As Americans gathered around big screen televisions and sipped mint juleps to watch a horse racing tradition unfold in Kentucky this past weekend, another race transpired over an even larger screen. “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, one of 2015’s most anticipated movie releases, jumped quickly out of the theater gates in pursuit of its 2012 predecessor, hoping against long odds to win the largest weekend box office tally ever on record. Although this latest Marvel comic book film adventure fell just short ($187.6M) of “The Avengers” box office record ($207M), it still earned the second largest opening weekend of all-time and gave its fans a satisfying and enjoyable film.
With an action-packed opening scene that begins at full-throttle, the audience must move just as quickly to understand the villain known as Ultron--and his two formidable threats; Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Be prepared, though, the frantic Olympic pace set early on for the mind-numbing adventure is maintained nearly throughout the 2 hours and 21 minutes.
Writer-Director Joss Whedon (“Toy Story”, 1995) once again provides the steady hand behind the chaos known as The Avengers—all our favorite, eccentric personalities gathered to defeat evil and prevent the Earth’s destruction. From his body of work on Marvel, including his script rewrite for “Thor: The Dark World”, directing the mid-credits scenes after “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and giving storylines to director James Gunn in last year’s mega blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy”, it can be argued that no one knows comic book films better Joss Whedon. In fact, astute viewers of “Age of Ultron” will get a small glimpse into how Whedon has successfully connected the dots for a future merger between “The Avengers” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” teams.
Despite the heavy doses of computer generated imagery (CGI) typically found in these comic book movies, “Age of Ultron” settles down long enough to allow us to enjoy the best part of the Marvel collection—the odd assortment of Avengers: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Besides Ultron, the voice provided by James Spader from NBC’s hit smash TV show “The Blacklist”, Whedon also brings together some old, regular Marvel characters as well as some new faces.
With any large ensemble reunited on film, viewers want to see the interaction and character development far more so than a standard ‘good vs. evil’ narrative. Why else is the Internet still shaking from last month’s movie trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” that went viral seven months before its Christmas release? The anticipation of the reunion of fan favorites Hans Solo, Chewbacca and the rest of the sci-fi gang from 1977. In “Ultron”, the best scenes use heavy amounts of banter and laughs to establish a good-natured rapport between the super heroes. Continuing that camaraderie will be key to a franchise expected to launch at least ten more Marvel movies within the next decade. To get a snippet into how that may be done, be sure to stay and watch the mid-credits scene at the end of this blockbuster hit.