H:5 In a film this packed with heroes, it’s hard to know exactly who to consider the “main character.” Fortunately, Joss Whedon does a fantastic job of giving each character plenty of screen time, and making the team as a whole the main character of the film. And, in that sense, the team has huge development. It plants the seeds of division that will lead to Civil War, and using Scarlet Witch’s mind tricks, shows just how flawed these characters are, giving them more room to grow.
V:4 Ultron is such a great villain. And the fact that he was played by James Spader just makes him all the more amazing. Sure, a robot trying to kill humans isn’t exactly unique, but at least Spader’s spin on the role was – the robot isn’t cold and calculating, but moody and self-conscious, truly like a teenager rebelling against his parents, or in this case, against Tony Stark. Add the strangely ironic references to God from a robot, and you get an undeniably interesting villain. Unfortunately, at times a hint of “evil for the sake of evil” crept through, but overall Ultron was a very fun bad guy to root against.
U:2 Sadly, Age of Ultron was perhaps the most formulaic of Marvel’s films. The good-guys banding together just at the right moment to stop the apocalypse may be necessary to the story line, but it felt rather forced. (example, Tony’s line “Like the old man said. Together” was just a little too on-the-nose) And the concept of a robot designed to protect humans rebelling against its creators because it realizes they are destroying themselves is a bit overdone nowadays (Eagle Eye, iRobot, etc). But, at least Joss Whedon did a fantastic job of misdirecting our suspicious of Hawkeye’s death and surprising us with Quicksilver dying instead.
S:5 Many of the secondary characters in this film do the important job of grounding a movie of such huge scope. Hawkeye’s wife Laura is proof of how important a strong secondary character is to keeping a story in reality, even if surrounded by demigods and super soldiers. And, as usual, Whedon’s strengths in directing truly shine during the intimate scenes of the movie, like the party and the farm, with strong secondary performances from Maria Hill and Dr. Helen Cho. And come on, the romance between Black Widow and Hulk? Amazing.
M:4 It’s no accident that most of the films in the top half of this list have hugely memorable moments. Often the strength of a film is reflected in its key moments, and Age of Ultron is no different. The shocking moment of Quicksilver’s death and the iconic argument between Tony and Steve over their wood (“Don’t take from my pile”) are just a few examples. And the birth of Paul Bettany’s Vision? Who could forget that? Sadly, although the climactic scene was very epic, the generic city-destroying didn’t provide as memorable a climax as it could have.
Final Score: 20 – To the surprise of many, the sequel to the mega-record-breaking hit Avengers did not fall prey to the common “sophomore slump”. Although both films scored very close, this sequel managed to narrowly beat out it’s original. The plot may have been formulaic, and the deus-ex-machina of Nick Furry having another Helicarrier tucked away may have been a bit too convenient, but thanks to great directing and amazing casting choices (thank the heavens for James Spader), there’s no denying that Age of Ultron is a very fun and entertaining film to watch. Not to mention how much it does to deepen our undertsanding of and love for our heros. And since it can’t be said enough, let’s take another moment to appreciate how much less stupid Cap’s costume looks since the Avengers. Thank you, costume-design overlords.