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Is 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' better than the original film?


Joss Whedon, you’ve been assigned the task of making a sequel to the highest grossing comic adaptation of all-time. By the way, the previous film has grossed over 1 billion dollars.

Of course, Marvel Studios is a pretty well-oiled machine at this stage of the game. And let’s face it: Avengers: Age of Ultron, the long-awaited sequel to 2012’s The Avengers, could very well establish box office records that might surpass that of the original film. Nonetheless, there’s still serious pressure to release a respectable follow-up.Photo: denofgeek.us


So how did Whedon and his ensemble cast do? Let’s get right to it.


The film begins with the Avengers in search of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who has been experimenting on humans with Loki’s scepter from several years ago. The gang’s all here: Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark-Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner-The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), tearing through the country of Sokovia with reckless abandon. When all is said and done, Strucker is taken down and Stark retrieves the scepter. Upon arriving back from their mission, Stark and Banner discover artificial intelligence in the scepter’s gem. Stark, over Banner’s objections, gets the idea to finish his proposed “Ulton” defense program using the gem.


There’s only one problem: the program horribly backfires, and Ultron (James Spader) attacks the Avengers during a victory party and subsequently escapes. In the process, he acquires personal data and key information regarding all of the Avengers, who are now at odds with each other, and his plans for the fate of the human race put the world and the team in jeopardy. Also complicating matters are Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, a brother and sister who were experiments of von Strucker. After being orphaned at a young age when one of Stark’s company weapons eradicated their family, the pair teams up with Ultron in hopes of exacting revenge on Stark and the Avengers. After some soul searching, the Avengers come together and realize that the key to defeating Ultron actually lies within Ultron, but the ensuing paths of destruction planned by Ultron and his droids will make the events of New York look like a picnic if the Avengers can’t save the world before it’s too late.


When you combine multiple storylines, special effects and a varied and diverse group of superheroes, things are bound to get cluttered in a two-and-a-half-hour motion picture, and Avengers: Age of Ultron is no exception. While it’s tough to top an original film due to the overall freshness of the initial concept, one area where the sequel fares better than its predecessor is the the sense of urgency conveyed in the storyline by director-writer Whedon. Unlike the original, a prolonged sense of impending doom throughout the course of the film seems much more likely of a possibility for the crew. Despite the movie’s often dark overtones, however, there’s also plenty of classic one-liners to go around from all of the main characters, as well as plenty of cameo roles from past Marvel movie favorites.


Whedon also manages to offers more of a balanced attack from the actors the second time around, with each member of the Avengers progressing in the realm of personal character development. Moreover, Evans and Renner’s characters take on more active roles than in the original, while the additional Avengers share equal screen time. The human element is what sets Avengers: Age of Ultron apart from your prototypical Transformers summer blockbuster. As the uncompromising Ultron, Spader is a more menacing and challenging villain than Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (although that has more to do with the storyline than Hiddleston’s classic performance), bringing a cynical charm and humor to the character not unlike some of his previous television roles.


The post-movie scenes offer a preview of what is to come for the future of the Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Avengers: Infinity War Part 2. For different reasons, I’m wrestling with the notion of which one of the first two Avengers films are better than the other, because you sometimes get a feeling of deja vu. No matter what, Avengers: Age of Ultron is still a must-see.


But you know that anyway.




Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com


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Photo: www.denofgeek.us