Comics

Netflix Binge: Daredevil Season 2

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Daredevil1This blog is primarily for posting book reviews and other reading topics, however once in a while I will deviate to talk about other things I am passionate about – mostly movies and TV. One thing I am currently obsessing over is the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix.

Last year I broke down the entire first season into a week-long series of blogs reviewing every episode. (If you’re interested, you can find them all here, under the ‘Netflix Binge’ tag.) Unfortunately, I do not have the time for that kind of review this year, even though season 2 is just as deserving of that kind of attention. However, I did want to share some thoughts I had as I was watching the season.

Once again Daredevil has proven how well this format can work for Marvel. I love the tightness of the storytelling and the way the episodes flow into each other. My viewing of Daredevil is near compulsive – at the end of every episode I had to hit play on the next one, because I couldn’t just stop it there (and I was really disappointed when I got to episode 13 and could not hit play on a new episode). Like the first season, this felt like watching a 13-hour movie, though there were several mini-arcs throughout the season that brought a little bit of closure periodically during the season so it didn’t feel like there were too many strings left dangling until the very end (although it did still feel like there were quite a few balls in the air going into the season finale).

After Vincent D’onofrio’s performance as Wilson Fisk last year I really didn’t know how Daredevil was going to top Kingpin in the villain department. D’onofrio was absolutely brilliant and brought so much depth to his performance – he actually made you feel sympathy for Kingpin. Fortunately, the writers and producers of Daredevil didn’t even try to top Kingpin, instead going for a completely different kind of story. Instead of one Master Villain, the Punisher and Elektra storylines were separate but weaved together throughout the season. I think this worked well and the change in pace in that way prevented too much comparison to the previous season as to cause disappointment at the lack of Fisk this season.

Daredevil2The entire principal cast is excellent. I know I sang the praises of Charlie Cox, Elden Henson, and Deborah Ann Woll last year, but they are just so good in these roles. Henson in particular steals the screen as Foggy Nelson in nearly every scene he is in; he is just fantastic. The addition of Jon Bernthal and Elodie Yung this year only increased the excellence of the cast. Both put in stellar performances, and I was particularly impressed with Bernthal’s Punisher. While I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of Bernthal’s work, from what I have seen this may be his best performance. I would love to see each of these characters show up again elsewhere, either in another season of Daredevil or one of the future series coming to Netflix. They are both very interesting characters, and very well-written.

I am a huge fan of all things Marvel, particularly the MCU. However, I think what Marvel is doing on Netflix may be some of the best storytelling they’ve done. First Daredevil and then Jessica Jones, each show has really nailed the characters and has been extremely well-written and compelling. Everything about each of these shows has been fantastic and I can’t wait to see what they do with the rest of the Defenders universe.

It’s hard to review an entire season of a TV show in just one blog post, but I can say that if you were a fan of season one, you will not be disappointed. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better than season one – simply because Fisk made the first season so epic, and each season is different enough to make an equal comparison unfair – but it’s at least as good. And if you’re a fan of the Daredevil comics, but haven’t yet watched any of the series on Netflix, I definitely recommend you making the time to binge the show as soon as possible. They’ve really done justice to the characters and the comics.

So if you’re looking for a dark and gritty superhero drama done well, spend some quality time this week with the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.

CJ Reacts: Frank Castle Comes to Hell’s Kitchen

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Daredevil-JonBernthal
Photo courtesy AMC

I’m sure all Marvel fans – unless they were hiding under a rock yesterday – have heard the news of the first casting announcement for season 2 of the Netflix series Daredevil. Rumors had been circulating for a while that Frank Castle – a.k.a. the Punisher – would be finding his way to Hell’s Kitchen in season 2 of the series and yesterday those rumors were confirmed with the official announcement that Jon Bernthal had been cast in the iconic role.

“Jon Bernthal brings an unmatched intensity to every role he takes on, with a potent blend of power, motivation and vulnerability that will connect with audiences … Castle’s appearance will bring dramatic changes to the world of Matt Murdock and nothing will be the same.” – Jeph Loeb, Marvel’s Head of Television, quoted in the official press release.

Bernthal is well known to The Walking Dead fans as Shane, Rick’s best friend/Laurie’s lover/psychopath and to be honest, he never would have even registered on my radar as a contender for The Punisher. I won’t lie – by the end of Shane’s time on The Walking Dead, I was ready for him to go. At first I had loved his character, but the further downhill he went, the more I was ready to say goodbye. This is in no way a reflection on Bernthal himself – I know he’s a great actor. I’ve seen him in many other things and have always been impressed with him. Or perhaps this is a reflection of his work – he was really good at making me hate Shane. If that was the goal, then kudos to him.

