Movie Review : A tough act to follow

James Bickford

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” surpasses all expectations and sets a new bar for Marvel

After the extraordinary success of the first “Avengers,” the follow-up had a tall order in front of it. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” has proven itself to be more than equal to its predecessor.

In nearly every respect, “Age of Ultron” surpasses the first “Avengers,” managing to serve as a follow-up to both the original and the four intermediate films in admirable fashion. It manages to weave many different subplots together to form a surprisingly coherent whole, and manages to give each of its characters a great deal more characterization and personality than the previous film. The movie’s greatest flaws come largely from the fact that it has to keep track of so many continuities from so many movies, and it is not a very good entry point for newcomers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Writer/director Joss Whedon does some of his best work in “Age of Ultron,” with the sharp and witty dialogue that these movies have become known for is arguably at it’s best. None of the jokes fall flat, and all of them feel organic and natural. The interactions between characters are vastly improved, and the cast of heroes felt more like a group of best friends or an extended family than ever before. The scene where the leading heroes are having a party, joking and bonding like old friends, highlights the strength of these characters and how far they have come over the combined 21 hours of screen-time they have gotten throughout all the films. The romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner, though having very little buildup and coming out of nowhere, grows over the course of the film. This provides sorely needed depth to both characters until they get their own movies.

Hawkeye gets some of the most impressive development in this movie, and, because of this, is probably now my favorite Avenger. Without getting into spoiler territory, he becomes arguably the emotional center of the team, grounding them and holding them together.

The action is the best it has ever been, and the titanic final clash with Ultron and his minions is suitably epic. Against all odds, it completely overshadows the invasion scene from the first “Avengers” in terms of stakes and scale. The choreography is tight, the sequences are inventive and Brian Tyler’s original score is intense. This makes every scene feel more epic by it’s presence.

The largest flaw is one of continuity. Without spoiling anything for newcomers, seeing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is vital to understanding parts of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The film fails to explain its continuity for newcomers. “Avengers 3” should invest in a “Star Wars” text crawl to benefit those who didn’t spend a hundred dollars and over a full day familiarizing themselves with the complex overarching plot points of the Marvel Universe. And for those who did go that extra mile, it is unacceptable to come up with so important a plot point as a relationship between two main characters with literally no build in previous movies. It could make loyal fans question why they wasted their time and money catching up on the story if it is subject to change at the drop of a hat.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is my favorite Marvel movie to date. It manages to keep its complex story moving forward and its characters relatable and genuine while providing the best action in franchise history. “Avengers 3” has quite an act to follow. Final score: 92/100