Kind of at the last minute, I found myself in attendance of a 3D double feature, including Marvel’s Avengers, and the Thursday night premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I don’t make it out to the theater as often as I’d like to, mostly because at any given time, I’m stranded with a kid, so this was quite an event for me. I’m not sure how other theaters do it, but our local theater, when they do some kind of double feature or marathon, they set up a theater dedicated solely to marathon patrons. Which means when the new movie started, only those holding Marathon tickets were allowed inside of our theater. Seeing the Thursday night premiere of a movie as big as Avengers 2 with only 8 other people allowed to step foot in your theater is an extremely enjoyable experience, to the point that, in the future, I will do my best to attend any kind of double features or marathons, rather than seeing the new film individually. One of the main reasons I don’t attend the theater, even when I am able, is because the American public seemingly lack the ability to act like decent human beings in groups. This was a very different, very positive movie-going experience, which I think elevated my enjoyment of an already extremely enjoyable movie.
I hadn’t seen the first Avengers film since it was released in theaters in 2012. I have the Blu-ray, I own all of Marvel’s Blu-rays, but the situation never arose that I wished to revisit the film. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just, there’s only so many times you can stomach an origin story, and I knew I’d have more than enough time to squeeze a revisit in before the sequel dropped. I didn’t expect the first movie to be in 3D when I bought my tickets, so I was pretty surprised that that was the case. My lack of rewatches of Marvel’s Avengers paid off, because it had been so long since I saw the first film that it all felt fresh and new to me. What I like most about Avengers: Age of Ultron is that it is not an origin story, which lends to the overall fast pace in Marvel’s newest superhero blockbuster. This is almost the last film in the second phase of Marvel’s Avengers line of movies. Once Ant-Man drops on July 17th, it’s onto Phase 3, which begins with Captain America: Civil War, on May 16th of next year. Speaking of Civil War, there is plenty of conflict in Avengers that is for the purpose of setting up the tension between Captain America and Iron Man. It makes sense, probably even to non-comic book nerds, that if two characters were going to be at odds, it was going to be Cap and Stark. I know a lot of you have seen the released clip of Hulk and Iron Man slugging it out in the streets, but I can assure you that it far grander in context.
Age of Ultron follows a similar pattern for sequels, in that everything has to be bigger, better and faster, but it never wastes a minute of its two hour and twenty minute running time. Even cheesy jokes are done with what seems like a purpose, and everything has a payoff. One of the most prominent complaints I have seen from those that attended preview screenings, and the even bigger group that decided to suffer through a really bad Russian camera recording of the film, is that Ultron is never explained. It is explained, and it does make sense, but there is never an unneeded expository scene, where all motivations are thoroughly discussed, with bullet points on a blackboard. So it makes sense that if you need that exposition, if you can’t put 2+2 together without somebody holding your hand, you might feel a little put off by that fact. Personally I enjoy being given the opportunity to grasp plot elements on my own terms, rather than being hammered over the head with where we’re at, where we need to go, and what we’re going to need to do to get there. It’s obvious what Ultron is, and how it/he came to be, but it does operate within a minimal bubble of ambiguity, which made the whole movie more interesting for me.
All of the characters were treated well. Hawkeye actually receives a bit of character development, and the new additions to the MCU, such as Aaron Johnson as Quicksilver, and the lovely and talented Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch. There is somewhat of a love story between Black Widow and Bruce Banner/Hulk, but it never gets explored enough to become an annoyance. I think Robert Downey Jr. was at his best as Tony Stark this time around. I have enjoyed him as the character up until now, but I felt like he really shined in the role in AoU. He does a fantastic job of holding the group together, while simultaneously creating the necessary divide for the movies to venture into Civil War territory. The weakest character this time around is probably Thor, but that might be because Thor is already my least favorite character. He has less of a purpose in Age of Ultron, though he does kick quite a few asses. One of the only issues I had with the first Avengers movie was that the plot relied heavily on the characters from the Thor universe. I might be alone here, but I just didn’t find Loki to be that interesting of a bad guy. Ultron was perfect, in my eyes. A bad guy that doesn’t know he’s a bad guy is almost always more dangerous, as I think we’re about to learn even more as the next phase begins. I had a knee-jerk reaction when it was announced that David Spader would be voicing Ultron, but he did an extremely good job. He was the perfect combination of articulate, somewhat witty, and absolutely terrifying.
Age of Ultron is not one of the movies I was dying to see in 2015, but it turned out to be even better than I expected. Those of you that watch movies as often as I do know what a rare occurrence that is. It’s a fun, action-packed, funny and emotional ride. The action starts almost immediately, and beyond a couple of very brief moments used to develop a little character, and more importantly, give the audience a chance to catch their breath, it starts strong, and stays strong through to the end. When it comes to superhero fare, I’m more of a DC Comics kind of guy, but these Marvel movies are getting better and better. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that I enjoyed Age of Ultron more than Winter Soldier, because that was one of my favorite movies overall last year, but it’s up there. I don’t have the opportunity to visit the theater enough to warrant a second trip to scope out the easter eggs, but I would highly consider doing so if time were of no concern. Marvel’s new movie might have been the push I needed to get me to start trying to make it out to the theater again, when I have time to do so. I’m not entirely sure where we go from here, or how and/or if Ant-Man will fit into the third phase of The Avengers, but I am certainly anticipating what’s to come.