The original Avengers was an amazing movie.
It took characters established in three other successful franchises and one other franchise that wasn’t so great and expounded upon their stories while moving everyone forward. There’d never been anything like it, despite the rather simplistic “there’s a bad guy, go fight him” plot. The previous movies leading up to it gave the Avengers weight, a sense of gravitas. It was a climax that had been earned through meticulous and careful storytelling.
The sequel takes everything that made the original good and expands upon it.
Our main six heroes – Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, and Hawkeye – are all given their moments to shine and show a casual familiarity with one another. They feel like old friends and comrades, and seeing them work together in the opening few moments is a thrill beaten only by watching those relationships expand throughout the film. They are torn apart from within, their fears laid bear, the monsters they could be thrown in their faces until it nearly destroys all of them. In the end, they discover they have only one another to rely upon.
And they accept this. They have to. There’s a surprising degree of gray morality in this movie. The villain comes about from the best of intentions, and the side villains become who they are to defend their country and avenge their parents. There’s a lot going on in this movie, with details that appear to be thrown in as simple amusements instead have massive character-defining payoffs in the third act.
That’s nine major characters, each with a complete story arc that offers each a satisfying conclusion based on who we know them to be.
If that were all that was being offered, this movie would be well and good and that would be enough. It isn’t all we’re given, though – we get a full world that is dealing with the presence of the Avengers, a world that is still reeling from the crimes of Hyrda and Obadiah Staine, a world still haunted by Loki’s scepter.
We get a world that isn’t sure what’s going on or who to trust, a world without SHIELD, but even that fabled group manages to redeem itself by the end of the story.
The first Avengers moved the story of the Marvel cinematic universe forward, and this does the same thing – it just manages to be a much more complex and satisfying story while doing it, and hints at the legacy to come. You were probably planning on seeing it anyway, but, really – go see this movie.