Avengers: Age of Ultron
by Erica Ladd
The much-anticipated sequel to 2012’s The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters this weekend. Once again helmed by writer/director Joss Whedon, the film features a cast which includes the six returning Avengers: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner/ the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and former S.H.I.E.L.D. members Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
The film opens in full throttle fashion with the Avengers attacking and infiltrating the snowy Eastern European fortress/secret headquarters of Hydra, the Neo-Nazi organization now run by Baron von Strucker (played by Thomas Kretschmann, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s end credits). After easily smashing, shooting, tossing motorcycles, and kicking their way through a slew of Nazi henchmen, in a dazzling CGI-laden action sequence which reacquaints us with the special talents possessed by each Avenger, they apprehend Strucker and take back the supernatural scepter once owned by Loki, from the previous Avengers film. Strucker has been using the scepter to experiment on human subjects and the team happens upon two of these experiments, twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen), later to be known as the super speed Quicksilver and mind warping, energy-blast-throwing Scarlet Witch. “He’s fast and she’s weird.” The twins attack but escape, only to turn up later in the story once they join forces with the newest threat to humanity, the film’s titular villain, Ultron.
Aside from the top-notch performances by the film’s stars, it’s Joss Whedon’s script and deft direction that truly shine. Best known for his ensemble television shows Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse, Whedon has a special skill for creating believable characters, interactions in a group dynamic, and clever dialogue. In between the adrenaline-charged fight scenes, Whedon manages to create quiet moments for each character’s development and exposition. Different relationships come to light, from individual camaraderies and quibbles to the growing flirtation between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff. Witty banter abounding, the after party celebrating Strucker’s capture shows the heroes relaxing and engaging in a friendly but competitive game of Who-Can-Lift-Thor’s-Hammer. Easily one of the funniest scenes in the movie, it is, alas, interrupted by the inevitable appearance of Ultron. Housed in a robotic shell, the artificially intelligent entity has manifested itself from a secret tinkering with Loki’s scepter (shame on Tony Stark and the complicit Dr. Banner!) to confront the Avengers with it’s own dark version of how to save the world. Sarcastic and menacing, with a curious sense of humor and a penchant for creepily spouting lines from Pinocchio, Ultron (perfectly voiced by James Spader) makes the consummate bad guy super villain. (I have to admit, I kind of love Ultron.)
All of the elements from the first Avengers film: the great characters, humor, excellent writing, earth-shattering action, grand scale destruction, and overall rollicking good fun are present in this sequel. It also ties together storylines and characters from the individual Avengers’ film franchises and Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. Weighing in at a running time of about two and a half hours, it may be a tad long for some, but hold off on that trip to the bathroom, it’s worthwhile. Go see it. You know you want to.
Watch the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron
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