So if I had to come up with a list of possible candidates for Frank Castle, Bernthal probably wouldn’t have made the list. When I first heard the announcement, after my initial excitement over the confirmation of Punisher coming to Daredevil, I was a little skeptical about the choice. However, the more I think about it, the more excited I get. I think Bernthal has the look and the attitude to pull it off. I’m really optimistic that he will do a good job. I’m also curious to see what they do with the character. Will they show his origin story? And now that he’s confirmed for Daredevil season 2, will he pop up elsewhere in the MCU?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t read a lot of Punisher comics, the little I know about the character is from his appearance in other titles and the 2004 movie starring Thomas Jane. So maybe you actual Punisher fans will have a much stronger opinion on this than I do. So far Marvel has done pretty well casting their roles, so I’m inclined to be trusting. And at the very least, we all know he can play a gun-toting psychopath fairly well.

What do you think of the Punisher joining Daredevil and Bernthal’s casting? Let me know in the comments!

“I kept it secret to protect you!” A.K.A. The Worst Excuse Ever

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If you’ve read my blog at all in the last six months you may have noticed that I am a big fan of comic book shows. There are some that I love more than others (the fact that Gotham will outlive Constantine is a horrible injustice) but I give them all a chance, and usually love them.

The FlashTwo of my favorites at the moment happen to be The Flash and Arrow, and I’ve become quite a fan of iZombie in the past couple months as well. I love these three shows and wouldn’t think of missing an episode, but that doesn’t mean I love everything about them. In fact there’s one thing that all three had in common this season (aside from being based on comics) that I find incredibly frustrating – even more so with every show that uses this trope, which is common among this genre of television. I really, really hate the “I’m lying about [insert really big, possibly life-altering secret here] because it’s the only way to keep [insert unfortunate clueless character here] safe” plot device.

Lying about secret identities is expected in comic shows – a superhero needs to keep his real identity secret after all. However, I feel on each of these three shows this season, keeping whatever secret the main characters didn’t want to share was taken to the extreme – to the point where it became extremely frustrating to watch what was happening to the characters being kept in the dark. Also, in each case keeping the secret meant ultimately creating causing more harm to the person they were trying to protect than if they had just been honest in the first place. It’s one thing when keeping your secret is just a small part of the story, but when it becomes a major plot point, it’s starts to get annoying.

Note: The following discussion assumes the reader is up-to-date on all current episodes of Arrow, The Flash, and iZombie. There will be spoilers. If you are behind, you may want to catch up before reading. if you’re not concerned about spoilers, continue reading after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

CJ’s Bookshelf: May Reads

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Is it really June already?!? How is that even possible?

May was a busy month. I took a short road trip to Philadelphia with friends to see Neil Gaiman speak (one of the highlights of my life) and then another to New York City to see Darren Criss in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was fantastic. Between that and my continuing comic book obsession, I didn’t get as many novels read this month as I had hoped. Plus, one took me longer to read than I had been expecting. I have since limited my comic book reading to right before bed, so that I am only reading 3-4 issues per day. Although, this month the titles were a little more varied than last month’s all-Daredevil reading.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

neverwhereThis was the May book for my book club, and I was really excited because after seeing Neil Gaiman in person I was really in the mood to read anything and everything by him. Neverwhere has always been one of my favorites, and I think I enjoy it a little more each time I read it. I just love the way Gaiman takes things that are completely normal, and twists them just a little but to create the World Below in this novel. If you’ve never read anything by Gaiman, this is a terrific place to start. I would also recommend you trying the audio book, which is read by Gaiman himself, and Gaiman is a fantastic reader. I could sit and listen to him speak or read anything for hours. Another option for those interested is the radio play BBC Radio did a couple years ago, starring James McAvoy as Richard Mayhew; it’s an excellent adaptation of the book.

I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster

I already wrote an entire post sharing my thoughts on this book, so I won’t say much more, other than to reiterate that I really love her writing. And ever since I finished this book I’ve been obsessed with the idea of learning Italian and traveling to Italy on my own. I’m definitely going to have to make this happen someday.

