After 10 movies and three television shows, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has reached the midpoint of its journey with <em>Avengers: Age of Ultron </em>(<em>AOU</em>). As the bridge between the second and third phase of this universe, there is a lot riding on this movie’s success. Does it deliver on all the build since <em>The Avengers</em>? And does it properly set the stage for the larger events to come?</p>
The answers to those questions is more complex than a simple yes or no. As a standalone film, AOU delivers on the fronts of action-packed set pieces, character building, and overall tone. When it comes to the bigger picture, AOU leaves a bit to be desired especially when considering the immediate future.
Avengers immediately follows the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. from Captain America: Winter Soldier. In between fighting Hydra, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) decide to play God and build an artificial intelligence to replace the Avengers known as Ultron (James Spader). Thanks in part to an alien artifact used in its creation, Ultron believes that the annihilation of the human race is needed to keep Earth safe. Once again, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are called to action for the protection of mankind, but Ultron is not the only challenge they face as they battle within their own ranks.
As the first blockbuster of the summer, Avengers delivers when it comes to action. Each fight scene is beautifully choreographed. Every moment in these scenes is perfectly paced in order to focus audience interest and avoid fatigue. Some of the visuals and effects, especially the slow-panning shots and Quicksilver’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) running animations, are just stunning.
Just a word of advice, do not watch the film in 3-D. Personally, the 3-D pulled me out of the movie on multiple occasions. Certain sequences feel like watching a cinematic from a video game rather than a live-action film. This dissonance between visuals and 3-D is the most evident in the tracking shot at the beginning. Although it is an incredible feat, some of the mystique is lost in its conversion to 3-D, which makes the CG-intensive shots obvious to the viewer.
AOU is a much different movie in both tone and focus than its predecessor. This movie is dark and brooding as the Avengers have to come to terms with their fears and insecurities. The team is brought to its breaking point as they continually have clashes of morals and bouts of mistrust.
The darker tone plays perfectly into the movie’s focus on fleshing out each member of the Avengers. Exploring the unknown sides of characters like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) gives the audience a deeper appreciation for them. Also, James Spader’s Ultron is unbelievable. Spader combines creepy, awkward undertones with playful humour and jovial excitement to create the most entertaining and scary villain in the MCU.
Despite the darker tone, Marvel’s signature humour is present throughout the film. While a few jokes do fall flat, there are plenty more that will keep you laughing from title to credits.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a great movie that zips through its two-and-a-half-hour run-time. While there are some hints at future developments in the MCU, there is not enough to properly set up the immediate conflict in Captain America: Civil War. Overall, AOU is an excellent movie experience worth your time and money.