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Avengers: Age of Ultron combines heart, humor and spectacle

Avengers

“I’ve got no strings to hold me down,” gloats the villain in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

And in the sequel to the most successful superhero film ever, there’s nothing holding back writer/director Joss Whedon from making a truly ambitious, amazing, incredible superhero spectacle that also has a lot of wit, emotion and heart.

Yes, “Age of Ultron” is better than the original “Avengers.” That’s right, you heard me! As much fun as the first Avengers film was to watch, I always thought it was slightly overrated and perhaps too long. And while Loki makes a great villain for Thor, he doesn’t work as well going up against an entire team of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

But in “Age of Ultron,” we get a foe that is worthy of taking on the Avengers. How clever and timely of Whedon to pick a classic Avengers villain like Ultron as the main antagonist for the sequel. If not done right, however, the results could have proved silly and disastrous. Luckily, they got it right.

Not only does the robotic Ultron look cool on the big screen with that machine-like malicious smile, he also has the perfect villainous voice in actor James Spader, who manages to hold his own against formidable opponents.

Ultron was originally created for protective purposes by super genius Tony Stark (Iron Man), but of course Stark’s good intentions go awry when Ultron turns against humanity and plans to destroy all organic life and have machines be the next step in evolution. It’s an intriguing subject for Whedon to explore, with parallels to our current world and people’s over-reliance on technology (iPhones, computers, the Internet, etc.) that may someday turn against us.

It’s up to the Avengers to stop Ultron and his mad plans, of course. As expected, there’s a lot of action in this movie (too much at the end?) with the highlight being an all-out battle royale between the Hulk and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) , who has to pull out the famous “Hulk-Buster” armor to slow down the angry green goliath.

The other core group members are there as well — Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

The addition of the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who start out at foes, are a breath of fresh air. One of the most inspired parts of the movie is when each Avenger goes through a dream-like/nightmare sequence, controlled by the mind powers of the Scarlet Witch. It’s very effective filmmaking and a nice switch from the non-stop battles.

But there are plenty battles galore with the Avengers fighting off countless robots serving Ultron. Perhaps it goes on too long (the movie clocks in at almost 2 1/2hours), but Whedon is determined to give fans their money’s worth.

The best part of the film was the long-awaited debut of the Vision, an android created by Ultron. When the Vision first appears in “Age of Ultron” it sends chills to viewers. He looks and sounds like the Vision of the comic books, with that classic green-and-yellow costume and cape.

In the comics and the new movie, the Vision turns against his creator and joins forces with the Avengers. One of the most touching scenes in “Age of Ultron” is when the Vision confronts the injured Ultron at the end. Vision tells his creator that death gives more meaning to life.

It is a wonderfully tender moment in a big-budget action-packed film. There are other sweet moments as well, such as the “beauty and the beast” romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner (Hulk). And Hawkeye’s quiet moments at home with his family also bring more humanity to this superhero spectacle.

Yes, an incredibly ambitious project pulled off marvelously by Joss Whedon. After all, he has no strings holding him down.

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