Whedon ups the stakes and adds more heart to the MCU

by Randy Krinsky

You know how it always feels good to get together with an old group of friends, even ones you might have talked to separately every now and again.  Nothing beats the camaraderie and good feelings you have when you are actually all together again.  That’s what it felt like watchingAvengers: Age of Ultron.  It seemed like old times when we catch up with the righteous Captain America (Chris Evans), the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the smart-ass Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the deadly Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the wild card Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and what could be seen as the heart of the team, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).  

By the way, if you haven’t seen the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., find someone who DVR’d the show and watch it.  The episode basically ends where Age of Ultron starts. That being said, we begin our adventure learning that the Avengers have grown as a team, with relationships evolving; a bond has been forged between Natasha Romanov and Bruce Banner, as well as between Natasha and the unstable Hulk.  However, it is the relationship between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark that appears to drive the narrative; the back-and-forth we saw in the first film is growing and positioning itself as possibly the foundation for Captain America: Civil War.  Captain Rogers is a soldier, fighting the good fight.  Stark wants “peace in our time,” a permanent end to the fighting which would render the Avengers unnecessary.  It is for this reason, Stark creates Ultron (James Spader), who immediately sees the only pathway to peace is for the human race to evolve or face extinction (one guess which one Ultron prefers).   Along the way, Ultron enlists the vengeful twins, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) to help him destroy the Avengers, who stand between him and his goals.

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Directed by
Joss Whedon
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
Release Date
1 May 2015
Randy’s Grade: A

Spader’s Ultron is the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.  His twisted ideals and dark sense of humor are brought out brilliantly by the voice of Spader (I mean really, have you seen him in The Black List; the man can play evil).  This might upset the die-hard Tom Hiddleston fans, but even though he was burdened with glorious purpose, Loki drops a notch in my book due to James Spader’s sardonic portrayal of Ultron; he hits his marks perfectly.   Let’s not forget the Vision.  The voice of Jarvis, Paul Bettany finally gets some screen time as the android built by a robot.  Without going into how, why, what does he do, is it like the comics, let’s just say Vision packs a wallop and is more than “worthy” to stand alongside the Avengers!  You’ll understand that reference once you see the movie.  He is a refreshing and powerful addition to the roster.  

The film drops tons of Easter eggs for the eagle-eyed fan and lays the foundation for the next Avengers films but if you’re looking for an end-of-credits scene, don’t.  Oh, don’t misunderstand me, there is a mid-credits scene, but no shawarma-esque end scene like in the previous film.   Director Joss Whedon, in what appears to be his final Marvel film for a while, has delivered a great movie that improves on the original.  The settings are incredible, the action is faster and the stakes are higher (I know, hard to top when you were fighting back an alien invasion).  In this case, the struggle is also with themselves.  To that end, Whedon delivers more heart to this film as well.  Halfway through the film, the action ceases and everyone from Tony Stark and Clint Barton, to Natasha Romanov and Bruce Banner stop to reflect on their lives and question why they fight at all.  Yet the plot still progresses without skipping a beat.   By the time the film ends, we are saying goodbye to some old friends, and welcoming some new ones.  In that way the film’s ending isn’t really an ending, but a new beginning; a new age of Avengers.  I can only be optimistic when pondering what wonders awaits us as the Marvel Cinematic Universe begins its journey to Phase 3.