The Marvel Cinematic Universe is steadily becoming comic-levels of complicated. It’s come to the point where I feel every review should begin with a synopsis of where we are in the timeline. Right now, it’s enough to say that we are post-Winter Soldier by some months. This review does assume you’ve seen pretty much everything that’s out (though I’m not going to spoil Daredevil for you).
The team is hunting down Loki’s staff, which we last saw being played with in a Hydra research facility. We have to assume Thor came back to Midgard with Odin!Loki’s blessing, which begs the question – did Loki as Odin order Thor to retrieve it? Probably. The reason he needs it become clear, and fans have already suspected it. But before it can be returned to Asgard the Avengers have to deal with the artificial intelligence that spawns from Tony’s tinkering: Ultron.
It’s official: Marvel has solved its villain problem. Since Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s complex portrayal, Marvel hasn’t come up with a villain even close to matching Loki’s classic “love to hate” evilness. Other villains have all had their share of good qualities: motivation (Guardians), tortured past (Winter Soldier), power (arguably all except the Mandarin), but none have had everything and a bucket of charm. Ultron, thanks mostly to a great script delivered by James Spader, has it all. From the first shivers caused by Spader’s questioning voice, I was hooked. Ultron emerges into consciousness and is greeted by Paul Bettany’s JARVIS. Visually, this scene is my favourite introduction to a villain in Marvel ever. The visual representation of Ultron’s dominance over JARVIS is simple yet effective.
The great script is something every character gets to shine with. Mostly the one-liners are just tongue-in-cheek enough to reach the level of meta-ness Marvel prefers. Case in point, Hawkeye’s line about fighting robots with archery: it needed to be said, so they said it. A few lines miss the mark slightly. In the cinema there were a couple that fell flat, mostly whenever a cameo was squished in. Some of the universe-explaining talk might have been difficult to follow for a casual fan, and I’m not even going to touch Thor’s forced side-quest just to get him out of the action long enough to give the others something hard to do.
The bits when all the Avengers fight as a team are the best in my opinion. The Hulk-battle wasn’t as amazing as I had hoped. It was epic, yes, but the cuts were a bit too quick during the whole sequence, and the 3D left me dazed. Most of the action was at the level we expect, however, and the climax was pretty damn impressive. The city being destroyed this time wasn’t as big as New York, but this gave the “ground-heros” a bigger job. In New York even saving a whole street of people wasn’t going to do much against the total number of deaths, but in a smaller town they want to save everyone, and suddenly it seemed more intense.
To help with saving people we have two new characters, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Many have said that the movie doesn’t give Quicksilver a lot to do, especially not compared to the same character’s (different actor) role in X-Men: Days of Future Past. At first I felt a bit disappointed, especially since I know Aaron Taylor-Johnson could do a lot more. But then I began to compare the two.
The main problem with X-Men’s Quicksilver is that he was so powerful they had to rush him out of the movie. He was so fast he could practically stop time. Without explanation, except perhaps “he’s too young to fight”, they leave him behind. Doing otherwise would change the whole outcome of the film. In Avengers, Quicksilver is far from as fast. He doesn’t even seem close to as fast as DC’s The Flash (TV). While that means we have to miss out on a lot of cool tricks, it also makes him not all-powerful and a useful character instead of an instant fix. He gets tired after every major run. He can’t move so fast that you can’t surprise him. It’s a shame he didn’t get to do more, because I would have loved to see more Hawkeye/Quicksilver banter.
The banter and camaraderie, along with a near-perfect villain to go up against, makes Age of Ultron almost as enjoyable as the first Avengers. If not for a slightly too low mid-point lull and a weird side-quest, I think they would have been on par. I certainly enjoyed every second of Ultron and Co. as much as the first. Also, The Vision was badass, just saying.
Dice roll: 5