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Monday, May 4, 2015

Age of Robopocalypse

Brilliant weapons designer Tony Stark’s “Peacekeeping Program,” developed to defend earth and maintain world peace after the Battle of New York in the wake of the Chitauri invasion, goes haywire in the guise of Ultron in Joss Whedon’s follow-up to his mega blockbuster extravaganza ‘The Avengers.’  In the Marvel cinematic universe, Avengers movies are perhaps the most highly anticipated due to the team’s ensemble cast of colorful superheroes, and in that regard ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ certainly did not disappoint.

Compared to the near non-stop action sequences and epic level destruction seen in 2012's ‘The Avengers’: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/avengers-damage-manhattan-would-cost-160-billion-322486, Joss dialed down the apocalyptic mayhem a smidgen in his sequel and unveiled three new characters: Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Quicksilver (Kick-Ass’s Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Vision (Paul Bettany).  Two romantic sub-plots were also introduced, between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner on the one hand (she’s his berserker “off” switch), plus Clint Barton and his wife Laura (Linda Cardellini of ‘ER’ and ‘Freaks and Geeks’) on the other.  Then there’s the titular cyber-villain himself, a rogue AI in a sinister robotic body given voice and a good dose of maniacal character by the charismatic James Spader, who gave Ultron the same snarky cynicism and rebelliousness as his creator.  When Ultron comes to the logical conclusion that humans must “evolve” and the path to peace lies in our extinction, Tony Stark belatedly realized that he may have made the biggest mistake of his life.  Oops.

While those who expected ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ to be as big and badass as its predecessor might come away a little underwhelmed (you’re spoiled!), this second act is still packed to the gills with action and a worthy addition to the Avengers canon.  The witty banter and humor we’ve come to expect from Joss are in evidence, as are the obligatory “super power beat down” (this time between the Hulk and the latest Iron Man armor called “Veronica”) and the always welcome appearance of the too cool S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier.  While Joss is now done with the Avengers, I can’t wait for the two-part “Infinity War” series from the Russos slated for 2018 and 2019.
 
Grade: A- 
 
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