The Avengers are back, facing their most dangerous adversary yet; a battle that is only made more difficult by splintering of the team from within.
It would be tempting to write the Avengers off as just another superhero movie filled with big set-piece battles, all flash with no real substance. To do so, however, would be unfair not only to the narrative, but to the characters as well.
You may recall that there was some discontent from Jeremy Renner who plays Hawkeye regarding his role in the first film and how he didn’t feel Hawkeye was treated fairly by the script. I personally tend to agree and feel that Clint probably deserved better than to spend most of the first moving being one of Loki’s flying monkeys, but the first film was still fantastic and Hawkeye went on to acquit himself well in the end. There’s no way any such comments could be applied here. Clint is a major component of this narrative and were I Renner, I would have been downright giddy with the route taken.
In between the big action sequences, we get some really wonderful moments of character development that help flesh out these powerful, but broken people. They’re the next things to gods (especially if you believe the mythology that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has woven around Thor and the other Asgardians), but nearly every one of them makes profound mistakes that contribute to the way things fall apart in this film.
In many ways, the heroes’ own hubris is as much the adversary of this film as Ultron and his hordes of mechanical monsters.
Trying to expound upon many of the best parts of the movie would be spoiling them and I do believe that, if you can, avoiding spoilers is for the best. That said, there are some really amazing aspects to the character building and casting of this movie I’d like to comment on:
- James Spader as Ultron. Spader was so much fun in this role. It feels like he put a lot of effort into making Ultron interesting. Indeed, the MCU version of Ultron is far more interesting than I remember the comics version of the character being. Aside from being both menacing and funny, there are moments when you can see genuine compassion showing through which adds another layer of depth and complexity to what could easily have been a 1- or 2-dimensional character.
- Paul Bettany as Vision. I won’t go too much into this character because he’s one of the things I think should remain unspoiled if at all possible. However, I would like to say that I think casting the voice of JARVIS as the Vision was a brilliant decision. Not only is Bettany a fantastic actor who can make even the most ridiculous of roles sympathetic (Priest and Legion, for example), the familiarity of hearing JARVIS’ voice from this new character helps the audience to form a bond with him far more quickly than they would otherwise.
Overall, the movie was very, very good and at two hours and twenty minutes, it didn’t feel long. Like him or lump him, there’s no denying that Whedon is a master of pacing in these films. As with the first one, the writing is tight and the characters all get moments of introspection and character development… and even outright vulnerability in some cases. It also continues one of my favorite trends of the MCU, which is selectively picking and choosing which versions of characters to use in the movies, melding the standard “616” version of Iron Man and Black Widow, for example, with characters that are closer to their Ultimates universe incarnations like Fury and Falcon (and, it turns out, another that I can’t tell or it’ll spoil the surprise!).
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is, of course, recommended for fans of the MCU and superheroes.
Read-Alikes: If you enjoy the Avengers: Age of Ultron, check out Garth Reasby’s Children of Divinity series for more character driven superhero action!