Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Directed by Joss Whedon
2012’s “The Avengers” had humility issues. It was bogged down by the script’s countless references to the characters’ individual escapades in previous Marvel movies. And writer/director Joss Whedon’s sore attempts at comedy tried too hard to make the blockbuster superhero romp something it wasn’t. This time around, the Avengers are more humble. So, too, it seems, is Whedon. And “Age of Ultron” soars because of it. It may be the most fun you’ve ever had at a superhero movie.
Our favorite assemblage of Marvel superheroes—Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)—are back again, this time to stop an evil AI creation, Ultron (voiced by James Spader), from destroying humanity and replacing it with machines. Ultron will have the help of twins with their own special powers (Quicksilver, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen), but he’ll also assemble an army of robotic help. The stakes are higher than ever before, and the Avengers are facing a sort of crisis of faith. Bad timing on their part.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson in a small role this time) may have assembled the Avengers, but casting directors Sarah Finn and Reg Poerscout-Edgerton put together the real team of superheroes. “Age of Ultron” is nothing without its top-to-bottom stellar cast. Jeremy Renner finally gets the screen time he deserves, and the 2-time Oscar nominee gives a star effort. He’s the most relatable of the Avengers, the one with the most heart, but his first go-around didn’t give him the time to show it. Newcomers Olsen and Taylor-Johnson are welcome additions, in my opinion. Taylor Johnson’s Quicksilver is incredible fun, and—despite her shaky Slovenian accent—Olsen gives a great performance. Both are exponentially better than they were in last year’s “Godzilla” reboot. I was afraid that I would be distracted by Spader’s vocal cadence, but he excelled. He’s had recent practice in “The Blacklist,” I suppose. There’s not enough time in the world to talk about all of the cast members, but trust that this time around their chemistry is even stronger. This isn’t their first rodeo.
Whedon’s script is much more enjoyable than his last attempt. Now, the lightly humorous banter comes naturally, not like a stand-up routine. And Tony Stark alludes to the New York plot of “The Avengers” one time to make a point, but never again mentions the past. In 2012, you had trouble getting full enjoyment from “The Avengers” without seeing every individual Marvel movie before it. To watch “Age of Ultron,” all you need it a basic understanding of what the Avengers are. With that, you’re set. The story is more to-the-point, but it’s also more interesting. This time around, the Avengers’ weakness is within them. The Scarlet Witch’s telepathic motives are to destroy the Avengers from the inside, so “Age of Ultron” is also more psychological than its rock-em-sock-em predecessor. But don’t get me wrong. It’s still an entertaining spectacle on several levels.
“Age of Ultron” also improves upon the already-incredible special effects of its predecessor. The Hulk has never looked better. Even interactions with him by other characters look realistic. The Avengers headquarters in itself is a work of art. And the final stand-off is (predictably) big-budget and full of excitement. “Age of Ultron” is one of the prettiest superhero movies of all time. And in my opinion, it’s the best Avenger movie—individual or collaborative—ever made. Formally usher in the summer movie season with the biggest event of this young year. Assemble!