Yes, we've seen Avengers: Age of Ultron... and, yes, it's just as rad as you want it to be. Without spoiling its greatest moments, here are five things you want to know about one of the biggest superhero sequels of all time.
1. Is it better than The Avengers?
Of course this would be your first question! And of course it's a difficult one to answer!
Avengers: Age of Ultron isn't necessarily better than The Avengers; it's just different. If the first one was about them coming together as a team, this one is about why they stay together and for how long should they stay together. Nothing will ever top the first time you watched the Avengers fight alongside each other on the streets of New York City, but the sheer nerdalicious joy of watching that scene is magnified and expanded upon in its sequel.
In fact, the opening action sequence of the film -- in which the Avengers attack Baron Strucker's hidden Hydra base (remember the place teased at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier?) feels very much like a continuation of that New York battle from the first Avengers.
It's impossible to top those scenes where the entire team is together -- they're some of the most well written and entertaining scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- each hero utilizing their own skills (and personality) to defeat the enemy while spitting out those amazing Joss Whedon-scripted one-liners.
The big team-oriented scenes that follow the first (and there are a few) continually up the ante, especially when Scarlet Witch gets involved -- and the fight between Iron Man and Hulk is going to go down as an all-timer in the Marvel movieverse. Even with all that, though, that opening is close to being our favorite of the whole movie, probably because it's just the Avengers having fun being the Avengers.
So, yeah, our advice: don't show up late to the theater or you're missing out big time.
2. So does that mean we get a lot more of the Avengers all together in this one?
Oh yeah, for sure. They're a team now, albeit a team that's been assembled to pick up the pieces left broken following the previous movie -- namely the fact that Loki's scepter is still in the wrong hands. And you'll recall that scepter wields some incredible power -- enough juice to brainwash folks and demolish their cities.
The scepter plays just as big a role in Age of Ultron as it does in Avengers, if not bigger. It's what the heroes are looking for when the movie starts out, and it's what ultimately leads to the creation of Ultron -- our villain this time around. He's an AI robot created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) intended to protect the world so the Avengers don't need to exist anymore.
Naturally, Ultron has other plans. And a robot army. And a little help from characters like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.
3. Speaking of, how are the new characters in the movie -- Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Vision? Is that really his name... Vision?
Whoa, one question at a time!
The new characters all add a unique dynamic to the equation. When we first meet Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver they're feeling out these powers they have; powers that were unleashed through experiments with Loki's scepter at the hands of Baron Strucker. The other characters simply refer to them as being "enhanced."
But Scarlet and her bro are kinda fine hanging out with the bad guys. They want to fight alongside them mainly because they have a bit of an issue with Stark and his friends. But mainly Stark. Why? You'll find out.
He's just cool and smooth, and the film uses him just enough so that you get a taste of what he's capable of without really knowing anything about what he's capable of. Plus it's so fulfilling as a fan to see Paul Bettany finally get a chance to physically be in a Marvel movie instead of hearing only his voice.
Vision is a character you should expect to see a lot more in future Marvel movies... and we'll leave it at that.
4. Who's the standout character this time around?
Probably Hawkeye, believe it or not. After getting the shaft in the first Avengers, having to spend most of the film under Loki's mind-control spell, Hawkeye has a lot more to do in Age of Ultron -- and a lot is revealed about his character.
Same goes for Black Widow -- those of you looking for more juicy backstory on these characters will have a field day with Ultron. (And speaking of Ultron, James Spader's evolving villain is surprisingly charasmatic and poetic, and definitely stands alongside Loki as one of the best Marvel baddies yet.)
We won't go into too many details about Hawkeye because he delivers some of the film's more unique surprises, including how his story arc connects to the film's writer-director, Joss Whedon.
But more on that when we get closer to release.
5. Is there anything I should read or watch to better prepare for Age of Ultron?
Yeah, here are three things:
The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver prequel comic
This does a good job of setting up some backstory for these two new characters, as well as providing additional backstory for their home town of Sokovia -- a fictional European city that plays a HUGE role in the film's opening and closing acts.
Those interested in reading it should be able to download it at Comixology for $2.99.
The Infinity Gems history
Those darn Infinity Gems you've been hearing about for several Marvel movies return once again in Age of Ultron, on their way to becoming the main focus of the two-parter Avengers movie heading our way in 2018 and 2019.
In Age of Ultron, there's a bit of a subplot including Thor and the gems (we imagine this will lead directly into Thor: Ragnarok, due out November 3, 2017), so you may want to once again familiarize yourself with those by checking out some of this:
Get to know Wakanda
Prior to Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) officially arriving on screens in July of 2018 (and as early as next year's Captain America: Civil War), Age of Ultron begins teasing his origin story with a brief stopover in Wakanda, Panther's home turf, where they meet the popular Black Panther character, Ulysses Klau (Andy Serkis).
Those looking to study up on what goes on over in that side of the world may want to check out the episode of Avengers: Earth's Mightest Heroes, "Panther's Quest." See an official video for the episode below.