Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Editor’s Notes: Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently open in wide theatrical release. For an additional perspective, check out Doug’s review of the film.
The key to any comic book movie’s success is its characters, and nobody seems to know this better than Joss Whedon. One of only three people to have a sole writing credit for an MCU film and the only one to do so for two films, Whedon has not only written a sequel that runs laps around the original in terms of action and scale, but it also raises the stakes in ways that very incredibly real and dramatic.
Whedon has not only written a sequel that runs laps around the original in terms of action and scale, but it also raises the stakes in ways that very incredibly real and dramatic.
Great a movie as it is, 2012’s Avengers was burdened by the fact that it was the first time all these characters were together. People were paying to see the Hulk, to see Iron Man fight Thor. It was also essentially an origin story, a group coming together and learning to work as a team with a common goal. As a result, the characters at the core of the story suffered as a result. With Age of Ultron, every character gets their moment to shine, and the franchise is better because of it.
The film opens with what we waited two hours for the first time around by showing the entire team in action. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Black Widow attack a stronghold containing the scepter from the previous Avengers flick. However, things are much darker and sinister this time around. There are more powers at play, and the stakes are higher than ever. I’ll refrain from going into details about the plot of Age of Ultron, but I will say that James Spader’s Ultron may be the best villain in the entire franchise. The addition of Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch is also one of the best new characters to come along in sometime, and I look forward to seeing more of her in the series.
With Age of Ultron, every character gets their moment to shine, and the franchise is better because of it.
Joss Whedon strikes me as an artist always searching for ways to improve his craft, and it’s not a hyperbole when I say that he has improved on his previous film in more ways than one. Though he admitted during the press junket for Age of Ultron that he didn’t have time to revisit the first Avengers, it’s blindingly clear that he knew what he wanted to do better this time around. He raised the film’s stakes and made a film that feels more like a complete story than the fulfillment of a promise to fanboys. His characters feel completely fleshed out. All of their arcs feel natural for their characters, and some of them are even emotionally moving. Moments like Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers butting heads are obviously setting up the forthcoming Civil War storyline, but it is so well executed that it actually ends up adding to the film. Yes, there’s tons of impressive and well-executed action sequences, but Avengers: Age of Ultron is nothing without its characters. Even the trademark Whedon humor serves the story better this time around. So many blockbuster sequels leave us never wanting to visit the film’s characters or the world they inhabit ever again. Thanks to Josh Whedon, the world of The Avengers is more exciting and richer than ever.
We’ve come a long way since Robert Downey Jr. cracked myspace jokes in a humvee. Ten movies, seven years and numerous broken box office records later heralds the arrival of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the biggest, boldest and perhaps even most entertaining entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this side of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But I’m not here to rank the Marvel movies, for that would detract from the sheer brilliance of what Joss Whedon has accomplished with this sequel. Whedon has accomplished one of the greatest one-two punches in cinematic history, and his departure from the franchise would have me frantically worried if not for the Russo brothers being given the three biggest remaining films in the MCU story arc. Here’s hoping they not only learn from what Whedon has done, but continue to improve upon it as well.
Thanks to Josh Whedon, the world of The Avengers is more exciting and richer than ever.