Chris Evans, left, and Chris Hemsworth, right, returned to play characters Captain America and Thor in the sequel. (PHOTO COURTESY: MARVEL/TNS)
Chris Evans, left, and Chris Hemsworth returned to play characters Captain America and Thor in the sequel to 2012’s “The Avengers.” (PHOTO COURTESY: MARVEL/TNS)

When Marvel’s “The Avengers” was originally released in 2012 the biggest question surrounding the film was whether or not the film would work. Three years, four films and billions of dollars later comes the sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which now begs a different question: Can Marvel recapture the magic of the first film?

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a beautiful mess. A film that is bigger, flashier and bolder than the original, but that also never reaches the heights of the original.

While it contains the stylish action and fun characters we have come to know and love over the years, the film suffers from poor writing and repetitive story beats that raises questions about the Marvel movies as a whole.

Director Joss Whedon starts the film in media res, assaulting a hidden Hydra base where the metahuman twins Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are hidden away, along with Loki’s spear.

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Upon recapturing the staff, Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to create an AI, with the help of his science bro Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), to protect the world in place of the Avengers.

The creation, titled Ultron (James Spader), becomes self-aware and decides the only way to complete his mission is the eradication of both the Avengers and humanity, or at least, to force an extinction-level catastrophe that would force Darwinian evolution. This sets the team off on a globetrotting adventure as they try to stop their mechanical Frankenstein’s monster.

If that description sounds convoluted, that is because it is. “Age of Ultron’s” biggest flaw is the writing, which usually is the strength of Whedon. The story feels rushed, with small character moments being buried underneath excuses to transition to the next big action-sequence.

This is especially evident during the middle of the film, where characters and entire side-plots meander around for the sole purpose of setting up the next string of films

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The film sets up a lot of interesting developments only to back peddle the character’s development soon after. For example, Black Widow has gone from a strong female character to both a damsel in distress and the star-crossed lover.

Yes, the individual character quips are still great, often evoking plenty of laughs. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor continues to be great comedic support, but the overall writing just feels sloppy.

Being the 11th Marvel film, it feels redundant to say the actors feel comfortable in their roles.

Newcomers Spader, Johnson, and Olsen are all fantastic, but the standout is Paul Bettany as Vision, an android creation of Ultron who is such a weird character that he breathes some life into the film’s tired corpse.

That being said, the heart of the film belongs to Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who had little to do in the first film, but really steps into the spotlight, serving as the human element among a crowd of powered gods.

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The action feels a lot more fluid in this film, with Whedon playing with the team aspect as much as possible.

From the bravura opening of long traveling shots, we really feel like each character has their moment to shine, reminding viewers why each character is on the team.

While Whedon is much better at directing the action beats, they also feel empty due to how awful a villain Ultron is.

A mechanical robot who loves humanity so much that they need to save us from ourselves is interesting, yet Ultron comes off as a freshman philosophy major reciting Wikipedia pages about evolution.

It removes tension from all the fights, which might be the reason they have such rapid editing.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is still a lot of fun, but that does not mean it is perfect. The things we have come to know and love from these films return, but everything just feels more tiring this time around.

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Beautifully-shot action scenes are countered by a terrible villain, powerful character moments overshadowed by a bad script, etc. What we get is fantastic mess, one that is fun to watch, but sucks to think about afterwards.

If all you want is more of the same, then “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will not disappoint, but ask yourself this: How long are you willing to accept more of the same from Marvel?

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