MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW
While most films are delayed in their release on my side of the pond, in the case of the sequel to one of the most American of movie franchises the powers at be decided to release it much earlier than in the United States. I was, like I know many of you that are reading this review are, trying to be as cautiously optimistic about its potential quality as I would due to the depth of my emotional bias towards the Marvel roster, especially those that are counted as â€˜Earthâ€™s Mightiest Heroes.â€™
The first Avengerâ€™s film bookended Phase 1, which showcased the origins of Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and Thor. After saving New York from an invading alien force Phase 2 made every attempt to suck away that positive momentum and established a much darker tone that challenged our assumptions about the noble heroes and stability of the Marvel Universe as a whole.
Age of Ultron opens in spectacular, almost Bond like fashion, with the team assaulting the snowy fortress of a dastardly weapons designer that is in possession of the filmâ€™s MacGuffin. The last two years have given them sufficient time to gel as a unit and that is on display to full effect, I was silently screaming â€˜Avengers Assembleâ€™ during a few of the more explosive moments.
After leaving the battlefield, the Macguffin is brought back to Avengers headquarters, the former Stark Tower the dynamic brain trust of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner proceed to mine its secrets and begin their unwitting path to unleashing, despite their noble intentions, the dark side of artificial intelligence in creating Ultron, a sentient robot out for the destruction of humanity, for its own good.
This throws the team into disarray as they blame the peacekeeping automaton obsessed Tony for overstepping his moral boundaries and that schism is widened further by the psychic ministrations of Wanda Maximoff, the twin sister of Pietro Maximoff. Those names who might ring a bell to anyone that has a passing familiarity with the X-Men, but because Marvel hasnâ€™t acquire the rights to that license as of yet, are not referred to as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver or even as mutants, but rather as one of the few that survived intensive experimentation by the mad scientist the Avengers took down at the beginning of this story.
Eventually they all realize that fighting will result in nothing but the worldâ€™s destruction and come together once more for the greater good and..I wonâ€™t spoil the result of their toil. Iâ€™d rather open up about the films more general strengths and weaknesses.
As I mentioned earlier, the time in between this and the last Avengers film hasnâ€™t been wasted, all of the characters are noticeably more confident in both working together as a unit and standing out on their own. Director Joss Whedon was wise to give each character their own moment to shine, and further deepen our understanding of their psyches. While Mr. Downey Jr. is as charismatic as ever, I am glad that more time was given to Jeremy Rennerâ€™s Hawkeye and the internal struggles of Bruce Banner to control the beast inside.
There were certainly some strange choices made character wise as well, specifically with regards to the rapid blooming of a romantic relationship between Mr. Banner and Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johanssonâ€™s Black Widow) as well as the overwrought daddy issues that Ultron, despite being the most devious and physically menacing villain Marvel has yet to concoct is constantly struggling with. The much- anticipated addition of Vision suitably displays that he/it is a force to be reckoned with, and Paul Bettany provides as much grace to the character as he can, but he needs significantly more time to really come into his own as more than a convenient novelty.
With Age of Ultron bookending Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it had a lot of loose ends to tie up, and while it does so adequately well it does more to unravel them and quickly re-sew them into a big purple sweater that will be worked on by the Avengers in their own standalone films between now and Avengers: Infinity War. By doing so, it made the events of the here and now seem almost pointless in their implication.
The audiovisual quality of the film was of a suitably high caliber, despite some less than stellar 3D, although that might have been due to the cinema I watched it in having a subpar screen and projector. The cinematography of the action scenes, while ramping up the number of long single take swoops between different characters flexing their fighting chops on some unfortunate minion or big bad felt even more chaotic and overly busy than in the first film. This made it hard to make out who was smiting whom, with the exception of the much ballyhooed Hulk vs. Hulkbuster fight, which was a masterclass in how to portray a city rocking battle between two titans.
All in all I enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron, more than the first film, if slightly less than Captain America: the Winter Soldier, as it , even though it portrayed a man out of time, grounded him in the dark and dirty present instead of telling us anticipate a brighter (or perhaps darker) future.
NOTE: There is only an additional scene halfway through the credits, not after.