The biggest impression that The Avengers: Age Of Ultron has left on me in hindsight, is how Joss Whedon despite all the pressure he had on his shoulders to expand the universe for future Marvel films outside this particular narrative, he has managed to create an exciting film with his personal stamp all over it with a fully realized story arc of it’s own. Lesser blockbuster sequels have always gone the cliche route of bigger the better, but that’s simply not Joss Whedon’s style. Whedon’s top priority here is first and foremost the characters and how they evolve, how they question their own actions and grow from the consequences and last but not least and last but not least flesh out their personalities that we’ve come to know and love even further to make them the most important factor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The opening scene drops The Avengers right in the middle of where the mid credit scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier left off in the Eastern European country of Sokovia as they raid a Hydra outpost led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and this film immediately hits it’s stride in full force.
Whedon expects this audience to be smart and doesn’t waste time holding anyone’s hand with details that have been explained in previous Marvl films and would no doubt slow Age Of Ultron down.

When these characters come together for battle and engage in screwball banter there’s a refreshing sense of a fully realized universe that once only existed in comic books, where every minor story detail and character trademark that’s been laid out in previous adventures flows in seemlessly here and expand even further. Even the characers that are new to the MCU such as Pietro and Wanda Maximoff are not bogged down by too much backstory or explanation of their powers, much like Empire Strikes Back, every new character or place is a piece of the larger puzzle that Age Of Ultron introduces in a way that feels organic and still carries a sense of great purpose.

There’s a common theme that weaves through Whedon’s narrative thread that connects all of the disparate characters, a theme that has every main character coming to terms with their philosophical decisions and being challenged by decisions that sacrifice their own agendas for the greater good. Holding this thread together is Ultron, brought to the screen brilliantly by James Spader. Ultron is symbolically a skewed reflection of the initiative that The Avengers take to protect humanity and forces every character to reevaluate their own place and sense of purpose in the grander scheme of things in their own unique ways. Whedon more than makes up for the lack of characterization in Hawkeye in the first Avengers film by giving him one of the strongest and fleshed out character arcs here. Not only do we get a deeper look into what makes that character a unique and valuable asset to the team, Renner really brings out a strongly likeable personality that makes him standout from the rest. Having Bruce and Natasha find solace and connect to eachother was a brilliant move as they both parallel one another with the personal challenges they face every day. Their chemistry is strong and their journey makes for great emotional stakes when the circumstances of events become dour and grim. There’s a great amount of playful banter and humor that Joss Whedon is so natural with and he knows how to balance it with drama and tragedy to strike all the right chords with his audience.

Despite all of the groundwork that Whedon has to lay for future installments in the MCU, the Ultron story arc has a beginning, middle and end. Most importantly the Ultron character introduces philosophical ideas that will permanently effect the main characters and will no doubt be explored further as the journey for these characters expand. The introduction of Vision is an amzing revelation and the best moment in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. As he’s brought to consciousness and examines his surroundings, gazing at the broad city lights with intrigue and wonder without a word spoken is powerful cinematic storytelling and an elegant way of inspiring awe and wonder in a small beautiful moment void of spectacle. Paul Bettany’s eyes envoke mystery and curiosity, the scene unfolds in a way to let the audience experience this world for the first time in a different set of eyes and it is simply breathtaking. When The Avengers approach the climactic showdown against Ultron’s vengeful army, these heroes are shown to make protecting humanity their top priority which says everything about how Joss Whedon really identifies with this material and what has made it connect with so many people for so long. The final confrontation between Vision and Ultron leaves the greatest impact as their battle consists mostly of philosophical sparring and their conflicting ideals bring together everything that all of these characters have been coming to terms with throughout this story.

The Avengers: Age Of Ultron is a step beyond it’s predecessor and the most glorious example to date of bringing the essence of comic book panels to cinematic life. Joss Whedon had his work cut out for him dealing with laying out story arcs and the foundation for upcoming films in the MCU while still maintaining his own voice and telling a complete story within those boundaries. For everyone who’s been on board with the MCU so far will be delighted to know that Whedon has made a thrilling film that pushes everything further in exciting directions and has a personality of it’s own. It’s completely understandable why Whedon decided to make this his last outing with The Avengers and The Russos have their work cut out for them, but judging by what they did with Winter Soldier, I’d say there’s no better filmmakers for the job and I can’t wait to see what they do. Until then take comfort in the satisfaction that Whedon pulled this film off and has given everyone another reason to be happy and excited with what Marvel has brought and will bring to their cinematic universe.

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Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan is a freelance film journalist and is the founder of Movie Time And Beyond. His passion for movies and pop culture knows no limits.