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

Madness of AngelsKate Griffin is one of multiple pen names used by Claire North (which is also a pen name I believe) who is the author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Touch, which I read back in February. I had loved those books so much that I was curious what her other novels were like. A Madness of Angels is an Urban Fantasy novel about a sorcerer who had been murdered, then is resurrected two years later, but he doesn’t come back alone. The book is kind of a mixture of The Dresden Files (back when Harry had one of the Fallen trapped in his head), Neverwhere and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. I have actually been curious about this book since it’s publication – I had been working in a different bookstore back then and would pass it on the shelf and kept thinking I’d read it someday. Now that day has come and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I really enjoyed this book- the story was interesting and her magic system was different from what I’ve read so far. I really liked how closely the magic was tied to the life of the city and how it was pulled from normal things. But on the other hand, it took me forever to get into the book (I almost put it down in favor of other books several times just in the first 30 pages) and then it never became a book that I couldn’t put down. I also never became as attached to the main character as I am to Harry Dresden. But Griffin’s writing style continues to fascinate me – she does really unique things with her writing. In this case, the way she switched from singular to plural pronouns. At first it frustrated me because it seemed random and I didn’t understand the reason, but once I found the pattern and the background I was fascinated by how well she integrated the concept.

Ms. Marvel

I really want to read the current Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel books, but decided to start with the 2066 run of Ms. Marvel for some added background. There were some parts that I really enjoyed, but there seemed to be a lot of dropped plot threads once Secret Invasion and Dark Reign took place and that frustrates me. I don’t know if I just missed something along the way, or if something happened in another title I wasn’t reading, but there are several things I was waiting for pay off on that never seemed to come. Plus the story seemed to jump around a lot, especially between Secret Invasion and Dark Reign.

Secret Invasion

secret invasionOne thing I had forgotten (and I think I might have mentioned this before) is how much comics are tied together. In the last couple years most of my graphic novel reading had been Sandman, Fables, The Walking Dead – all titles that stand alone in their old worlds and aren’t affected by events elsewhere. The Marvel Universe isn’t like that, and it’s taking me a while to readjust to this. Plus, since I’ve still only read fairly recent titles there’s a lot of back story to all the Marvel titles that I’m not yet familiar with. Reading Secret Invasion (and the follow-up Dark Reign) has helped me fill in some of the blanks during my Daredevil reading. At least now I know how Norman Osborne came to be in charge of his own version of the Avengers (and how Bullseye ended up wearing Hawkeye’s costume).

Original Sin

I came to the Original Sin tie-in for Daredevil and decided I would just read the entire story to help understand what was happening – plus I knew this was last summer’s big event in the Marvel Universe. It never ceases to amaze me in these comics now no one ever really trusts anyone else. They fight side by side when necessary, but they’re also very quick to believe the worst when it comes to that. Of course, characters like Nick Fury are hard to trust because he never tells anyone the whole story. I thought the story was interesting, and reading it finally helped me understood what led to Thor losing control of Mjolnir.

And there’s what I was reading in May. My current reads include (a few have been on the list for a while because they got displaced by other titles):

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Civil War (Marvel) by various writers and artists

And my upcoming reads include (Subject to change based on whim and mood):

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Blood and Iron by Jon Sprunk
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on what books I’m reading you can also find me on Goodreads.

CBS’ Supergirl Pilot, Or, 101 Ways Not to Say Superman

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Supergirl

I may have already found my favorite new series for Fall 2015.

When I heard the Supergirl pilot had been leaked I was immediately intrigued. This is one of the new series I’m most excited about next fall, and I can’t wait to see what the show is like. I tried to be patient and respect the cast and crew by waiting (as I’ve done before for similar leaks of Game of Thrones, Teen Wolf and Doctor Who) but ultimately I couldn’t resist – I needed to know if the show was going to live up to my hopes. I justified my curiosity by promising to still watch the episode live when it premieres in November (that’s 6 months away! I’ll definitely need to refresh my memory by then) and encourage as many people as I can to give it a chance when it finally premieres.

A few weeks ago when the first trailer for Supergirl was released, there was a lot of positive feedback, but also a lot of criticism. I personally was very excited after the first trailer – I cannot wait to finally have a superhero show starring a female superhero. I think The Mary Sue argues my thoughts better than I could when it comes to the criticism and all the people who are comparing the original trailer to the Black Widow Saturday Night Live sketch. I honestly don’t understand why people think a female superhero can’t be the least bit girly. I love Black Widow; I love that she’s strong and independent and not girly – but that doesn’t mean that strong independent women should never be girly. I appreciate that Supergirl is a girl and occasionally acts like one. She freaks out about what to wear on dates, she gets a little tongue-tied when meeting her hot new co-worker for the first time. We all do that at some point, it doesn’t lessen who we are or diminish our strength. I’m hoping maybe Supergirl will be able to show us that you can be a girl and awesome at the same time.

