Soon after the first Avengers film was released, I could not wait for a sequel, and finally it's here, and it's all I could have hoped for. They're back with a few new additions, and finally a worthy(my favorite villain in the comics) foe, Ultron an AI bent on destroying humanity, at the same time putting the team in despair.
I'll start with some of the nitpicks. This is very rare, but I think Age of Ultron could have used an extra 10-15 minutes. Whedon in an interview stated he cut out some back story for the twins, which I think was a mistake, I wasn't particularly fond of them in the beginning, but as the film progressed they grew on me a lot. This time around Whedon brings a butt-load of action, and better action I might add, but while in the first film there were moments that lasted too long to take a breather from the action, in Age of Ultron he doesn't allow us a moment to catch our breath too often, very sporadically.
But, he finds away to keep things interesting. Barely shorter than the first film, it's still a long film regardless and it does not feel like it. This time around Whedon allows The Avengers to be The Avengers. They're together a lot more and their dynamic and relationship is a joy to watch. The original six, Downey Jr., Evans, Hemsworth, Ruffalo, Johansson, and Renner are all fantastic. Johansson's Black Widow and Renner's Hawkeye in particular have quite an impressive arc in this film and an argument can be made that Hawkeye is the main character, there's also a brilliant, fun tongue in cheek moment he has with Scarlet Witch. Also he got the best lines in the film aside from James Spader who by the way is an excellent villain. Ultron in this film has a personality. He is a scene stealer and commands the screen every time he's in it. I'd also like to mention that Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders serve their roles well, but in a populated film like this they're roles are obviously reduced a bit, and to my surprise Don Cheadle's War Machine finally gets some action.
The new additions Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Johnson, and Paul Bettany are solid and only bring extra flare into the film's ingredients. Scarlet Witch is quite well realized, a little more than Quicksilver I might I add, and she is fun to watch and causes some inner damage to the team. Speaking of Quicksilver, Whedon wisely tries not to match or outdo the X-Men Quicksilver, and in doing so he's more grounded and a little more developed than Singer's, who just used him for an impressive sequence. Paul Bettany's Vision is also another scene stealer. He was incredible in the film, and as a last minute surprise he does not disappoint. Vision is arguably one of my favorite characters growing up and Whedon works him into the film the way I'd hope it be. Kudos to Whedon.
I mentioned the action before in my nitpicks, but the action here is top notch and Whedon finds a way to keep you focused. A lot of teamwork is involved in almost every action set piece and you feel what's at stake as the team also takes cue to actually save civilians. It's just a fireworks of action displayed on screen and the scale of it is so very impressive. Hulkbuster vs Hulk in particular is a standout sequence, as does everything that has to do with Vision. But aside from the action, Whedon manages to juggle every single character and somehow make them as relevant as they can be, some obviously more than others, but it's just amazing to see it all unfold. He understands these characters as the heavy moments work well and he never forgets the heroes' humanity. There are also hints to films in the future, but they don't saturate the main plot, but enough to keep you aware.
Thanks to Kevin Feige and his crew, the MCU has come so far since the first Iron Man in 2008, and Joss Whedon had an incredible challenge to make a sequel to the first film. I think one can argue that the novelty wore off a bit because in the first film, it was something that was never been seen before and as it was released it was, and I use the term "done already," and going into this sequel, it won't be able to recapture that magic of the first because "it's been done already."
I know I sound like I'm fanboying, and that's because I am(no apologizes), but if you overlook all that, the film is as good as it gets. It's almost impossible to make a movie like this and not have it feel repetitive. Not to mention, it's impossible to have so many characters and have a completely satisfying characterization for all of them, and I think in the hands of another filmmaker who not only writes, but also directs would more or less likely fail.
I gave the first film a 10/10, even with it's flaws, because of the sheer experience I had watching it. No film is ever perfect but it's more so that it entranced me to the point where I forget about everything else and I'm completely consumed by the film. I can tell you that in Age of Ultron I relived the same experience as I did with the first, even with some issues.
Ultimately Age of Ultron is a different film and in end that's why it works. We have truly been spoiled by the MCU. I think the Russo's and the writing team of Markus and McFeely are the prefect candidates to take over the glorious Avenger films, and no end-credits stinger, but stick around for the mid-credit scene. It's so good.