Age of Ultron opens with a large set piece battle between the Avengers and the remnants of Hydra for Loki’s Staff, which was teased at the end of Captain America Winter Soldier. It is a well-choreographed battle showcasing the strengths of each member, the team work and trust developed between the members, and once again raises the question of why Hawkeye is hanging out with a god and super-soldier. The Avengers and new SHIELD are delivering a crushing defeat to Hydra when Hydra’s two human experiments make an appearance Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. Fans will recognize them as Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch, mutants and the children of Magnito, however due to legal issues over who holds the rights to who, both characters are never referred to as mutants and they are given a quick new but realistic back story. SHIELD still wins the day and Tony Stark finds the secret Hydra lab filled with alien artifacts. Scarlett Witch then shows Tony his deepest fears which drive Tony’s actions and lead to the creation of Ultron.
Tony fears that without an ultimate plan for Earth’s protection against alien threats that all his friends will die lead him and Dr. Banner to use Loki’s staff to develop an AI to protect the world and fulfill Tony’s dream of peace in his time. The AI however learns everything about Earth’s problems from 24-hour cable news and come to the conclusion that in order for there to be peace there can be no humans, and thus Ultron is born.
The rest of the movie is a fun series of action set pieces and one-liners as well as fleshing out Hawkeye, which is nice considering he was barely in the first Avengers movie. The relationship between Black Widow and Bruce Banner came out of left field, considering the implied relationship between Hawkeye and Black Widow in the first Avengers movie and Captain America Winter Soldier. This is where movie fans learn the term “retcon” as it is reveled that Hawkeye has secretly had a family the whole time and no Black Widow’s arrow necklace in Captain America Winder Soldier actually meant nothing.
Age of Ultron is not an in depth character study for any of the characters and is just like any comic book event. All the heroes get together and the villain proceeds to ruin their day. The heroes are weakened by this surprise attack and must regroup and call their friends so they can band together and take on the villain. It certainly feels like the Marvel Cinematic Universe has fully embraced its wacky comic book source material rather than rejecting it in favor of gritty realism like the current DC trend. This stylistic choice is lamp-shaded by Hawkeye in his motivational speech to Scarlett Witch when he points out the ridiculousness of the situation.
Age of Ultron is a strong entry for anyone who is a fan of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, filled with nods to the comics and foreshadowing future movies, however it has a steep entry fee for anyone who is not caught up on the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Age of Ultron ends Phase Two for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it ends with a bang, the only question is how much longer can Marvel continue to produce high quality movies?