Marvel’s Phase Two is close to its conclusion, and its penultimate installment, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” reunites the team that inspired the whole series. In bringing back favorites Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), we’re treated to another action packed story that delves into the interpersonal relationships of this group of heroes. We see budding romance, pesky brotherhood, bonds broken and strengthened, and a slew of new faces that only adds to the excitement of the franchise. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will likely be a blockbuster hit like most of Marvel’s films, but as far as substance and dynamics, is it a step up or a step down from its predecessor? In the best way possible, it’s a little bit of both.
The film centers on Tony Stark/Iron Man’s desire to create an artificial intelligence in order to protect the world from another alien invasion. Acting in secret from his teammates, Stark’s plans malfunction, creating the sentient being, Ultron (James Spader). Ultron’s desires are to save the world, but in a much more drastic way than Iron Man would have hoped, targeting the Avengers themselves. Aided by newcomers Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Ultron sets out to create an evolved human-like android, thus birthing Vision (Paul Bettany). The Avengers must stop Ultron’s plan before he brings destruction to the world and humankind.
The plot plays out similarly to the first installment, as a threat posed to the team is a larger threat to mankind. We see the Avengers break ranks and come back together and stand as one and fight, which is reminiscent of their first foray into saving New York City in “The Avengers.” If there had to have been a downfall to this film, that would likely be it. Nothing so much is new, as the stakes and dynamics essentially remain the same. But then again, why change a winning strategy when what made the first film so successful is the appeal of those dynamics and how the plot contributed to them?
What is great about “Age of Ultron” is practically everything else. The dynamics between the Avengers has the ability to draw viewers in, from the way they communicate in the midst of battle to the way they interact when they’re dressed down and just hanging out. These characters have chemistry with one another. Iron Man and Captain America are the bickering brother-like duo, the former constantly poking fun of the latter, while Cap knows no ends in rebuking Stark. Testosterone flies when Thor and Iron Man squabble over who is superior, who has the better girlfriend, or who is worthier of lifting Thor’s hammer. And then there’s the budding romance between Hulk and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, both obviously wanting to go further, but pulling back just enough to add to the suspense. The close relationship between Natasha and Hawkeye/Clint Barton also works, as we see a greater deal into Barton’s life outside of the Avengers.
The chemistry between this cast is amazing, which is likely why it’s so successful a franchise. They bring a certain humor and intrigue to their characters, yet never lose any of that while donning their super hero garb. They’re true to their character through and through, from Iron Man’s arrogance and Captain America’s moral righteousness to Bruce Banner’s fear and trepidation and Black Widow’s mysterious intrigue. They all do a great job of being those characters—in an authentic way—thus humanizing them and making them relatable.
The addition of Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff also works well. They’re two characters who’ve been teased in the past, and their sibling dynamic and motivations give them essence. We see an arc to their journey, and they become a pair of newcomers who are full of intrigue and congeniality. Ultron is also a great villain whose intentions, while seen as destructive (they are), pose an interesting dilemma. There’s an underlying theme of humanity being its own plight, its own worst enemy. Thus, is Ultron really trying to do good in his evil quest to rid humanity of those who cause the most destruction? That paradoxical dilemma gives Ultron depth, and makes him a villain who really has a good reason for being. The same, unfortunately, can’t be said for Vision, as he wasn’t given the time to be fleshed out properly. But then again, in a film where super heroes and villains are bountiful, one was likely to pale in comparison to the others.
Overall, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” does some wonderful things in making the heroes so dynamic and interesting. The chemistry is flawless, and the camaraderie pulls you in, making you want to be a part of this sometimes dysfunctional—but always heroic—team. What the film could have done better was spruce up the monotony of how similar it was to the first installment, or give better time to the lesser known heroes. What it did well, though, was tie in to the main plot of each individual film, touching upon the story of the Infinity Stones and further expanding the knowledge of them. The film is a step up in the sense that it’s visually appealing, largely humorous and charming, and never ceasing to lose anyone’s attention. Another marvelous Marvel installment, it’s a heroic triumph.
Final grade? A-
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is in theaters May 1st, 2015.