The Avengers assemble once again in this next action-packed installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been groundbreaking in many ways, be it the storytelling, the sheer size of it, or simply the revenue it has raked in. Because of this success, Marvel executives have retained a tight fist on how they are maintaining their universe, and it's sadly becoming formulaic, nowhere more clear than in the latest installment of the universe, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The film opens in the Eastern European country of Sokovia where the Avengers -- Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner / The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) -- have gathered to take on Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann). Strucker has been using Loki's scepter to experiment on humans. While the results have mostly been disastrous and torturous, twins Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) are exceptions and have been given superhuman speed and the power to manipulate minds and energy, respectively. Despite the twins' impressive powers, the Avengers are victorious.
Upon confiscation of the scepter, Tony and Bruce study its gem, one of the Infinity Stones, and realize that it contains an artificial intelligence. Against Banner's warnings, Tony being Tony decides to secretly put it in "Ultron," a global defense program he has been working on. Tony is surprised when Ultron becomes fully sentient. Meant to protect mankind, Ultron instead becomes discontent with humanity, believing that he must eliminate everyone to save Earth.
While the film is somewhat satisfying as far as action blockbusters go, it doesn't pack the same punch that 2012's The Avengers did. Perhaps the first Avengers film set the bar too high, and Marvel can't help but try to recreate that. Regardless of the cause, Avengers: Age of Ultron simply has too much going on, and it's because of the formula: all heroes must survive to go onto their next films (don't forget to introduce the new heroes!); a fight must occur every fifteen minutes; and villains must defeat our heroes in one battle and outwit them until the absolute last fight, which doesn't even give the payout audiences deserve after such a climax. Then, of course, every single plot device must set up for the rest of the universe. This leads to a film that is more than two hours long and scarce on anything beyond action and filler to set up for the next phase of Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Where the film does succeed are in the few, short moments that feel longer than moments, when we get to know characters more. A personal favorite is the chance to get to know Hawkeye and his homelife more intimately. These scenes take these heroes from the realm of ideals and ground them in reality. This characteristic of bringing in the reality of everyday life into this universe is what has made the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe films so strong, and this is unfortunately lacking in Age of Ultron. Instead, we get a CGI-laden, action-packed movie that chugs along at a fast pace jumping from scene to scene with little room for character development or narrative flow.
Images courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.