Who makes a two-and-a-half hour sci-fi thriller? It takes two: Marvel and Disney. It also takes an enthusiastic director like Joss Whedon who follows up 2012’s “Avengers” with this impenetrable sequel.
Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” launches at full throttle and only occasionally pulls back from its enormous action sequences to delve into the backstories and soft spots of its epic cast of heroic characters.
Robert Downey Jr. returns as Iron Man, with Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. Scarlett Johansson rocks as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner stars as Hawkeye; Samuel L. Jackson is Nick Fury and Don Cheadle is War Machine.
Keeping it fresh, two newcomers enter the scene. Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are twins with complex intentions, and Paul Bettany (the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S.) shows his face in the role of Vision.
The team reassembles when the technologically badass villain, Ultron (James Spader), launches a full-scale attack on humanity after escaping the control of his creator. Ultron is the ultimate challenge for the Avengers crew, constantly changing form and staying one step ahead of our heroes.
The gang shares the screen well. Each is given time to display their super talents and Whedon supplies plenty of opportunity for levity and jokes. Tony Stark gets the bulk of one-liners, but all share in jokes that pepper the action. Marvel devotees are treated to many inside jokes, and to the cursory cameo of Marvel creator Stan Lee. For added interest (or something like that), there is a romantic storyline between Black Widow and Bruce Banner/the Hulk, which never seems to go anywhere.
The Avengers comic book debuted in 1963, long before anybody, including Stan Lee, could have imagined the power of computer-animated imagery or a $250 million budget. The Marvel franchise still has two more Avengers films slated, with release dates spanning into 2019.
While “Avengers: Age of Ultron” has heartfelt moments, and Whedon attempts to hold a mirror up to the superheroes’ humanity, this film is still a solid wall of action and nearly nonstop mayhem. It will thrill Marvel fans and those who love a kick-ass film full of action; however, you’ll be wise to leave the younger kids in your family at home this time around. The mayhem does not include blood and guts, but it is continuous and intense. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is rated PG-13 and is only appropriate for the teens and parents in the family.
Sci-fi thriller, rated PG-13; run time: 2 hours, 22 minutes
(Photo credit: Marvel/Disney)