'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Is An Exciting, Almost-As-Good-As-The Original Sequel [Movie Review]

For ten movies we've been waiting to see an entire movie of the Avengers being "The Avengers." Sure, we've seen some crossovers. We've seen what the team could do when aliens invaded. We've even seen an alien pseudo-Avengers assemble in Guardians of the Galaxy. But up until Avengers: Age of Ultron, we haven't seen what would happen if six amazing superheroes spent an entire movie together, working together.

For that reason alone, Joss Whedon's Avengers Age of Ultron is satisfying. Beyond that, it a falls a little bit short of its amazing predecessor. When compared to the first film, Age of Ultron is more even, constantly exciting and surprising. There are huge laughs, there's drama, some real character development, and some absolutely crazy action. That consistency almost makes up for the fact the film lacks the "Wow" moments of the first movie and that brand new feeling we got the first time.

Nevertheless, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a blast. Read the rest of our Avengers Age of Ultron review below.

Ready, Set, Ultron!

Avengers: Age of Ultron is unapologetic. From frame one, the movie drops you back into Marvel's world. You either know what's happening – something with twins, a scepter and Hydra – or you don't. Once that bow is tied on story elements lingering from Phase Two, the film really begins when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) does something terrible. He creates Ultron, an artificial intelligence that within moments decides the only way to save the world is to end it. The character evolves quickly throughout the movie but what you don't get from the trailer is just how much like James Spader he is. You see Spader's face in his animation, and mannerisms as well as his voice. He's a worthy antagonist.

In that antagonist, we also get the narrative and thematic meat of the film. Ultron's creation is filtered through the mind of Tony Stark and the two characters come to represent the film's ideas. There's Tony, always wanting to save the world but not knowing how. Then there's Ultron, who can save the world at its own expense. Does the world deserve to be saved? What does "saving" the world even mean? These ideas are among the richest weaved throughout the entire film.

The Twins

Two other new characters in the film are Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. Referred to as "The Twins," their powers – super speed for Pietro and a mix of telepathy and telekinesis for Wanda – add a whole new dimension to the Avengers' world. These characters make the Avengers vulnerable, and that gives the film some needed pathos. That feeling also comes from the arc of the twins, which is linked to some deeper problems.

The Real Stars

It goes without saying that characters like Iron Man, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) are all given moments to shine. However, since they each had movies in the past few years, writer/director Joss Whedon really amps up their counterparts. A key relationship builds between Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), but the real highlight is Hawkeye. Jeremy Renner's character, a complete afterthought in the past three years, is the true star of the movie. He's given a significant back story, great dialogue and lots of memorable and funny moments.

About Those Big Moments

Saying Hawkeye is the star doesn't mean Thor, Captain America and Iron Man aren't important though. Each has a lot of good action and character beats. But, because they take a back seat once in a while, Age of Ultron does suffer. Iron Man is largely absent from the finale. Thor goes away for a chunk of the movie. Plus, there's no moment quite like Hulk transforming in order to destroy the Chitauri worm. There's no Hulk saving a falling Iron Man. No Loki getting smashed by Hulk. Lots of moments come close, but nothing quite hits those marks. The first Avengers hit 10 quite often, but Age of Ultron never gets past an 8 or 9.

The Vision Is the Movie

Then there's Vision, played by Paul Bettany, who is basically the personification of movie. Just like Age of Ultron, he's bigger, he's more powerful and he's a composite of multiple things including stories from the past and the future. He also has best moments in the movie. Then there's just his total weirdness. You either totally buy into how different he is from everything else and it works, or you don't and it doesn't. It's pretty hard to find a middle ground but either way, it's fun to see him in the movie and he adds a great dimension.

MCU Connections

Marvel fans in the pursuit of Easter Eggs will also find lots to like in Age of Ultron. Several scenes feel like direct set-ups for Phase Three. There are a ton of cameos, reveals and a hell of an mid-credits tease. These moments are necessary to set the table but they do give the film a mild case of "Iron Man 2 syndrome." They also hold the film back from being as ultimately satisfying as the original film, which had such a huge, rousing conclusion.

Our Huge, Rousing Conclusion

Walking out of Avengers: Age of Ultron, it was difficult to wrap my head around my feelings. I'd enjoyed the hell out of the massive movie and was dying to see it again. But I felt a tad empty. Hawkeye helped fill that, as did the Twins and Vision, but it was missing some of the warmth of the first film. Joss Whedon attempts, and succeeds, to make a different, darker, more complex and bigger sequel but he's a victim of his own success. Age of Ultron works but you can't help but remember the moments that helped us get here. You end up speculating more about what's to come than what you just saw, even though what you just saw was incredibly funny and exciting.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out 10