Despite Big Weekend, “Age of Ultron” Falls Prey to Sequel Curse
Issue   |   Tue, 05/05/2015 - 22:38
“Age of Ultron” earned an estimated $200 million on its opening weekend, the second biggest opening weekend in cinema history.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” was released on May 1 and made close to $200 million in its opening weekend alone. The sequel to Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” has been long awaited, but does it live up to its predecessor? I write not as a Marvel Comics expert but as a big fan of the first movie and of each of the individual superheroes’ movies. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is equally as fun, action-packed and humorous as its predecessor, but as many reviewers have stated, it doesn’t live up to the standard of Whedon’s 2012 hit. It is an entertaining action blockbuster, but it doesn’t go above and beyond on all accounts like “The Avengers” did. Critics have pointed out that the movie has too many action scenes, too many new characters and perhaps too many of Whedon’s famous deadpan one-liners. But the film does have one redeeming quality: Unlike the first “Avengers” film, this sequel focuses on creating characters that are well-developed and feel distinctly human.

The film starts off with an intense action scene that takes place in a fictional Eastern European town. Although the overdramatic battle might seem unnecessary, it does in fact have a purpose. The scene introduces two new characters who come from the Eastern European town: Scarlett Witch (played by the youngest Olsen sister, Emily) and Quicksilver (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson). While starting off with a battle and introducing two new characters is a bit overwhelming right off the bat, it’s refreshing to see the Avengers working together as an ensemble. While in the first film they struggle to work together as a team, Whedon was sure this time to make the Avengers into a well-oiled machine. They combine forces to defeat the Russian villain, all while partaking in Whedon’s trademark witty banter.

Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed both “Avengers” movies, seems to understand the love people have for this diverse group of heroes. One of the beginning scenes,which will surely be one of the most memorable of the film, features these heroes and their sidekicks. Colonel James Rhode from the second and third “Iron Man” films (played by Don Cheadle) and Sam Wilcon from “Captain America” (played by Anthony Mackie) are hanging out after a party at the Avengers tower. The boys get into a competition to see who can pick up Thor’s hammer. It’s funny to see Thor smiling smugly as the two strain to pick up the hammer, and the glimmer of panic in Thor’s eyes when Captain America manages to budge the hammer is hilarious. While there were countless one-liners that had the audience roaring, I think the best comedic aspect of the film were the characters’ facial expressions, which Whedon managed to capture and time perfectly.

Many critics have commended Whedon for his writing because he explores each of his characters’ distinctive personalities on a deep level. Iron Man, Captain America and Thor are naturally more developed characters because they have all each had a feature film, or three. But the nice thing about “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is that it takes the time to delve into the personal lives of characters who aren’t granted their own films. Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner, packs a big surprise in his personal life (which I won’t spoil) that puts this often-overlooked Avenger in the spotlight for a good portion of the film. Natasha Romanoff, also known as Black Widow, (played by Scarlett Johansson) has flashbacks to her childhood in which we see how she was trained to be a killer from a young age. Although Black Widow often talks about her past, seeing young Natasha hold a gun makes you realize what she meant when she said, “I’ve got red in my ledger” in the first film. And Bruce Banner, also known as the Hulk, (played by Mark Ruffalo) shows both a sweet side and an aggressive side, moving beyond the one-dimensionality of his character in the first film.

There are slight spoilers ahead, so you might want to skip this paragraph. During the promotional tour of the movie, it was hinted that Natasha and Bruce Banner were going to have some sort of romantic entanglement. I immediately groaned upon hearing this, thinking there was going to be some love triangle between Clint, Natasha and Bruce. Luckily, Clint isn’t really in the picture. However, I am still not completely satisfied with the film’s attempt to create romantic tension. In one of the film’s first scene, Natasha sings a lullaby to calm the Hulk down and turns him back into Bruce. This sweet scene depicts the bond that these two characters have, but it also slows down the film’s action and is unnecessary to the plot. I personally could have done without this romance, although it does inject the film with some sweet and humorous moments.

In the end, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is not quite as satisfying as the original. But with its sassy new computer villain, as well as a few new superheroes thrown into the mix, the film resists being a carbon copy of “The Avengers.” Anyone who appreciated “The Avengers” will appreciate this film, which sets the stage for the next “Avengers” movie in what is sure to be a long franchise.