The most highly-anticipated comic book movie of summer 2015 is nearly upon us, and with the European release of Avengers: Age of Ultron beginning this week, the first full reviews for Joss Whedon's second team-up adventure have begun pouring in.
Avengers: Age of Ultron pits Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Vision against Tony Stark's AI creation Ultron, who decides after gaining sentience that the best way to achieve the Avengers' vision of world peace is simply to blast all of humanity out of existence. Let it not be said that robots can't come up with creative interpretations of human concepts.
The film got a lot of enthusiastic early reactions on Twitter, but experience has taught us that initial reactions tend to hyperbolize (especially when limited to 140 characters), and that it's better to wait for reviewers to articulate their thoughts in full. Now the first reviews for Avengers: Age of Ultron are in and the critical consensus is that it's... good - perhaps even great, but definitely not perfect.
Avengers: Age of Ultron currently has a 72% rating on review aggregate site Metacritic and a rating of 89% "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. For the reasons behind those ratings, read on to find out what critics have had to say so far.
/Film - Germain Lussier
"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."
Variety - Scott Foundas
"When the movie does return to symphony-of-destruction mode, it stays engaging precisely because Whedon has given us reasons to care — at least a tiny bit — about the all the whirring and smashing and booming and crashing... If this is what the apotheosis of branded, big-studio entertainment has come to look like in 2015, we could be doing much worse. Unlike its title character, 'Age of Ultron' most definitely has soul."
The Hollywood Reporter - Todd McCarthy
"Series junkies will get their fix from the sheer massiveness of the exploits, but at least two of the big action scenes are lackluster, while the climax and resolution could have been worked out in more complex, less rote ways... At moments [the film] takes a peek down some shadowy side roads but ends up mostly zooming along the main highway to deliver what the audience wants rather than something even a little bit different."
TheWrap - Alonso Duralde
"All these minor characters and blueprints for their function in the coming chapters give 'Ultron' a bloat that the prior film didn’t have, and while the movie jumps through enough hoops to remain entertaining on a basic level, it doesn’t have the giddy enjoyment factor of 'Avengers' and 'The Dark World' nor the smarts and character development of 'The Winter Soldier.' Marvel movie die-hards will come away having found nuggets of pleasure, but those who complain about superhero sagas will find plenty to support their arguments here."
Coming Soon - Silas Neswick
"There is truly a great deal to love about Avengers: Age of Ultron. All around, Whedon manages incredible brushstrokes with a palette made of pop art iconography and a true understanding of the characters. This is strong summer fare that nevertheless fails to come together as the mighty Marvel masterpiece it should. It’s a soufflé that didn’t quite rise but is nonetheless exceptionally tasty, especially when served with tempered expections."
Forbes - Scott Mendelson
"Avengers: Age of Ultron plays like an obligation, a box to be checked off on a list before all parties move on to the things they really want to do... There are moments of wit and a few rich character beats... but these are diamonds in the rough. This seemingly all-important chapter feels like a stop-gap, an intermission from a filmmaker who doesn’t want to be here and a company that would rather just move on to the next big movie."
Cinema Blend - Sean O'Connell
"The film’s weakness brings up a continual issue with films in the MCU, though. Ultron (James Spader), as a villain, disappoints. His sinister motivations aren’t clear enough. His powers seem to fluctuate. He’s angry at Tony in a murky 'you betrayed me, father' manner, but their conflict gets no time to manifest, so Ultron’s never as dangerous as Whedon intended him to be."
The Telegraph - Robbie Collin
Joss Whedon’s film gives you [a] pop-culture sugar rush, stacking characters, conflicts, subplots and background treats like tiers of wedding cake – far more than you’d think you could possibly cram into a little under two and a half hours without the whole thing crumbling under the weight of its own calorie count. But the structure holds, and the film flies past at speed. Among its other attributes, it’s the first long blockbuster in years to feel short."
The Guardian - Peter Bradshaw
"It’s all operatically mad, and the city-destroying final confrontation is becoming a bit familiar, but Whedon carries it off with such joy and even a kind of evangelism. His script is a thing of wonder, jam-packed with great lines... Even the absurdity is somehow recirculated into the film’s internal economy as comedy and irony and the cast-of-thousands effect never seems to split the focus."
A notable amount of praise was directed at the development of Hawkeye, who apparently gets some of the best lines in the movie, but there wasn't a great deal of love for Ultron or his superpowered twin lackies Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. That's not to say that many reviewers actively derided the characters, but the fact that the bad guys were mainly only mentioned when detailing the plot indicates that they might not be hugely memorable.
The overall impression seems to be that Avengers: Age of Ultron is more of a cog in the works of the Marvel Cinematic Universe machine than a powerful standalone piece, and as such it assumes that the audience has a religious familiarity with all of the movies so far as well as a good idea of what stories are coming up. This might sound good to fans who want a comic book movie that caters to them, but it could leave more casual viewers confused and alienated.
It might not be the breathtaking, whirlwind, five-star blockbuster that some were hoping for, but there were very few outright negative reviews of Avengers: Age of Ultron and it definitely sounds like a crowd-pleaser. And no matter what the reviews say, it's still going to make an obscene amount of money.
We'll be posting our own Avengers 2 review to coincide with the film's North America release. In the mean time: Have you already seen Avengers: Age of Ultron? Please refrain from spoiling the movie in the comments below - and head to our Avengers 2 spoilers discussion!
The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be in theaters May 1, 2015; Ant-Man on July 17, 2015; Captain America: Civil War - May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther - July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 - May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.