Reviewed By: Darcie Boelen
Image Credit: Marvel.com
Avengers: Age of Ultron is the eleventh installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I’m concerned I will never enjoy another Marvel film as much as I did this one. This is Marvel doing what Marvel does best – bringing back the characters we know and love, while also laying the foundations for more movies and stories to come.
It picks up where both Captain America: The Winter Soldier left off: SHIELD has been dispersed, and the Avengers are banding together to take down the last surviving pockets of HYDRA, the Nazi-esque rogue science division. HYDRA have acquired the “glow stick of destiny” that Loki was carrying in the previous Avengers film, and seem determined to wreak havoc with it, and the Avengers aren’t having any of that. We have a vague idea, from the trailers, that there is some kind of angry seven-foot tall robot singing Pinocchio songs and raising an army of slightly smaller angry robots.
If you’re not familiar with Marvel films, stay with me. It gets better.
What’s initially good about Age of Ultron is that there isn’t time spent on exposition. We know who the Avengers are by now, we know what HYDRA are about, we’re a little better acquainted with aliens. We know who most of the characters are, despite the fact Joss Whedon has tried to populate this film with secondary characters.
If you haven’t seen previous Marvel films, you probably should. Unlike the first Avengers, you will find yourself in the deep end if you just walk into the cinema without prior knowledge. This film presumes a certain level of understanding from the audience so it can get started with a bang, and a pretty loud bang it is.
The first five minutes is essentially just everyone kicking ass and taking names, and there’s no complaints from me. While the last Avengers film had been mostly about an incoherent, struggling group of strangers trying to kill enormous alien worms, in this film we’re shown a competent unit and a confident team able to combine their skills to become better and kick even more ass, if that’s possible. Like any nice friends, they’re getting better at sharing – more than one other person borrows Cap’s shield, Hulk gives piggy-backs and even Thor is ready to share the hammer with anyone who can lift it.
The film is also funny, in a way I wasn’t expecting. Like any tight-knit group of friends, the Avengers have settled into a comfortable space where they tease and poke fun at each other constantly. Whedon has taken every opportunity to show just how human everyone is. The film constantly surprised me with the clever quips and moments of shock. I wasn’t ready to laugh that hard – even the robots have a sense of humour.
And then we have the twins.
If you saw the post-credits scene after The Winter Soldier, you would have seen a rather severe looking man with a monocle talking mostly nonsense about a few freaky kids he’s got locked in his basement. These freaky kids – Pietro and Wanda Maximoff – are let out of their cages in this film, and I’m very glad that they were.
The Maximoff twins are some of the best-known, most-loved and indeed oldest Marvel characters, and it’s surprising that we’ve had to wait so long to see one or both of them in any Marvel-related films. We saw a Peter Maximoff in Days of Future Past, who made a few noises about Magneto being his dad, but these characters are different altogether. As Marvel are legally not allowed to use the M-word (mutants), they’re referred to as enhanced, scientifically modified humans with strange and unknown abilities.
While the Avengers have a few genetically modified residents of their own, this takes it to a whole other level. This is the first time that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has introduced any sort of magic or superpower. Pietro and Wanda aren’t just strong or talented or clever – they literally defy the laws of science. The film does a good job of explaining why, so the audience isn’t left with a “Wait, what?” sort of feeling.
What’s especially good about this film, though, is that it gives the minor characters some wiggle room. Marvel has given us a lot of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America films, so we’re already very familiar with these three. In Age of Ultron, we learn more about the other three – namely, Hawkeye, Black Widow and the Hulk, characters that Marvel fans worldwide have been begging to find out more about. We still don’t know what happened in Budapest.
The first Avengers film was mostly exposition and then lots of punching aliens in the face, and not much in between. This film, we’re given a chance to learn more about the characters and the dynamics of the team. But don’t worry, there’s still a lot of punching things.
I also left the film feeling like I had learned something about the human condition, which is an interesting thing to say about a film that has aliens, robots, Norse gods, super-soldiers, Mutants – sorry, enhanced – and a big green man. But I did anyway. So I think that’s a good sign.
There is much more I could say about the film, but I’d rather not spoil it. All I can say is that I didn’t expect to have my expectations exceeded (say that three times fast), but I did. I didn’t think Marvel could do much better, but they have. I can still nitpick, of course, and I annoy most of my friends with my theorising and my criticising of every film I watch, but for now I’m satisfied. There’s not a whole lot of films that leave me satisfied