If there’s one thing all the big-named 2015 movies have in common this year, it’s the need to be good. From hotly anticipated sequels (HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY 2) to franchise reboots (STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE) or even both (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD), the pressure for the upcoming crop of blockbuster movies to impress has never been greater and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was no exception.
Following the events laid in 2012’s AVENGERS and last year’s CAPT. AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, it seemed obvious to many that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would mature as a whole by the time of AGE OF ULTRON, mostly because WINTER SOLDIER (which I will say right now with no shame is by far the best Marvel movie to date… for me at least) really raised the stakes with HYDRA almost controlling the world and then of course, there’s motherfucking Ultron in this movie. What people get instead of a fully grown-up Superhero Ensemble Movie is a Superhero Ensemble Movie taking its first awkward steps out of puberty. There are many times in the movie when things seem to be veering towards truly heart wrenching dilemmas that would put everyone’s favorite heroes in a hard spot, giving us time to really see how they would act under such hard circumstances but instead of going for that level of character development, the movie throws in a convenient solution and a Deus Ex Machina to get things back on the track of the usual story of “Superheroes Save The World.” It’s as if for every step towards WINTER SOLDIER level maturity and tension AGE OF ULTRON took, it would think twice about before pulling back into the safety blanket of Superhero Antics. If you’re like me and thought the only problem with the first movie was that it felt like a really well done Saturday Morning Cartoon come to life, part 2 doesn’t do much to fix that problem and even with a couple of minor tweaks that show good change, it was still a disappointment.
There were also some moments where it felt like it was the studio doing the writing instead of Joss Whedon. Throughout the movie, the seeds that will grow into future Marvel projects like BLACK PANTHER among others are shown and while it is undeniably cool to see hints of Wakanda and the like, many of these could’ve been rewritten into elements made purely for AGE OF ULTRON instead of walking Easter eggs for things to come and nothing would’ve been lost. It would’ve been better if it was Whedon doing majority of the writing and choosing to plant said seeds (like the tension between Stark and Cap that will soon lead to CIVIL WAR) on his own free will instead of the studios hyping the audiences for the next couple of years. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to see the shit out of the CIVIL WAR movie but AGE OF ULTRON didn’t really feel like a movie of its own; parts of it felt like the product placement patches boxers have on their jackets but instead of ads, AGE OF ULTRON had teaser trailers stuck to its coat, thus making its own conflict against the megalomaniac Ultron weak in the legs.
But once again, the mantra of “Trust in the Whedon” rings true because despite the previously mentioned gripes of mine, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is still the sequel everyone wanted after witnessing the team assemble for the first time back in 2012. The entire cast is back with a lot more development this time around, the action is astounding and deserves to be seen on the big screen, the character interactions bring both laughs and (mental) tears and the world built for AGE OF ULTRON opens the doors to many future Marvel projects. These are characters you care about and want to see win… okay, you DO know they’ll win because Marvel already revealed the entire fucking list of its upcoming movies all the way to AVENGERS: INFINITY GAUNTLET (parts 1 and 2) but the movie tells the story in such a way that you still want to see HOW the gang gets to the sweet victory they deserve. Only Whedon could save a Marvel movie from becoming as generic as THOR or as pandering as IRON MAN 3 even with the massive amount of studio demands in place.
Even if AGE OF ULTRON isn’t as grown-up as some were hoping for and even if a good number of the new characters outside of Ultron itself aren’t really worth shit (I only gave a crap about 1 out of maybe 3 to 4 new guys because the rest either ran out of teaser trailer time or were just thrown aside until the plot needed them again), AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is the sequel fans of the original not only wanted but the one they deserve. A couple of dents on its armor aside and all that wasted potential aside for a second, AGE OF ULTRON can happily place itself among the elite of blockbuster part-twos that improve the formula of their predecessor, entertain the audience and give a whole lot more to the fans who came back. Sure it could’ve been a tighter and better movie if it weren’t for too much studio interference but thanks to Whedon being Whedon, AGE OF ULTRON was still a blast to behold. Not the best of the Marvel crop, but still a blast.
Stick around for a mid-credits scene but that’s it. For AGE OF ULTRON, there’s no post-credit scene so after you see the short one that plays after the animated credits, you can safely leave without looking over your shoulder twenty times for another hint of Howard the Duck or Spiderman.
Now if only other studios would learn from the likes of AGE OF ULTRON instead of making clusterfuck sequels like the last SPIDERMAN movie.