Avengers: Age of Ultron (NOT *The* Avengers. Nope, there's no the's here) picks up soon after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While S.H.I.E.L.D is no more and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is off in hiding, that doesn't mean the Avengers are on holiday. While celebrating in the Avengers tower after a successful mission, the team are met by Ultron (James Spader), a seemingly failed artificial intelligence program created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Ultron sets out on a mission to destroy the Avengers once and for all, doing so by turning them against each other..
I can still remember the day I went off to see 2008's Iron Man in the cinema. I was excited. Of course I was. I sat down, I watched it and I loved it. Four years later The Avengers came out, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. Now, in 2015, we have Avengers: Age of Ultron, and like most, I was unbelievably excited for it. Not Star Wars The Force Awakens excited, but still excited. Despite a few tiny hiccups, although none of which are too drastic, Avengers: Age of Ultron most definitely succeeds at doing what it set out to do. It's a more than worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it may just be one of their best to date.
Right from the opening scene, director Joss Whedon lets us in on the action. Unlike the first film, there's no need for much set up. There's no need to reintroduce all of these characters. He knows we're already fans and he knows these characters need no introduction. We get straight into it, and there's even one big, CGI filled tracking shot that shows off all of their abilities and it's one of my favourite shots in the whole film. It's all sorts of awesome.
It's in this opening scene where the tone is set and it's this tone that remains consistent for the entire runtime. Whedon knows we're here to see the Avengers kicking ass and so we get that in this opening scene. It's not only a perfect opening, but a perfect scene. Period. It's fun, it's fast, it's full of rage and it has Captain America throwing a goddamn motorcycle. You can tell that these characters are having fun doing their thing and as an audience member, this rubs off. We are too, and the effect is tantalising.
This first scene also gives us our first look at Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), two of the many new additions to the series. While their presence is brief to begin with, they certainly get a lot of screen time later on, both of them playing dominant roles in the story. But the focus of the two seems to rely on Scarlet Witch, which isn't actually too bad. She's the more developed, more interesting and it's a character we haven't already seen before. *cough Days of Future Past cough* Quicksilver is fine, but he just doesn't compare to the character's previous on-screen portrayal last year.
Another new addition is the bad guy, Ultron, who's strings are most definitely off. He's no Loki, but he's still a worthy opponent, his constant bitters with Iron Man always a delight. The two are one of the same, resulting in their scenes together being more playful than anything else. And that's my main problem with this film. It's not enough to bring it down from a 5 star rating, but it must be addressed. Ultron doesn't always feel like a villain. He jokes around with the other characters and never comes across as too much of a threat. Sure, I always felt like he was capable of destruction, but I never felt as if he was going to win, whereas with Loki I did. But like I said, he's still a worthy opponent and it's not too big of a complaint.
Despite being more light hearted than the advertising suggested, these characters develop in unexpected ways, some of which actually do become pretty dark. In fact, the darkest, grittiest aspects of this movie are the character's backstories and the new layers that have been added to them, in particular Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). There's a scene she shares with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) mid-way through the film that really blew me away. However, it's Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) that steals the thunder (pun most definitely intended), as he's given a lot more to do than in the first film, and his character is explored in several new ways.
Surprisingly, Hulk is the one who became the most important character this time around. While he's able to control the big green guy a little more than he used to, he's never entirely in control, and if things do get out of hand, he's afraid he may do more damage than he's already done. Like the trailers showed us, something along those lines does occur, and it's up to good ole Iron Man to save the day in his Hulkbuster outfit. It's an insane scene, featuring enough destruction to entertain, but without pulling a Man of Steel on us.
The final new character that's worth mentioning is Vision, a purple robot with the mind of a man. While his screen time is limited, I'm sure we'll get plenty more of him in the future, and I can't wait. He's witty, loveable and looks sleek in battle. He may only appear late into the film, but he fits right in, not feeling out of place or without motive. There's an interesting layer to him that, while hinted at during interviews, plays a dominant role in the overall film. Really, every character plays an important role in the scheme of things. Then there's Thor. Poor Thor. Thor doesn't really get to do a lot and that makes me sad. But hey, his hammer does, so there's that.
To sum up, Avengers: Age of Ultron may have a few flaws, but not enough to make me lower my rating. It's fun, action fuelled, adds new layers to these characters and introduces us to plenty of new ones too. Bring on Civil War. Bring on Infinity War. Marvel, I'm ready for anything.
4 1/2 Stars