How do you follow up from one of the highest grossing and highest rated movies of all time? Simple, make another one. The behemoth sized (purposefully missed pun about Hulk) task was placed once again on the shoulders of fan favourite Joss Whedon and, although he has later revealed the stress inducing pressures that the studio forced upon him, he still manages to create one hell of a good film.
Set a couple of years after the first Avengers film ‘Age of Ultron’ starts with the overpowered team storming a Hydra stronghold in search of Loki’s staff that has been missing for the entire duration between the films. Cue an epic opening that sweeps passed every avenger in a single shot as they are each given an epic re-introduction whilst stomping, blasting, shooting and lobbing a shield at a horde of faceless Nazis. There success of the mission leads to the main plot as Tony Stark (The ever awesome Robert Downey Jr) inadvertently becomes a conduit in the creation of artificial intelligence. Enter Ultron (Motioned captured and voiced by the sultry James Spader), a juvenile intelligence created with stopping all wars as its primary function, however his execution of his objective is simply that… execution of the entire human race.
The movie feels a lot different when compared to that of its previous instalment and that is a very good thing. It would have been very easy for writer/director Joss Whedon to simply sit back and just throw the team amongst some explosions for two and a half hours or to do a complete rehash of the first film, yet instead his script is a meticulous piece that helps broaden the character development of each and every avenger. This is despite the fact that there were so many familiar faces in the film that you could not count all of them on just your hands, in addition to the incredibly high pressures that Whedon was placed under by the studio.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become this gargantuan entity (once again purposely missed Hulk pun) that spends a lot more time than it should worrying how each film will intermingle with the next in order to keep the viewing public coming back for more. Whedon has commented how disheartened he was to hear a fan say how excited they were to see a cliffhanger for a later film, the director stated that films should be a singular entity with a beginning, middle and end; the fact that the MCU has now become somewhat serialised makes it no different than a television drama. Even with all this, as well as the studio forcing him to leave certain key scenes of the editing room floor, Whedon still managed to create a film that could be seen as somewhat standalone for his final entry in the MCU.
As mentioned earlier his character development is key to the success of this film however Whedon has recently come under fire for certain choices that he made, mainly involving the past of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and her relationship with Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Although many people do not like his decisions I am completely behind him. The revelation of Black Widow’s childhood and subsequent years really help define the person that she has become; and her more plutonic relationship with Hawkeye allows a nice story arc that surprises the audience and adds that special something to Hawkeye that has been severely missing up until this point.
Whedon manages to patch up past mistakes involving our favourite Bow wielding avenger by finally revealing some of the humour that is present in the comic representation of the character. One stand out point comes near the end of a film and involves Clint’s feelings towards speedster Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The scene lasts no more than a few seconds yet, thanks to Whedon’s excellent skill in character portrayal, it manages to endear you to Clint who up until this film has been nothing more than filler. With such a tiny interaction Whedon is able to show just how physically exhausting it must be for a fighter such as Hawkeye to be running around with a superpower group when all he has to rely on are his own skills.
Everyone is, of course, on top form for this latest instalment in the MCU yet it is James Spader as Ultron that truly steals the show. Spader’s sultry tones ooze out of his mechanised body and affect the audience in such a way that has not been seen since the uprising of popularity for Morgan Freeman’s voice in the early 2000’s. Able to change from humorous naivety to pure horrific rage in a heartbeat Spader has managed to create the first truly terrifying villain of the MCU.
As with any film ‘Age of Ultron’ is not completely perfect yet it delivers everything you want it to. It is sad to see Whedon finally leave Marvel yet his work has helped create such a powerful property that ‘Age of Ultron’ will, for a very long time, stand above as one of the best films of the Hulk-sized (Damn it) Marvel Cinematic Universe.