Something the Marvel movies have been sadly missing is a compelling villain.  The glitz and glamour of the superheroes has been more than enough to satisfy our craving of action and suspense, but at some point they can get repetitive without a unique adversary to shake things up.  Loki in the Thor movies and the first Avengers film can be considered the most charismatic of the Marvel villains up to this point.  Until now.

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, directed by Joss Whedon, the gang have once again reunited to take on a faction of Hydra somewhere in Europe, attempting to retrieve Loki’s lost scepter from Baron Strucker.  Baron Strucker has been using the scepter to perform experiments on local subjects.  Two of which manage to survive the process, Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his twin sister Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), or, as they are known in the comics, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.  Together they wreak havoc on the Avengers, but still fail to prevent them from taking down Hydra and obtaining the scepter.  Unfortunately this is by design since Wanda infects Tony Stark’s mind with fears of death and destruction, causing Tony to use the scepter as a means to revive a robot defense program known as Ultron.  With Bruce Banner’s help, they initiate the development of an artificial intelligence, guided by Jarvis, Tony’s computer generated assistant.  While Tony and the others enjoy a nice party in the new Avengers Tower, formerly Stark Tower, Ultron (James Spader) comes to life.

Ultron isn’t a cold or calculating robot, but he is fiercely ambitious, easily offended, and has a colorful personality as well.  His primary objective is to protect the planet and he believes the current obstacle in implementing his radical plan is the Avengers.  He has a downloadable intelligence and develops a factory where he can easily replace any of his metal bodies that are destroyed in battle.  He determines the only way to survive a battle with the Avengers is to build an indestructible body made from the same material as Steve Rogers shield, vibranium.  A trip to Africa introduces us to a future villain named Ulysses Klaw, played by Andy Serkis.  The Maximoff twins have agreed to help Ultron since they blame Stark’s weapons for their parents’ deaths.  Wanda infects several of the Avengers, making them envision their worst fears.  The now emotionally fractured Avengers must figure out a way to conquer their nightmares and figure out a way to take down Ultron and his army.

The action in this film is practically constant as the movie moves from one battle to the next.  If it weren’t for a brief period at a farmhouse, you wouldn’t have time to breathe.  The fight scenes might seem repetitive at times, but it’s very entertaining.  Cinematic eye candy with one superhero after another showing off his or her skills every other second.  The instant shots of Quicksilver as he disarms his opponents is mesmerizing and I really enjoyed seeing his sister’s bursts of magical red energy spreading across the screen to her victims.  Captain Rogers shows off his amazing fighting style from Winter Soldier once again and Hulk provides the brute muscle when it’s called for, and sometimes when it isn’t.  Bruce Banner had seemed to have a handle on his green alter ego in the first Avengers movie, but this time he has to manage his temper with classical music and the soothing voice of Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow).  You also get excellent screen time from War Machine and a new character to be known later as Vision.

Joss Whedon is best known for peppering his scripts with one-liners and humorous dialogue and this movie is no exception.  Some of that humor is shared among all the Avengers at one point or another, but most of the fun can be attributed to James Spader’s performance as Ultron.  Ultron is portrayed with a witty, sarcastic personality that mirrors Tony Stark’s, for obvious reasons.  He can be polite at times and kill someone the next.  He shows compassion for the Maximoff twins and their situation, but still has a very secretive ulterior motive lurking under the surface.  His mannerisms are very human at times and you would almost forget he even is a robot, except for the intimidating metal face and body.  His arrogance is matched only by his intelligence and he demonstrates, quite convincingly, that even with all the Avengers combined, they may not be enough to stop him.  There is plenty of dark subject matter in this movie, but the balance of humor keeps you from expecting the worst to occur.

I am happy that they expand on Hawkeye’s story arch, who appeared, up to this point, to be the only expendable Avenger.  Bow and arrows are cool, but when you’re fighting in a battle between intelligent robots and superhumans plus one god it can look a little ridiculous.  An assortment of specialized arrows that would make Katniss Everdeen jealous doesn’t hurt though.  The additional background info provided to Hawkeye in this movie seems to only strengthen the idea that he wouldn’t be killed, or make it incredibly sad if and when he does.  Either way we are completely invested in his outcome.

I can’t say this film excels over its predecessor, which was a brilliant experience of untested superheroes teaming together to take down an alien invasion.  The emotional narrative was tighter and the music by Alan Silvestri added to the intensity and excitement.  In Age of Ultron the narrative is quick, but uneven.  Ultron’s appearance comes far sooner than I would have hoped and there are several scenes that tease exciting subplots, but only for future movies.  As soon as they’re introduced, we’re off to the next adventure.  It’s also never explained why Tony Stark decides to take up the Iron Man suit again after destroying all of them in Iron Man 3.  I suppose after Winter Soldier, we can assume he felt the need to get back in the game.  The suspense never seems to build as well as it could have, but there is so much happening on screen it hardly matters.  Editing and cinematography issues aside, I can’t help but enjoy this movie.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a buffet of comic book characters and fans of the comics will have plenty of things to rejoice over in this film.  James Spader is a terrifying and strangely charming Ultron.  Paul Bettany did a great job as Jarvis, but his appearance as Vision is a welcome addition and provides some juicy foreshadowing for the next Avengers installment.  The scenes with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch get better as the movie moves along and provide some of the best moments in the final battle.  Evan Peters did a fantastic job as Quicksilver in X-Men Days of Future Past, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson gets way more screen time, allowing him to shine in several key moments.  I would have preferred more lead-in story to the Civil War plot of the next Captain America film, but that is apparently being saved for Ant-Man in July.  I intend to watch this movie several more times in the theaters.  Make sure to stay in your seat for the mid-credits scene.

Avengers: Age of Ultron:[usr 4]

About Avengers: Age of Ultron

Synopsis: When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.

Director: Joss Whedon

Writers: Joss Whedon, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (Comic Book)

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 141 Minutes

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