“Avengers: Age of Ultron” Movie Review

     There’s no doubt these Marvel films are starting to get old.  That’s not to say writer/director Joss Whedon’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t a technically brilliant mashup of the familiar characters within this universe who have been both successful on their own as well as in the first “Avengers” film three years ago.  While “Age of Ultron” is technically a sequel to the “Avengers”, the film plays as if it is just another piece amongst the many other Marvel character films that seem to be taking over multiplexes two or three times a year now.  Whedon again succeeds in providing a script full of timely one liners for the characters to say and allows each of them, especially Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), to have plenty of moments within this otherwise crowded and overly busy 141 minute film.

     No time is wasted when the film begins as we see a scenario unfold that apparently meets the standards of the Avengers to actually assemble.  That’s been the major rub with me when it comes to these pictures and seems to be the fatal flaw of these various “phases” in which Disney and Marvel are releasing them.  You could argue that the events in both “Ironman 3” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” could’ve met that standard, whatever it is, quite easily, especially given the demise of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the last Captain America film.  And yet, the majority of these heroes are no where to be found.  As if they have something better to do or choose to self dispatch on their own terms.  As “Age of Ultron” gets underway, the Avengers are battling Hydra forces, attempting to get to their stronghold where they possess a powerful artifact from Asgard.  Working with Hydra against the Avengers are twins Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) who are also known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Both prove to be worthy adversaries and cause plenty of problems for the core group of characters.

     After their mission is deemed successful, the Avengers convene in their new high rise hide away for some downtime.  This is where Whedon’s script is at its strongest since we get to revel in these characters with their hair down, so to speak, within the confines of a party like atmosphere with these larger than life heroes just being regular people.  One scene in particular gets the most laughs when Thor challenges everyone in the room with a chance to be a God if he or she can lift his hammer.  The attempts amongst the lead characters is a hilarious bit that reminded me of the post credit scene in the first “Avengers” film in which the group was eating in a New York City coffee shop after a long day at the office fighting bad guys.  Scenes like these are where the best and most meaningful dialogue is displayed and those words become important later since they lay the groundwork for the immense egos the team is dealing with, especially Tony Stark and Thor.

     Because of the events in the first “Avengers” film, as well as what he had to go against alone in “Ironman 3”, Tony Stark has been feverishly at work developing an advanced artificial intelligence known as the Ultron program.  When completed, the AI would have the capability of launching a strike against would be alien invaders before they could inflict casualties on the world’s population.  When Stark shows Bruce Banner a hologram interpretation that compares the complexity of Ultron versus Stark’s own Jarvis computer, the characters and the audience immediately realize how much more advanced the Ultron system is and can only imagine what it is capable of.  It, of course, doesn’t take long for Ultron to pull a sort of “Skynet” and become fully aware.  Attempts by Jarvis to shut it down are unsuccessful and before we know it, the Avengers have another good reason to assemble as Ultron has found its way into the worlds computer systems, as well as a mean looking robot body with the voice of James Spader.

     Returning along with the main characters, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, and the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) are given significantly more emotionally  refined roles as they all play to the more personal side of their respective characters.  We get a look into Hawkeye’s actual home life that he hopes to return to each day after putting his life at risk against all odds.  Sure he’s good with a bow and arrow but he isn’t really equipped the way the others are.  Every time I see Hawkeye in action, I wonder to myself if he should ask Tony Stark if he could try on an Iron Man suit.  After all, if it works for War Machine (Don Cheadle), couldn’t Stark make one for Hawkeye too?  There is also a budding romance going on between the Black Widow and Bruce Banner, as she seems to have won the job of calming the Hulk back into Bruce Banner by default since she is the most pleasing to the eye of the bunch.

     Like many recent superhero films, “Age of Ultron” lays on the action set pieces thick as the final third of the film is a bombastic and noisy compilation of fight scenes, explosions, and mayhem.  For all of his intellect, Ultron’s master plan is to bring the human race to extinction by way of creating a giant meteor and having it fall to the earth “Armageddon” style.  I suppose while he was taking over the internet, he was able to get a couple good ideas by exploring past movie plots.  There’s plenty of over the top technical mumbo jumbo spoken throughout the film and some may find the story a little hard to follow, especially when the creation of a new hero named Vision (Paul Bettany) comes into play, but overall “Age of Ultron” seems to be exactly what mainstream audiences are craving to begin their annual summer movie feast.  I just wonder how long Whedon and his army of filmmakers can ensure movie goers remain hungry for this sort of entertainment after filling them to the brim with this entry.  To watch “Age of Ultron” is an exhausting experience that may leave some with the feeling you get when you eat too much at a Las Vegas buffet.  Rather than being able to pace yourself, you’re forced to consume too much, leaving no room for the next Marvel phase.  GRADE: B-