But enough of that soap box. Let’s get to what you really want to know – what did I think of the pilot?

I am going to make this as spoiler-free as possible, because I don’t want to ruin it for the five people who haven’t downloaded and watched already. (By the way, if you’re waiting until fall to view it, I admire and respect your willpower.) I really enjoyed this episode, and it made me even more excited about the series. It’s definitely a pilot in that there’s a lot to introduce and set up, but I think they did a fairly good job of balancing things out (and I’ve definitely seen far worse pilots that have gone on to become great shows). Also, for those who hated the trailer (though I still don’t understand why) you may be relieved to know that most of those type of scenes were what you saw in the trailer. The rest of the episode has more substance to it.

I enjoyed Melissa Benoist as Kara. She may be a little dorky and awkward, but so am I. The fact that Kara is a bit of a dork, but is also a superhero made me love her even more because I can identify with her more human qualities. I also loved that while she’s beautiful, she looks like a normal girl, not an anorexic supermodel, the way so many female superheroes are depicted in comics. This is definitely someone younger girls can look up to and with whom older girls can empathize.

The supporting cast and characters were enjoyable as well. Kara’s best friend Winn seemed a little bit of cliche (the one time when I can see arguments about the series being rom-com-esque being valid) so I’m hoping to see more character development there. Calista Flockhart was terrific. She may have been one of my favorite aspects of the pilot. I also really liked Jimmy – I mean James – Olsen. I was worried they would immediately try to set up a a romance between Kara and James, but it wasn’t left that way at the end of the pilot and I appreciated that.

I was also really excited about the final scene. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but if they’ve done what I think they have, it could potentially be awesome (though I’m sure countless fanboys everywhere will immediately and vehemently disagree).

If I had one complaint about the episode it would be the extraordinary lengths they went to in dialogue not to say the word “Superman.” He is very much a presence throughout the episode, with glimpses of him in the beginning and frequent references made to Metropolis’ hero, but never once was he actually name-dropped. He was referred to as the Man of Steel, but never Superman. I don’t know if this was a decision, or if they just cannot say his name, but I would think if it was because of the films there would have been a lot more restrictions, such as the use of “Kal El” and “Man of Steel” and other direct references. But no, just Superman appears to be embargoed.

The frequent use of the emphasized “HIM” (which was literally emphasized every time, to make sure everyone knew to whom they were referring) or “my/your cousin” when it wasn’t really natural in conversation became a little distracting (to the point where I considered counting how many times it happened). The emphasis also made it feel like Kara was constantly being compared to her more famous cousin – as though she couldn’t exist independently from him. Hopefully this isn’t a trend that continues – I expect her journey will include breaking out from her cousin’s shadow.

Update: It was brought to my attention that “Superman” was used once in the beginning of the episode, so I went back and rewatched and indeed, during Kara’s monologue she states that her cousin had already revealed himself as Superman before she arrived on Earth. However, this just makes me more annoyed with how far out of their way they went to avoid using Superman throughout the rest of the episode. If they could use it once, why not again? Not that I expect them to use it all the time, but one or two more times would have made it a little less awkward. I mean, if I’m talking to a friend about their cousin I use their cousin’s name; I don’t say “your cousin” unless I have absolutely no other name by which to refer to them. And the frequent Him still makes it sound like they’re emphasizing his gender or putting him on a pedestal above Kara. While my statement that they never use Superman may be technically inaccurate, I stand by my opinion that the constant avoidance was distracting and irritating.

Overall I think this was a solid start for the series and I can’t wait for fall to see where it goes from here. It’s not perfect – there a few things to smooth out (namely that rom-com feel that so many are concerned about and for crying out loud, if you’re not going to say Superman, then at least find more natural ways around it!) but keep in mind, Greg Berlanti‘s other DC creations, The Flash and Arrow, each had their own bumps in the first season, so I’m going to remain optimistic. For those waiting until fall to see the pilot, I think it’ll be worth the wait (and I hope you agree when you see it). For those who are as impatient as I am, and enjoyed the pilot as much as I did – don’t forget to watch again in the fall. The show won’t last long without ratings to back it up.

If you have already seen it, what did you think? Let me know in the comments! (Try to avoid spoilers for those who are patiently waiting until fall!)

