April 23, 2015
The first Avengers film was an awesome film. It lived up to all expectations, and fans filed out of the cinema generally very happy and excited about the superhero extravaganza they had just seen. This sequel therefore had a much bigger fan expectations to fulfill. Now that the novelty of having all these heroes together has already passed, it now depends on a great story to pull this second installment through. My verdict is that while it is still a larger-than-life, visually-impressive action film, it did not exactly inspire the same level of adulation that the first one so handily developed.
The adventure starts in a fictional European country of Sokovia where the Avengers were attacking the Hydra lair to retrieve Loki's scepter. The blue stone in that scepter contain powerful artificial intelligence technology which Tony Stark and Bruce Banner uses to create Ultron, the ultimate peace-keeper for the world. Ironically however, Ultron believes that humanity needs to be eradicated in order to achieve peace.
Ultron recruits the powerful Maximoff twins, super-speedy Pietro and telepathic Wanda, who have an axe to grind against Tony Stark. The action reaches a peak back in Sokovia where Ultron develops a machine to lift a huge segment of the city up to the sky with the intent of dropping it down to cause global annihilation. Together with new allies they pick up along the way, the Avengers have to regroup and gather their forces together in order to foil Ultron's twisted quest for human extinction.
While the requisite bad-ass fight scenes and humourous zingers are still there, but there was something I can't exactly put my finger on that affected my enjoyment of the film overall. Maybe it was the sheer number of characters we need to focus on so the storytelling can be messy at points. Every character had their own personal issues to address, such that some parts of the film tended to lag down. Maybe it was how Thor seemingly became the unexpected comic relief for the film. Maybe it was how I was not used to seeing Natasha as a hopeless romantic or as a damsel in distress. I don't know, I enjoyed the film for sure, but there was just something amiss somewhere.
I did like the part where we see Clint Barton's home and meet his family. We get to see the super-archer in a much different light and these scenes gave Jeremy Renner his moment to shine after being underused in the first film. Strangely for a film with so many characters, Hawkeye is the ONLY one in whom you can connect emotionally.
I liked the new characters this film introduced to us. The Scarlet Witch (played by Elizabeth Olsen) is a very powerful heroine with awesome abilities. It should be interesting how her character will develop future films. The scenes building up to the birth of Vision are positively sublime -- so well done! Paul Bettany transitioned from being the voice of JARVIS to his personification as Vision very fluidly. The main antagonist Ultron was voiced with buttery calm by James Spader. I admit I felt there was some disconnect between the coolness of the voice with the expectation of pure nefariousness for this villain.
There was a short extra scene in the middle of the end credits featuring an Infinity Gauntlet and one character whom we last saw in "Guardians of the Galaxy". I thought I would see more though. And no, to the disappointment of fans who patiently waited, there was no second extra scene at the very end of the credits. There was only the promise that "The Avengers will return". That return is reportedly going to be in May 2018.
Overall, this is still one big bang of a film. Those dynamically blocked and executed sequences where all the Avengers were fighting side-by-side were a joy to watch. Writer-director Joss Whedon tried his best to weave together a fan-friendly, action-filled film with more than 10 superheroes, yet still managing to maintain some sort of story coherence, while connecting to past and future Marvel films revolving around this universe.
But I think the decision to relinquish the directorial reins of the next Avengers films to the Russo Brothers (who did an excellent job in "Captain America:The Winter Soldier") may be a good idea in order to inject some fresher ideas before more signs of franchise fatigue start to show. 8/10.