I think I’ve watched every single trailer and teaser and featurette available for the sequel to the blockbuster movie The Avengers. None of that spoiled the movie for me in any way, instead my the fires of my anticipation were well stoked going in. So there I was, way after midnight on a Wednesday morning, in my seat in Olympus Theatres at the advanced screening all of Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
I’m not going to say that The Avengers 2 was flawless, but at the same time it was actually pretty good considering all of the various balls that writer-director Joss Whedon had to juggle. This flick felt a lot more like a true ensemble film, when compared to the first. Considering the characters involved, considering the individual profiles of each of the actors, this film did a really good job of giving everyone their fair share of screentime, and giving each character a chance to meaningfully contribute. Not everyone propelled the story forward, and Marvel did spend time seeding the field for the already announced two-part sequel. But every characters, at least the main ones, helped push the story alone or worked to evolve the team development, with deeper insight in to various characters and the wider world they inhabit.
I found myself quietly delighted by the attention shown to two characters in particular, Hawkeye and the Black Widow. I’m really hoping that comics fans by now have allowed themselves to let go of the strings, the source material and the decades old mythology that many of us hold so dearly. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has developed its own mythology, and so far many of the changes have been for the better.
So yes, Hawkeye, after spending much of the first Avengers as a brainwashed thrall of Loki, had quite a bit to do in this new film. This time around his character really became kind of the heart of the team, in fact one of the themes was about him, the most human amongst demigods and super soldiers and billionaire playboy philanthropists, having a place on this team. Hopefully, without giving anything away, Hawkeye represented in a truly tangible way, what The Avengers are really fighting for. Don’t worry, Hawkeye also kicks some ass and is really snarky.
I was also quite titillated by the new dynamic between Black Widow and the Hulk. While some of the trailers and press hinted at this, the significance of the whole thing I rather loved and it actually played quite well on screen for me. Another cool pairing was with Captain America and Thor.
All of these relationships were very cool to see on screen, but it also served to indicate growth and development since the end of the first film. The members of The Avengers have had time to get a feel for each other and hang out, but they aren’t yet a perfect unit, something the film hinges on. It is clear in the first act that the team has evolved and has been functioning as a unit, filling the vacuum created by the fall of SHIELD, being the tip of the spear in the hunt of the remnants of HYDRA under Baron Strucker and spurred on by Thor’s quest to recover Loki’s scepter. Fans of series Agents of SHIELD can look out for a nice little nod, a brief appearance by a character from that show.
Aside from the well handled character development and team dynamics, the other thing I liked about this sequel was that the film delivered on the promise to be, I don’t want to use the terms “darker” and “grittier”, but more serious. Don’t get me wrong, these is plenty of humour, not necessarily comedy, in Avengers 2.
Speaking of the Big Bad himself, Mr. Ultron Stark. Or would that be Ultron Stark-Banner? Anyway, Ultron represented, finally, for Marvel a decent villain! Serious, every other baddie in all the other MCU flicks have generally had the consistency of soaking wet cardboard. “Wait, what about Loki?” you ask. Charismatic, yes, but still a weak villain. Seriously his motivation was two-dimensional at best. And before you ask, The Winter Soldier was a minion, yes a kick-assingly awesome minion, but not a villain.
For the record, The Vision is splendiferous! Much like how The Hulk stole the show in the first Avengers, The Vision actually trumps that! But I can’t say more without spoilers!
But for me, one of the biggest strengths of Avengers 2 was also a clear shortfall. Cramming Cap, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, and Thor, plus the Wonder Twins of Wanda and Pietro, and The Vision (as well as cameos by War Machine and The Falcon) was rather well done. Those are a heck of a lot of moving pieces. Everyone mattered, but to paraphrase a line from one of my all time favourite movies, “When everyone matters, then no one does.” It felt as if in the whirlwind rush, a multitude of tiny, yet important details were glossed over.
The bottom line is that Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron did not disappoint. If you were somehow looking for some giant leap forward in the cinematic superhero scene, you’ll be disappointed. I found it to be better than The Avengers in terms of story and character development, as well as action. And I look forward to watching it again, soon. Several times.