Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
*this isn't on general release yet and I will be talking about some plot points so cheese it if you don't want to know about specific details
Having got the introductions and assembling out of the way in the first one this sequel is able to start straight into the action with a fun assault on a Hydra base that's lets each of the team highlight an exciting bit of business and bounce off of each other in interesting ways. #
The movie is pretty pacy, crammed full of incident but tries to slow down enough to let the characters breathe. It is more successful on this for some than for others. Hawkeye (perhaps as apology for shoddy treatment last movie) fares best, given a sweet backstory that at first threatens to put crosshairs over him, though the more they push that button the more it seems it will be a reversal of the kind Whedon is very fond of. He becomes the key figure of the film, the glue uniting and inspiring the team. Which is great, but shouldn't that be Captain America's job?
Both Cap and Thor get a little short changed in this busy film, but as they have their own franchises I guess it balances out a touch.
Also lost in the noise is a new relationship built seemingly from the pleasing chemistry Widow and Banner had at the start of the last film. But there's no time to really feel the connection here, we have some other characters telling us how much they like each other but plot gets in the way of us seeing them ever really doing anything.
The new characters make a great impression, their powers and looks contrasting nicely with everything else. Scarlet Witch in particular, despite a nebulous power set, is able to spark off some interesting 'dream' sequences letting Whedon have some fun with oddball visuals and seemingly baffling non sequiturs.
However the Twin's back story never feels resolved (a sideways glance at Tony Stark saving people seems enough for this movie to wrap up his part in the siblings misery) and The Vision (who gains his comic look cape in a lovely moment of gratitude to Thor) is brought in on a confused rush of information that doesn't quite gel into a character but he gets some good gags and a splendid capper to a running joke about Thor's Hammer.
The action is strong, much like the climax of the previous film building good jokes into the way these heroes fight and through features a lot of one of my bugbears - slow motion, mostly well utilizes it to accentuate and punctuate choerographed beats.
Ultron himself is gleefully brought to life by James Spader's voice, a dark mirrored version of both Stark (something all of the Iron Man movies have done, so not exactly fresh, though this one is perhaps more literally an Iron Man) and JARVIS.
Basically this is pretty much exactly what I want from an Avengers movie. It's big, brash, grounded in a sense of talking these characters seriously whilst letting loose enough to be ever so silly. Heroism is again focused on, saving lives a primary concern despite the carnage. It get's a little lost in signal to noise, (Thor's diversion seems primarily to set up sequel fodder) but is fun, fun, fun.