When it was announced that Marvel and the various movie studios they were involved with wanted to bring The Avengers to the big screen but also do it in a way where each of the main characters were given individual films leading up to the movie, it was a pretty bold idea and one which could have failed miserably. That however wasn’t the case and The Avengers quickly became a box office juggernaut. It also brought to a close what has become known as Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but this was quickly followed by the beginning of Phase Two which saw returning heroes as well as newcomers The Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man but this portion of the Cinematic Universe is also coming to a close and once again assembling The Avengers.
While many fans had the assumption that the second Avengers movie, Age of Ultron, would be an adaption of the epic 2013 crossover series it is in fact an original story and only bears the name. The second film is set shortly after the events seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as what has transpired on the Agents of SHIELD television series. The Avengers have made their way to Sokovia to hunt down Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Henry Goodman) who has been is possession of Loki’s scepter. After securing the HYDRA base and obtaining the scepter Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) realize that the gem inside seems to contain artificial intelligence and Stark believes this could be the thing to help him complete his Ultron project.
As the group celebrates their victory before Thor (Chris Hemsworth) leaves for Asgard with the scepter, Stark’s experiment takes on a life of its own. J.A.R.V.I.S.( Paul Bettany) is the first to encounter Ultron (James Spader) but the artificial intelligence has other ideas based on what he’s already learned about the Avengers. He decides that the world would be a much better place without them and unsuccessfully tries to kill them all before he escapes into cyberspace. The Avengers quickly begin trying to track the rogue program but encounter another threat in enhanced twins Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) who have personal reasons for siding with Ultron and it seems that the combined power of the three might be too much for even the Earth’s mightiest heroes.
If you grew up reading the comic books or have even the slightest connection with the characters, there are some changes in that regard although part of it comes down simply to licensing. Marvel and Fox share the license for the X-Men franchise which has remained a separate film series despite how much fans would love to see a crossover. In an effort to not interfere with what Fox has established various aspects in Age of Ultron have been changed. The villainous robot originally was made of adamantium but now this has changed to vibranium. Wanda and Pietro, better known as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, aren’t mentioned as mutants nor are they ever connected to being the children of Magneto although apparently this recently changed in the comic cook as well as Marvel is trying to “reinvent” many of their characters as well as backstories which has some fans rather dismayed.
Joss Whedon again manages to bring the team to life in the film and works in some great moments of humor as well as action and we works in some iconic imagery from the comic books along the way. Even though I was never really a fan of the comic book itself there are definitely some things which I recognized simply because they have such a strong connection to the books and I feel that this is a great inclusion. Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe has introduced so many different characters over the past several years we also get a chance to see the like of Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Flacon (Anthony Mackie) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) gathered together. Age of Ultron could have suffered from having too many heroes for a single movie but Whedon sticks with the core team and only brings in other faces when necessary. And no, the team still doesn’t learn that Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) lied to them about Agent Colson (Clark Gregg) who is very much alive nor do The Guardians of the Galaxy make any sort of cameo.
Age of Ultron is also providing more opportunities to work outside of what the comics have presented fans although again, there are elements which don’t necessarily have all fans pleased. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Banner never had a romantic relationship in the pages of the Marvel Universe but here things are different. It’s something of a nod to Beauty and the Beast as Natasha is the only one who seems to be able to calm Banner once he goes green. In the comics she actually had a relationship with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) but we learn something different about the character in the film which most wouldn’t have expected. Personally I don’t feel the changes are necessarily a bad thing and unless it’s a relationship which is at the core of a character such as Reed Richards and Susan Storm or Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson (although the Gwen Stacy one is just as important) then things like this play out rather well in the Cinematic Universe and can keep fans on their toes. The one thing which wasn’t terribly secret however was the appearance of Vision (Paul Bettany) in the film which is another thing which pulled some fans into the theater.
Age of Ultron does throw in some hints at what is coming as well. When the team encounters Wanda they discover she can bend the will of an individual and make them hallucinate. Tony Stark has a vision of the team utterly defeated and those who are again familiar with the comic books know that this is a reference to the Infinity Wars, something which the Cinematic Universe has been building up to for some time although it won’t officially hit theaters until 2018. The Avengers also pay a visit to Wakanda which is the home of Black Panther, another character who has yet to show up but will soon be getting his own stand along movie and while he’s a minor villain, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) also appears in the film although not as the villainous Klaw.
Age of Ultron is a good follow-up to the first Avengers but I don’t necessarily feel that it’s quite as good. Just like many other fans I questioned the decision with the first movie to have Loki as the villain but it ended up working out rather well but I also wanted to see Ultron brought to the screen as he’s perhaps one of the greatest villains that the Avengers have ever faced. The casting choice here of James Spader felt a bit wrong at first but he manages to make it work and thanks to the trailers fans were given other reasons to get excited especially when they saw Iron Man’s Hulk Buster armor was included. I believe my problem with Age of Ultron is that it feels a little long whereas The Avengers didn’t feel long at all and both films are of a similar length.
The film hits blu-ray with exceptional visual quality. There are a few of the CGI scenes that I felt didn’t quite hold up nearly as well as the first movie, the opening in particular had a couple of spots that looked less than realistic, but overall the movie is on par with everything else that has been released with the Marvel and Disney names associated with it.
The blu-ray includes commentary with Joss Whedon but given the length of the film I really didn’t feel like watching it a second time in this fashion. The disc also has a making of feature, a look at how the Infinity Stones have played out in the film series so far, and a brief look at the locations seen during the film. There is also a gag reel as well as deleted scenes but what is sadly missing is a Marvel One-Shot. These haven’t been included with any of the Phase Two releases, not that I recall, and I actually enjoyed these humorous shorts.
Age of Ultron is a decent follow-up to the original Avengers film but again, it just feels a bit too long at times and doesn’t seem to have quite the flow that Whedon accomplished the first time around. It’s still great however to see one of The Avengers greatest villains come to the screen at long last and bring Phase Two to an end. Now fans have the third phase to anticipate which will begin with Civil War and ultimately end with The Infinity Wars before moving forward into the fourth phase of Marvel-mania.
Mike is the resident reviewer for Couponing to Disney and his own site Underland Online. He has a toddler daughter and is obsessed with Haunted Mansion and all things Disney. You can read Mike’s complete bio here.