And for those few who haven’t even seen the trailer yet, here you go:

Building a Comic Book Universe

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avengersOne of the things you may have noticed while visiting this blog is that I love Superheroes. In just about any shape or size. I’ll watch any film or TV show about them, and though I haven’t had the opportunity to do a lot of comic book reading, I am currently working my way through quite a bit of Marvel’s back catalog via their Unlimited service (which I highly recommend if you’re interested in reading a lot of the older comics).

One of the things I love most about Marvel films is the joined Marvel Cinematic Universe. When I first started realizing it was happening, I was so excited about the originality of the idea. To take so many different franchises and combine them into one universe – it was unheard of, yet made so much sense. I loved watching the films and picking out all the Easter Egg-type references to the other characters and movies. It also amazed me how long Marvel must have been planning this in order for it to work.

The world building within the MCU is one of the reasons large team movies like The Avengers are able to work. The audience has already been introduced to most of the characters in their separate movies (except for Hawkeye and Black Widow; when is that happening Marvel?) so there isn’t a lot of time needed to explain who these people are and where they’re coming from. Under normal circumstances putting that many stars and that many characters together shouldn’t have worked so well, but it did.

This is also one of the reasons I’m so nervous about the DC Universe films. They’re attempting to build their Cinematic Universe the exact opposite way and throw as many characters as they can into Batman v Superman and see what happens; the cinematic version of throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. Even Suicide Squad could benefit from having a few of those characters show up in other films before all coming together at once. That’s a lot of stories to explain in just a two-hour period. I have some definite concerns about how it’ll all balance out.

flash arrowHowever, while I have concerns about DC’s big screen universe, they’re small screen universe on the CW has been expanding and appears to be doing everything correctly. While the MCU is definitely winning at the Box Office (in my opinion) I think they could learn a thing or two from DC as far as television goes. Don’t get me wrong – I love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, but I love them in a completely different way from the way I love The Flash and ArrowS.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, while good shows, don’t necessarily feel like comic book shows at all while The Flash and Arrow are terrific examples of a comic book show done right. With the introduction of Daredevil on Netflix, I think Marvel is finally starting to learn what makes a good comic book show, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the Netflix shows fit together, and how they interact within the larger MCU.

I love The Flash and Arrow, because they understand the concept of how building the stories separately makes it that much better when the heroes do come together. One of my favorite aspects of these shows is how connected they are – and I’m looking forward to seeing the overlap with Legends of Tomorrow next year as well. So often when a show is spun off from a series you can easily forget that they’re technically still a part of the same world. I think there was one three-way crossover between CSI, CSI:NY and CSI: Miami in the entire time they were all on the air together. That’s boring. I want to see these characters talking to each other once in a while, consulting on cases, etc.

The team behind CW’s DC Universe understands this. There’s frequent reference to each other, and frequent crossover, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. I also loved the episode of The Flash when Joe and Cisco went to Starling City. That rarely happens in other crossovers. In the CSI franchise, on CSI the Miami team would come to Vegas and then on the next episode of CSI: Miami, just Grissom would go to Miami. I’ve never seen any of the Chicago shows, but I suspect they have a much better understanding of the crossover than CSI did as well. When shows are from the same world, you want to see them interacting and living in that same world, not just going through the motions.

With the introduction of Legends of Tomorrow, they will probably be going in reverse and taking already existing characters to create a new show, but that’s okay. Because those characters have already been introduced individually elsewhere, so like Avengers the show will most likely be focused on te team coming together. I suspect we’ll be seeing even more groundwork laid for the show throughout next fall, before the series premieres midseason.

I haven’t heard anything yet about crossover potential for Supergirl and the CW DC shows, but since they’re all DC and produced by Greg Berlanti you have to consider the possibility (also, CBS and CW are owned by the same company). I think it would be fun to see Barry Allen show up in Supergirl, or vice versa. I’m also extremely disappointed we’ll never see that Arrow/Constantine crossover that was supposedly being discussed by producers and writers. I think Gotham should remain it’s own entity, however. Partly because I was extremely disappointed in that show and felt it didn’t live up to it’s potential. It’s probably the weakest of the DC properties on television, in my opinion.

If DC took it’s time and built their Cinematic Universe more like they’re building the television universe, I would be a lot more excited about their upcoming slate of movies.

On Screen: Avengers: Age of Ultron

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age of ultronA word about spoilers: I hate spoilers. I avoid them at all cost. In return, I avoid spoiling anyone. Therefore I will attempt to make this review spoiler-free, but everyone has their own definition of what constitutes a “spoiler” so proceed at your own risk.

