How do you try to top a movie like The Avengers? You don’t. At least, that’s what they’ll say. When it came out in 2012, Avengers revolutionized the way Hollywood makes superhero movies and became the third highest grossing movie ever. But director Joss Whedon and the Marvel machine did top it with Age of Ultron, the endlessly entertaining sequel that still manages to pack an emotional punch. (We cried! But more on that Monday -- it’s too spoilery).
They built it bigger. They built it better. They built it faster and stronger.
BIGGER: Cast. The movie gets the usual gang back together -- Iron Man, Thor, Captain America -- but adds new recruits Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, an android named Vision, cameos by War Machine and Falcon, and a handful of other new characters. Whereas other superhero movies have crumbled under the weight of too many new players (i.e. every Spider-Man movie after the first), Age of Ultron manages to expertly keep all its balls in the air, while diving deeper into some of the lesser explored characters’ pasts.
BIGGER: Universe. Avengers mainly took place in New York City, but Age of Ultron hops all over the globe, from NYC to Sokovia, from South Korea to South Africa. And each new locale introduces us to a potential breeding ground for future Marvel fare: Notably, our first visit to Wakanda, the home of Black Panther (to be played by Chadwick Boseman), and a first look at the origin story of the villainous Klaw (Andy Serkis). It never feels gratuitous either -- it’s necessary to the plot of this movie -- but still gets us excited for what’s to come.
BETTER: Villain. If there’s been one criticism against the Marvel Cinematic Universe time and time again, it’s that its villains tend to be forgettable (as opposed to the Marvel Television Universe, where Vincent D'onofrio’s Wilson Fisk became the most terrifying, most human villain yet). But Ultron (voiced and motion captured by James Spader, who cakes on the charm here) does what the Dark Elves and Ronan the Accuser couldn’t do: He’s complex. He’s dynamic. He’s completely insane, but still relatable, all at the same time. Finally, a villain worthy of taking on the Avengers.
BETTER: Action. And boy, are there a lot of action sequences in this movie. There’s a giant opening battle in the fictional country of Sokovia that sets the pace for the rest of the movie (but may give weaker-stomached viewers motion sickness); there’s an Avenger vs. Avengers smack down in Africa; the final set piece of the film, also set in Sokovia, is one of the coolest featured in any of the 11 movies Marvel has made so far. This movie also feels more comic book-y than anything that’s come before it. Which we mean as a compliment.
FASTER: Quicksilver. Literally. After X-Men: Days of Future Past debuted their take on the mutant Quicksilver (played there by Evan Peters) to surprised enjoyment by fans (it was so, so much better than the wig made us believe), Age of Ultron got a chance to play around with their miracle Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). And they are two completely different takes on the character -- but equally fun. Taylor-Johnson version is cocky, damaged, and the super speed effects? Are super cool. We would love to see more of him in the future, please.
FASTER: Quips. The only thing quicker than Quicksilver in this movie might be wit. Naturally Whedon packs this thing full of one-liners (an underused Cobie Smulders explaining Pietro and his twin sister Wanda’s powers? “Basically, he’s fast and she’s weird.”) and a running gag about Captain America’s (Chris Evans) occasionally puritanical sensibilities. Who knew you could laugh this much in a giant action movie?
STRONGER: Hulkbuster. How do you solve a problem like the Hulk? With Veronica A.K.A. the satellite that deploys the much-hyped Hulkbuster suit, a suit that Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., in as fine of form as ever) dons for an epic mid-film set-piece against the big, green guy (Mark Ruffalo, in as fine of form as ever). For fans of the comic books, the long-awaited appearance by the Hulkbuster suit will not disappoint.
STRONGER: Female characters. Fans may still be bummed that we aren’t getting a solo Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) movie -- instead, we’ll get Captain Marvel in 2018 -- but Widow takes center stage in Age of Ultron, getting more character development than she’s ever gotten as a supporting character in another hero’s film, including a tantalizing peek into her sorted past that will just make you crave that solo Widow movie even more. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch is an incredible addition to the MCU, whose general ass-kicking-ness is so f*cking awesome that you won’t ever care about that bonkers accent.
Suffice it to say, we’re not at superhero burnout yet. Viva la Marvel!
Now, check out what secrets ET learned behind-the-scenes of Age of Ultron: