Here’s the secret of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: not the spectacular action or the amazing special effects, but the characters. From “Iron Man” to “Guardians of the Galaxy”, the various filmmakers assembled by producer Kevin Feige have constantly introduced us to fun, cool, endearing characters. That’s what made “The Avengers” so damn entertaining and that’s why everyone is so eager to see “Age of Ultron”. We just love to hang out with these guys.
In this sequel to 2012’s (Hulk) smash hit, again written and directed by Joss Whedon, we get to enjoy the interaction between science buddies Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), the mutual attraction between Banner and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), the leadership conflict between Stark and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), the macho posturing between Tony and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the secret life Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) finally shares with his fellow Avengers…
And of course, it’s a thrill to watch them all put on their colorful costumes to go save the world, as in the James Bond-style pre-title opening raid on Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann)’s base, which includes an insane long take showing all the Avengers kicking ass and which proves to be as awesome as the first film’s climax!
There are many more showstopping set pieces throughout the movie, which take place in various places around the world . Highlights include the Hulkbuster fight in South Africa that you’ve seen glimpses of in the trailers, the truck chase in South Korea and the epic final confrontation with Ultron’s army of robots somewhere over the fictional European country of Sokovia.
Which brings us to the film’s supervillain, Ultron (the perfectly creepy voice of James Spader), an artificial intelligence that was created by Stark to bring world peace, but which instead turns against its creator and decides that the human race needs to be annihilated, starting with the Avengers. It makes for a formidable foe for Captain America, Iron Man and company, since every time they destroy one of the robotic forms Ultron takes, it escapes via the internet only to rebuild itself elsewhere and keep working on its evil plan.
The Avengers must also deal with the “twins”, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). The former moves faster than lightning, while the latter can use telekinesis as well as get inside the minds of her opponents, giving them nightmarish hallucinations.
My favorite new character, through, is undeniably The Vision (Paul Bettany). I’d rather not reveal too much about him, since the marketing materials have done a good job of keeping him mostly hidden, but I absolutely love the way he’s designed and what he gets to do, including what might be the most hilarious moment in the film.
Like I said initially, the secret of these movies is how the characters bounce off each other, whether they’re turning against one another or finally figuring out how to work as a team. Whedon brilliantly directs his increasingly large ensemble of actors, while also delivering extraordinary action scenes that manage to further define the characters.
Is “Age of Ultron” better than “The Avengers”? Well, the original picture packed the punch of assembling Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on the big screen for the first time and it had a wonderfully mischievous villain in Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. But even being only almost as great as the previous episode still allows “Age of Ultron” to rank as one of the best superhero movies of all time.