Now where was I? Right, The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

I have been looking forward to this movie for the past three years – almost exactly because three years ago today the first Avengers movie was released. I knew there was no way the follow up would disappoint, especially if Joss Whedon were still at the helm. Every film in Phase III just made me that much more excited about the movie.So the question becomes, did it live up to the hype? Was it worth waiting for? I believe the answer to both those questions is a definite “YES.” It’s not a perfect movie – it had some flaws, which I will get to – but the film as a whole was fast-paced, action-packed, hilarious, and just plain fun to watch.

Age of Ultron begins with the Avengers already assembled and searching for Loki’s scepter, which is in the hands of Baron von Strucker. Their intel tells them Strucker has been experimenting on “enhanced” humans, so they’re not that surprised when they run into two of those individuals on the mission. While I loved this sequence, and it contained one of my favorite moments of humor (which then gets carried through the rest of the film) this also presents the first flaw in the film. Prior to Age of Ultron, Strucker was only ever seen in a post-credits scene for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and there isn’t a lot of explanation as to who he is, what he’s up to, or how the Avengers received the intel to even lead them to Strucker. If you’ve been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the past few weeks you probably wouldn’t have even asked those questions. Which is the first weakness of this film – the Strucker plot seems ill-used and really only makes sense if you’ve been following the whole of the MCU, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. included.

I was a little uncertain about the use of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in this film, mostly because Marvel is extremely limited in how they are able to use those characters. Unfortunately, the fact that Marvel doesn’t own the rights to mutants or Magneto, and possibly even the names “Scarlet Witch” and “Quicksilver” means that the Maximoffs origin story gets rewritten. I was hoping for some sort of Easter Egg type nod to Magneto, but if there was one I missed it. I ended up really liking these characters and the arc they had in the film. In some ways I even liked this version of Quicksilver better than the one that appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past, though part of that could be just because I liked the actor better.

The Vision was the other addition to the team in this film, and I just wish we could have seen more of him in action. I did like the few scenes we had with him, and he even got a few humorous beats (more situational humor than actual lines) but I like what I’ve seen so far. I’m hoping we’ll get to see much more of him in Infinity War, if not sooner.

One of my favorite parts of this film was the expanded role Hawkeye plays this time around. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I was pleasantly surprised with what we learned about Hawkeye – and Clint Barton – in this film, and I found myself liking him even more. Considering Hawkeye has had the least amount of screen time in any of the standalone films (only appearing for about five minutes in Thor) it’s about time we actually got to learn more about the Avenger we knew the least up until this time.

Which brings me to another aspect of this movie that I enjoyed. The first Avengers was about the team coming together and learning to work together and be a team. By this movie they are already a team, and you can see that they’ve grown as a team. This movie lets us get to know each of them a little more, and get to know how they feel about their place in the team. There’s a more personal feel to each characters’ arc in this movie, and you get to see how the relationships and dynamics of the team come into play and I really liked that.

As much I loved this movie overall, it wasn’t perfect (as I stated above). If you look at The Avengers in general as a trilogy (with both parts of the Infinity War counting as a single film) this movie fell into the typical second movie trap. You come into the story already in the middle of the action – there’s no more origin stories to tell, unless you count the twins and Ultron – and a lot of the film seems to be devoted to moving pieces into position for Phase III. Don’t get me wrong, I really did love this movie, but there was a distinct lack of focus with a lot of threads going off in random directions.and not all of them gathered together again.

If you thought Andy Serkis‘ appearance as Ulysses Klaue was short-lived and took note of his escape, that’s probably because he and all the references to Wakanda were there to set-up Black Panther. Thor’s vision of Heimdall could be heralding the arrival of Ragnarok in the next Thor film, and the frequent reference to the Infinity Gems is setting up the two-part Infinity War. Meanwhile, the animosity between Captain America and Iron Man was there to foreshadow the events of Civil War. The first Avengers film was able to focus just on bringing the team together and defeating Loki’s army, while this one spent more time setting the stage for what’s coming which left it feeling a little disjointed at times.

However, despite its flaws, Age of Ultron is still a lot of fun to watch, and I definitely plan to see it again (and again…). I wouldn’t be surprised if you still think The Avengers was better, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with Age of Ultron either. The one thing Whedon does masterfully is insert just the right amount of humor at exactly the right times. Even in the height of battle the heroes toss out one-liners that feel entirely natural and well-placed. Age of Ultron certainly has that patented Whedon blend of humor, action, drama, and heart. It’s one of the reasons I love everything he does, and it’s one of the reasons I love both Avengers movies so much.