A review of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” another marvelous Marvel Comics adaptation for the screen, directed by Joss Whedon. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Two kinds of viewers will be headed to Joss Whedon’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”: the comic fans, watching closely to see how precisely the movie hones to Marvel-set characters and conventions, and the rest of us, who just want to see some well-crafted mayhem and some funny banter. Speaking as a member of the latter group (don’t ask me to tell you what “vibranium” is), I can tell you that the film delivers; it’s big, it’s often dazzling and it’s good fun. If it at times feels a bit familiar … well, the original “Avengers” movie was pretty terrific, and there’s only so much new that Whedon can bring this time to the saving-the-world-in-high-tech-outfits thing.
Some fresh faces, of course, turn up. The villain Ultron, who’s naturally out to destroy the world, is a tall, spindly and thoroughly evil robot, introduced intriguingly by a trippy waterfall/kaleidoscope of tiny squares and screens. He’s voiced in oiled-metal tones by James Spader, as all evil robots should be. We meet a pair of new Avengers in the form of twin siblings Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) Maximoff, aka Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. In the cogent words of Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), “he’s fast and she’s weird,” and I quite enjoyed the way Pietro rather precisely cracks his neck before entering battle, and how Wanda employs her deliciously evil grin. And we learn that one of our Avengers has a rather idyllic home life, with a wife (Linda Cardellini) who gets to deliver perhaps the greatest Understanding Spouse line of dialogue ever: “You know I support your avenging.”
But as before, the greatest fun is in watching the original Avengers, all fine actors who’ve made the characters their own.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Avengers: Age of Ultron,’ with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, based on the Marvel comic book series. 141 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments. Several theaters.
Robert Downey Jr. continues to play Tony Stark/Iron Man like improvisational jazz; his little, just-for-himself “yea!” upon finding a secret door is priceless. Chris Hemsworth’s fish-out-of-water Thor continues to occupy his own world, except for a throwaway moment near the end where he notes, perplexedly, “I’m running out of things to say!” And romance blooms, sort of, between Mark Ruffalo’s melancholy Bruce Banner/Hulk and Scarlett Johansson’s cool Natasha/Black Widow. This relationship seems the very definition of a bad idea, but it’s irresistible, particularly when the two flirt to the strains of a big band playing “I Can’t Get Started.” (Hey, we non-comic-book fans have our own weaknesses, er, Kryptonite.)
Elsewhere, worlds collide, buildings collapse and havoc is wreaked — all in impressive if slightly video-gamey 3D. (Odd how 3D can make a movie on a giant screen seem both larger and smaller, simultaneously. It’s also being released in 2D, and I suspect would still be quite satisfying.) “Age of Ultron” is as good as it needs to be, and often better, and it ends (stick around through the first phase of the final credits) with a hint of what’s coming next. I’m hoping, though, for a bit more of a jolt next time with “Avengers: Infinity War,” a two-parter due in 2018 and 2019, rather than familiar pleasures.