Yesterday, the calendar turned to May and the summer blockbuster season wasted no time getting started with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. After its 2012 origin film amassed the third largest worldwide box office total of all-time, all eyes were on Joss Whedon's enormously anticipated sequel. Unfortunately, though, this follow-up feature falls well short of the charm and frenetic thrills evident in the first installment.
The film opens with the Avengers doing what they do best, taking down a crime syndicate with remarkable ease. That is, until a pair of "enhanced" siblings (Godzilla's stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) reveal their superhuman abilities, unmatched speed and deceptive mind-control. Eventually, Tony Stark retrieves what they're after from the mission and discovers its ability to produce highly advanced artificial intelligence. Without the approval from his team Stark creates Ultron, an experiment that goes terribly wrong. The evolved A.I. denounces his maker and joins forces with the enhanced siblings, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, to destroy the Avengers.
Cluttered and unfocused, Age of Ultron falls apart in many different areas. Whedon and company effectively mastered the balance of a star-filled story in this film's predecessor. However, more isn't always better as Whedon struggles to keep things fluid with the addition of many, and I do mean many, new characters. Displaying an unnatural flow throughout the movie, things get even worse once the script takes a strange turn by diving deep into the personal stories of its characters. Where the original successfully glazes over each hero's backstory and jumps right into the action, Age of Ultron ventures further into their psyche thanks to the Scarlet Witch's mind tricks. With each of these developing drama-filled plot lines, the minutes continue to mount and the pacing becomes crippled.
In addition to an unnecessary change of course in the script and an overabundance of characters, Age of Ultron's action sequences are extremely drawn out and exceedingly unwarranted. If you thought 2013's Man of Steel was flooded with obnoxiously destructive scenes, just wait until you feast your eyes on this film. The damage is beyond catastrophic and it makes the Avengers feel less like heroes and more like ticking time-bombs. And finally, Age of Ultron does a huge disservice by completely mishandling its chief villain and title character. Forced into sharing screen time with each and every main character - and there are plenty of them - Ultron becomes an overlooked antagonist who never grows into the monstrous adversary this franchise deserves. Although his mishandling isn't as big of an abomination as Sir Ben Kingsley's the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, it's a lot closer than any of us would desire.
At its core, Age of Ultron attempts to stick to the same philosophy that's been working for all of the Marvel films, tons of comedy and action. But despite achieving a good deal of laughs, albeit at a less impressive clip than the original, the film suffers in far too many areas to sustain its winning formula. With grand expectations Joss Whedon seemingly got suckered into the "bigger is better" mindset. Perhaps, Age of Ultron would have benefited more from a slightly scaled-down approach.