Anticipation has left movie theaters as Earth’s mightiest heroes assemble once again in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The action packed spectacle opens on area screens Thursday (April 30).
In its place: a film that tries valiantly to match its predecessor’s wit, special effects, performances and just sheer fun. It mostly succeeds as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) return to face a new foe, this time joined by Quicksilver (Aaron-Taylor Johnson), the Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).
That villain comes in the form of Ultron (voice by James Spader), an artificial life form created from Stark’s genius and the scepter that Loki cherished in the first Avengers film. That scepter gives sentience to Ultron who has the wonderful idea of creating a Utopian society – one free from humans. That’s a sentiment that doesn’t sound too bad these days given the state world’s state of affairs. Yes, that is a joke.
That storyline drives the action in the Avengers, but it’s also a film that possesses some emotional resonance – a pleasant and welcome surprise. Director Joss Whedon takes the time to explore the backgrounds of some of these characters that we didn’t really know before from other Marvel Universe films – the secret longing of Black Widow and the secret life of Hawkeye, for example.
The result is a film that is far more engaging on one level, striking a balance with the action. It is a welcome respite from the litany of explosions that usually prove to be a hallmark of the Marvel films. He’s given the Russo Brothers, who will reportedly direct the next Avengers film, a goal, while leaving them a gift basket full of goodies with which to work while they go through the process of making Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War Part I & II.
Those glimpses offer moments of enjoyment, poignancy and gives a cast that is generally filled with talented actors the opportunity to show their chops – especially in the case of Renner, Johansson and Ruffalo.
As for Ultron, Spader’s voice and sensibilities (he specializes and maniacal snark) prove to bring the metallic Pinocchio to glorious life in a performance that’s engaging.
Whedon, who directs from the script he wrote, guides Ultron expertly, mixing amazing special effects with an intriguing story and emotional resonance. Yes, a little bit is sacrificed, but in the end the experience is just as satisfying as its predecessor.
Movie: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel Jackson, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, James Spader.
Studio: Walt Disney Studios/Marvel
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments
Running time: 141 minutes
George’s rating: 4-of-5
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com