act of bravery?! Nope. Shoulda been Hawkeye taking those bullets. I would have cried my face off.
Quicksilver taking the bullets = indifferent shrug.[/su_spoiler]