THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
Author: J.A. Hyde
April 30, 2015

SYNOPSIS: When Tony Stark jumpstarts a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth's Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as they battle to save the planet from destruction at the hands of the villainous Ultron.

Wow! Just wow!

The Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t just a thrill ride, although it certainly is. Director Joss Whedon makes the Avengers characters more multi-dimensional to give his audience an enhanced sense of who they are besides just exceptional warriors. Like The Empire Strikes Back, Whedon takes us to a darker, but much more interesting, place in a sequel.

Tony Stark/Ironman’s (Robert Downy Jr.) creation to bring “peace in our time,” Ultron (voiced and acted in motion-capture by James Spader) has been subverted by HYDRA scientist Strucker (Thomas Kretchmann) who’s experimenting on humans with Loki’s stolen scepter. He has created two “super” humans, twins Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). They are now Quicksilver who has super-human speed, and Scarlet Witch who has the power of telekinesis and of entering and manipulating the mind of her targets.

When Ironman, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) find and destroy Strucker’s lab, Stark decides to activate Ultron. He does so in spite of Bruce Banner’s warning against experimenting with artificial intelligence, and the result is an Ultron who wants to save the world by destroying humanity. The Avengers unite to try to destroy Ultron, but that turns out to be easier said than done. Ultron uses what’s left of Strucker’s lab to make an army of robotic drones, and the game is afoot.

While the Avengers struggle to save humanity from Ultron’s misguided mission, we learn more about each of them. Via Scarlet Witch’s mind control, we learn more about their pasts, their fears, and those they care about. Yes, there will be surprises – one way Whedon keeps the narrative fresh and engaging.

Old allies show up to help. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) arrive with the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D, along with James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

Tony Stark decides to use Loki’s recovered scepter to resurrect J.A.R.V.I.S and create a new Vision. Paul Bettany, he of the golden voice, plays both J.A.R.V.I.S and Vision. Finally, this excellent actor gets a “body” as the android Vision. Since the narrative is all about dark and light sides, Vision is the antithesis of Ultron even though they were created by the same person from the same energy source. They mirror Stark’s own conflicting “sides.” representing those of all humans.

Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers everything you’d expect from a top-of-the-line fantasy/action film. Shot primarily at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, U.K., Whedon adds visual richness by additional filming on location in South Africa, South Korea, Bangledesh, Italy, and New York. Special effects and stunts are state-of-the-art. A fast pace and interesting, fleshed-out, characters provide a riveting line of suspense throughout. Joss Whedon has assembled a dream cast, each of whom can add layers to a character with a few lines and gestures. You will leave knowing each one of them better than before.

Two planned sequels, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (May, 2018) and Part 2 (May, 2019) will be shot back-to-back starting in late 2015. I wish they’d consider a different title than Parts 1 and 2 which, in my opinion, diminishes the individuality of each film and is just lazy! Joss Whedon will not return to direct them, so it remains to be seen how they’ll measure up.

Don’t miss The Avengers: Age of Ultron. It. Is. So. Good! - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: A


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