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Avengers: Age of Ultron

Joss Whedon gives the people what they want in this big, noisy and occasionally thoughtful comic-book movie

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Wheee! It's Avengers: Age of Ultron — this season's Big Comic Book Movie from Marvel! It's almost pointless to evaluate these films as good or bad: Fans reliably love (or hate) them, and increasingly, new works exist in a continuum, not as an individual piece of art. So perhaps a better approach is: Does Joss Whedon's Age of Ultron give the people what they want?

Basic Good vs. Bad Dilemma. Much of the story concerns "Ultron," an artificially intelligent being created by Tony Star, a.k.a. Iron Man. It's hoped Ultron will bring "peace in our time," but super-smart Ultron decides humans are the problem and the planet is better off without them. ("Ultron can't tell the difference between saving the world and destroying it.") There are more shades of gray in this outing about who's good or bad, plus the emotional burden of being a superhero (part man, part monster) and whether the team can work together effectively.

Serious Nod to Real World. Arms-merchant Stark: "I tried to create a suit of armor around the world ... but I created something terrible." Weapons as peace-keepers and peace-keepers as weapons: Discuss.

"Hi, I'm Ultron."
  • "Hi, I'm Ultron."

Vicarious CGI Destruction. Plenty, including two headquarters, an entire city and a child's toy. But the heroes get called out — finally! — for the collateral damage their do-gooding causes, and an effort is made to protect people. Nobody speaks for the buildings, though. Tough times for masonry.

Barely Explained Sprawling Mythology to Help Separate True Fans From Civilians Just Seeing a Movie. The movie begins with no preamble, with the Avengers — last seen together in the 2012 film — involved in a full-on assault on a HYDRA bunker in Sokovia. These enemies have Loki's scepter and are training two villains with extra-special skills and also building something. Hold on tight! Later, there is a lot of chatter and trouble about an "infinity stone." Psychically induced nightmares help fill in individual Avenger backstories, which will be most meaningful to those in the know.

New Characters. Yes, a set of extraordinarily-abled twins ("he's fast, she's weird"), plus Ultron, of course.

Quips. These come as fast and as furious as the Hulk-thumpings, and nearly everybody gets at least one funny line. Stark gets the most (even namechecking Banksy), but the mordantly witty Ultron (voiced by James Spader) holds his own. Also, the requisite Stan Lee cameo gets a big laugh.

Possibility of Sequel: 110 percent. I've seen a lot of abrupt endings in my time, but this film ends in mid-sentence.

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