Avengers: Age of Ultron is the stuff comic books are made of, big, broad, and even a little clumsy in its commendable depiction of the super team. The first picture was a sugary treat of seeing the team fight, form and win and the sequel takes a microscope and examines the Avengers. Not only from an existential slant of asking about their place in the world but also their function and whether or not they genuinely do good.
The result of this change gives rise to something that is far more cinematically fulfilling than its predecessor while simultaneously satisfying even the most ardent action junkie. This is best demonstrated in the pre-title sequence in which the Avengers raid a Hydra outpost seeking Loki’s Scepter, which was the McGuffin of the previous film.
Joss Whedon opens the film with a shot of a hand, which then cuts to two characters looking at each other. The shot is indicative of the intimacy to come. Whedon then introduces us to the Avengers in a crisp and confident tracking shot, which culminates in a nicely composed and held slow motion shot of the team. At the end of the sequence, we get introduced to Elizabeth Olsen’s character who is called Wanda Maximoff.
Her powers allow her to show people’s worst fears that come to life in elaborate and vivid dream sequences. It’s a power that allows director Whedon to show the Avengers bearing their souls, fears, and insecurities. This is the most significant virtue of the film; it embraces Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby’s conceived team, never forgetting their flaws, oddities, and hangups.
Additionally, Whedon places in his screenplay many quiet moments that resonate and have weight. One such moment is a conversation in the middle of the film between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff that explores their connection and perception of how they see themselves and each other.
In fact, it’s admirable that Whedon creates many dramatic moments that prove to be an excellent harmony of technology and technique. An example of this is when Ultron, who is played with dripping sarcastic nastiness by James Spader, allows Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to talk about a painful moment that happened to him in the past.
However, despite all this, the film at its heart has a profound paradox that is its cinematic world building. The picture feels the most fruitful in this regard, chalked full of amusing cameos, Easter eggs, and references. However, at times it hurts the logical consistency and flow of the screenplay.
There is a plot point that involves a character that Tony Stark knows but it feels like a convenience not only to the story but also to Marvel’s flow chart form of storytelling. Additionally, there is a side plot with Thor, that feels contrived insofar as it’s a set up for the next Avengers film.
It could have been comfortably cut, and the result of it should have just got showed in the middle credits sequence. However, this is only a minor quibble in what is otherwise a solid film that wholly embraces its comic book roots more than any Marvel picture before it.