I wasn’t a big fan of the first Avengers movie and the reviews that came out for the newest one seemed to indicate a nice spectacle that overreaches and goes on slightly too long. I’m happy to say that instead of seeing the movie falter, A:AoU improves upon any of the weaknesses of the predecessor and manages to be superior even to the stuff that worked.
The movie has a better villain with a much better motivation (Stark-derived megalomanical AI that shares some of its creators hubris), tight pacing that delivers slow and fast scenes at exactly the right moment, from a strong prologue starting with Hydra and ending with a fight in a small city somewhere in Europe (albeit with mass-scale destruction, the fate of the world in the balance, lots of great fight scenes and the Avengers managing to save most of the people, exactly how you wished heroes would act) and best of all, the interaction of the Avengers themselves comes of as more relaxed and natural than in the first movie, not counting the rising attraction between Banner and Natasha, which was really nicely done.
Overall, unlike the first movie which felt like an overblown epilogue for the first wave of Marvel movies, but didn’t stand all that well on its own and relied on the other movies to provides all the heavy lifting in terms of characterization and content cues, A:AoU characters and content arcs feel more natural and complete and are just more fun to watch in general. And if you’re comic-reader, it’s great to finally see Ultron and Vision (thought I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the Vision’s design, Ultron’s is impeccable).