"The Avengers" is just about the biggest movie franchise in the world. Movies starring the individual members do big business, but when they team up, they make an immediate impact on the all-time box office records. In other words, "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" is going to get everybody's money no matter what I say. But I actually have some good things to say.
All your favorite heroes are back, but let's run through the checklist really quickly. The six main Avengers are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Returning supporting heroes include Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie). We also get a debuting minor hero in the robotic Vision (Paul Bettany).
The plot is set in motion when Tony Stark (the billionaire tech genius alter ego of Iron Man) creates a robot named Ultron (James Spader) designed to protect the planet so the Avengers don't have to. Unfortunately, Ultron thinks that the best way of protecting the planet as a whole is to eliminate the threats posed by humanity, and I mean all of humanity. He hatches a plan to rip an entire city out of the ground, raise it up in the air, and launch it back at the Earth to cause an extinction-level impact. All for the greater good, apparently. To deal with the Avengers (who inadvertently cause quite a bit of destruction to the Earth themselves), he enlists the help of Hydra leftovers Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who is really fast, and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who can read minds and cause haunting and distracting hallucinations. Ultron also finds a way to duplicate himself so the movie has an excuse to have The Avengers take on an army.
With all the crowding in the cast, you wouldn't think we'd get much time for character development, but actually we do. We get new insights into Hulk, Black Widow and especially Hawkeye. Turns out the least popular member of the group leads a quaint, secret personal life. These storylines may not be terribly interesting, but I appreciate the effort. I guess the movie gives these characters time to shine since there apparently aren't any plans to give them solo movies any time soon. These quieter moments don't slow the movie down so much as they provide well-timed, necessary breaks from the copious action sequences.
The action is crisp and relatively easy to follow for a movie with this many characters. We get some decent fights and chases between the heroes and bad guys, but actually the most memorable sequence in the film is between two heroes. Hulk freaks out and goes on a rampage and it's up to Iron Man to stop him. The ensuing battle gives new meaning to the phrase "tough love." It also provides the biggest laugh in the film with a series of punches. Trying to punch someone into submission may not sound very funny, but this movie sure finds a way to do it right.
You definitely get your money's worth with "Avengers: Age of Ultron." Nobody is going to leave the theater feeling cheated because the film doesn't have enough action, humor or heart. I do wish it had a little more suspense. This franchise is planned out for about the next 10 years, so there's no point in speculating if the major characters are going to make it. You end up wondering only about the villains: are they going to be destroyed or still have a sliver of life left so they can come back refreshed for a sequel? But predictability aside, the film is fine. Overall it's an enjoyable summer blockbuster that makes good use of a winning formula.
Two and a Half Stars out of Five.
"Avengers: Age of Ultron" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments. Its running time is 141 minutes.
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