Well, I remain very impressed by Marvel Studios’ output. Even with a majority of positive reviews, I was a tad concerned about Avengers: Age of Ultron. There were a fair amount of reviewers who said it was overstuffed, full of too many characters and too much action. Worst of all, according to some critics, Age of Ultron ignored the new post-heroic status quo of Tony Stark. Remember at the end of the abysmal Iron Man 3 how Tony blew up his Iron Legion and decided to hook up rather than step up? Heaven forbid that character-destroying moment be ignored! More like “Thank Goodness!”
So with that out of the way, how is the actual movie? It’s good. It is everything we loved about Joss Whedon’s first Avengers film. It is fun and full of character. There are action moments for every single hero and villain. And most importantly, James Spader, like Tom Hiddleston before him, steals the show as the film’s villain.
I’m not a huge James Spader fan. It isn’t that I don’t like him, just that our paths have never really crossed in my extensive media consumption. But man, I’m a fan now. With his voice alone, Spade establishes the playful and malevolent outlook of the MCU’s Ultron. When he’s not on screen, I found myself anticipating the next ridiculous, great line of dialogue Ultron would have for me. A strong antagonist is SO important to a good narrative. And Joss Whedon knows it; he’s had the best two villains in the entire Marvel movie library.
The entire ensemble is excellent, as you’d expect. But Captain America is my favorite, and Chris Evans does a fantastic job in the role once again. Cap is a straight arrow, but man, he backs up his morals with actions. From the opening exchange with Iron Man all the way to Cap’s moral declaration at the close of the movie, Cap is the friggin’ man. One of my favorite things about Marvel movie Cap is the power boost he’s received. Giving him a touch of super-strength really makes his action scenes pop, especially when he takes on Ultron one on one.
I expect the top-notch moments from Thor and Iron Man, so the badass moments from Hawkeye and Black Widow are always a treat. Hawkeye gets a lot of back-story and a good rivalry with the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, while Black Widow continues to do a TON of the heavy lifting in the Marvel U. How is it that I like the Widow so much more in the movies than in the comics? Scarlett Johansson’s Widow has been an integral character in Marvel’s Phase II movies; I can’t wait to see her continue to shape the Marvel U.
All this rambling, and I’m short-changing the Hulk, the Vision, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill, who all get their moments to shine. Surprisingly enough, the Vision was my 7-year-old’s favorite character!
Did you come for the Easter eggs? Again, Marvel knows the score. We get hints of Amadeus Cho, Klaw, and Black Panther. We see Thanos again. There is even the equivalent of the “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” era of Avengers. (For those who don’t know, a bunch of the founders left the team early on in the comic run, leaving Cap, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye to man the fort.)
So at the end of this one, we’re set up for the next big moments in Marvel movies. We’ve got teases of the upcoming split between Cap and Iron Man for Captain America 3: Civil War. The “Infinity Stones” are out there, with Thanos hot on the trail to create his Infinity Gauntlet. And we’ve got some nice seeds planted for the Black Panther. Plus, a fertile Marvel U ready for more Netflix TV shows.
All in all, I don’t see how Marvel fans can be anything but thrilled. We live in an era where comic panels come to life on the big screen, and look fantastic doing so. There is a moment in the film where Thor, Iron Man, and the Vision are all blasting Ultron with their different energy blasts. All I could think was “my goodness, as a kid I dreamed of getting something like this, and here it is. And there is more to come.”
Avengers: Age of Ultron is an EXCELLENT film. (It ranks right after Guardians and Winter Soldier.)