Good News: If you’re looking for POW! BAM! SMASH! cartoonish action, you get your money’s worth. Bad News: Juggling a kaleidoscope of superheroes, as Tony Stark/Iron Man says, “It’s long – Eugene O’Neill long.” You’d better know your “Avengers” franchise history because this new installment begins mid-mission, Read on…
as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) battle a battalion of H.Y.D.R.A. bad guys to capture Loki’s scepter with its powerful Infinity Stone.
What’s Ultron? A sparkly computer program, concocted as a global protection system by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. What emerges, instead, is a rogue, red-eyed, megalomaniacal A.I. colossus, drolly voiced by James Spader, mockingly humming Pinocchio’s “No Strings” anthem as a menacing mantra and viewing humans as the world’s biggest threat.
In the battle-riddled, Eastern European country of Slovenia, there’s subplot introducing ‘gifted’ twins: Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) who become elusive Quicksilver and mind-manipulating Scarlet Witch. Appearing mid-way, an angelic android, Vision (Paul Bettany), synthesizes the consciousness of Tony Stark’s devoted helpmate J.A.R.V.I. S.
Writer/director Joss Whedon punctuates the FX-driven mayhem with an ongoing flirtation between Black Widow and Bruce Banner, along with dream-like flashbacks showing the character conflict of each squad member confronting his/her flaws and/or failings.
There are glib quips, like Hawkeye’s pregnant wife’s earnest, “You know, I totally support your avenging…” and campy, irreverent humor when various Avengers try to lift Thor’s hammer.
For an exhausting 2½ hours, it’s repetitive sound and fury – yes, I mean cranky Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the S.H.I.E.L.D. carrier, along with Anthony Mackie as The Falcon. As always, there’s a hint of what’s to come during closing credits.
When Joss Whedon introduced this enormous Marvel assemblage to the press, he confessed, “I’m really tired of it.” Was he joking? I doubt it.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a spectacularly overstuffed 6 – with more spectacle than substance.