Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 11 – Avengers (Age of Ultron)

Revisiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe Part 11 – Avengers (Age of Ultron)

It’s deja vu all over again.  Just like the original Avengers was the dramatic culmination of every Marvel Studios film that had come before, so did Age of Ultron build upon each individual film throughout Phase Two, wrapping up the second phase with an especially big bang (with the exception of the epilogue-like Ant Man film).

Like the entirety of Phase Two, many would say Avengers: Age of Ultron was uneven at best and subpar at worst, especially when looking at it through the lens of the original Avengers.  I completely disagree.

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The balance between character and event is nicely done in the Avengers sequel, though feels a little less obvious, with most character interactions woven between explosions and large action set pieces.

It’s not the best Marvel Studios film, not by a long shot…heck it’s not even the best Phase Two Marvel Studios film, but even rewatching it a second time I found myself entranced by the film in its entirety, a thrilling, two and a half hour spectacle of blockbuster entertainment, which focuses a bit more on the typical Hollywood flash and less on the substance and personality of the original.

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That’s not to say there’s no personality, there is a healthy helping of the humanity that makes these films great, but there’s much more special effects explosions and robot combat than we got in Avengers.  Thankfully, the effects, explosions, and robot combat is all done exceptionally well and we end up with a very exciting thrill ride of a film, which not only manages to build upon all of the existing Marvel superstars, but pretty seamlessly introduce a number of others without sacrificing depth on any side.  Joss Whedon once again does a good job balancing an entire roster full of heroes that could (and have) driven their own solo films and manages to juggle them effectively. He even puts the magnifying glass on Hawkeye, a character who many folks thought was shorted the first time around, and brings him to center stage in a big way.

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I will say the story flow definitely didn’t work as well as the first time with Ultron’s almost total takeover of the world’s Internet glossed over in a short 5 minute conversation, not to mention the pseudo magic Deux Es Machina that brought Vision to life, but even with these questionable elements, the film as a whole was immensely entertaining and felt like a huge blockbuster conclusion to Phase Two.

It also carried along the MCU into the next phase, clearly identifying the threat of the Infinity Stones in a way that no Earthbound Marvel film as yet done.  Seeing that spoken about one film after it was discussed (in a galaxy far, far away) with the Guardians of the Galaxy film nicely starts to build a bridge between that very unrealistic universe and  the slightly more realistic (though just slightly) world being developed down on Earth.

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I will admit that unlike the first Avengers film, Age of Ultron didn’t so much feel like a culmination of the previous films in this phase.  It was certainly a direct continuation of the first Avengers film, focusing on Loki’s scepter and showing Hydra using Chitauri technology, but I didn’t really feel like events in The Dark World or even Iron Man 3 led to this film.  Certainly you saw further evolution of Tony Stark with hints of what he went through in Iron Man 3, but it didn’t feel as much like the direct continuation.  Of course the first Avengers film is such a wholly unique experience, it’s quite possible something like that will never be as effective again.  By now, we’ve seen Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the like all existing in film together, so obviously the second time around isn’t going to leave such a lasting impact.

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It can’t be overstated how well Age of Ultron brings Scarlett Witch, Quicksilver, and Vision to the franchise in a story that clearly defines each character and leverages their stories to build a deeper world.  The motivations of all three of these unique characters are clearly defined, and while Vision’s creation still kind of feels a little too convenient, I thought the film did a great job of motivating the Scarlett Witch to be evil, but having her turn it around y the end in a way that didn’t feel hokey and contrived.

As a villain, Ultron isn’t quite as entertaining as Loki, but still chewed up his screen time nicely, presenting himself as a threat, but one with some real world motivations.  His constant upgrades throughout the film were nice, and the references to other corners of the Marvel universe (specifically many different mentions of Wakanda and the Vibranium industry there) made this movie feel like a nice piece of a larger whole.

Ultimately, the second Avengers film doesn’t measure up to the first, but really, what film in the world does?  The previous film was an event unlike we’ve ever seen before, and very well may be unlike anything we’ll see again.  Even with those complaints, though, I still felt like Age of Ultron was terrific and a film I was exceedingly excited to sit down and watch again.

Ongoing Rank:

#11 – Iron Man 3
#10 – Thor (The Dark World)
#9 – Iron Man 2
#8 – Thor
#7 – Incredible Hulk
#6 – Guardians of the Galaxy
#5 – Avengers: Age of Ultron
#4 – Captain America: The First Avenger
#3 – Iron Man
#2 – Avengers
#1 – Captain America: Winter Soldier

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