By: Mike Agostinelli

The Age Of Ultron is upon us. Or is it the Age Of The Infinity Stones With A Fair Amount Of Ultron?

But lets not get ahead of ourselves; we can circle back to that. Avengers: Age Of Ultron is fun as all hell. Its summer blockbuster popcorn entertainment at its absolute most enjoyable. This is why we rush to theaters in the summertime; to see big, bloated, epic shenanigans like the stuff we get in this movie. If you’ve been following all of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (including the TV shows) like I have, you will find many things to latch onto here. Easter eggs, callbacks, and nerdy little nuggets abound to satisfy the appetites of nerds like me. Its an almost Taco Bell level smorgasbord, and that’s saying something because I love Taco Bell with all of my heart and soul and mind. And yes, that’s an Infinity Stone reference.

Returning director Joss Whedon improves upon the misgivings of the original Avengers film. While just as fun, the original lacked a narrative push compelling enough to lure me in for multiple viewings. I remember seeing it many, many times in the theater but upon getting it on Blu-Ray I could barely finish the whole thing. I don’t think that’ll be an issue with this one. You never feel even a scant moment of its two and a half hour running time. Events move and flow at such a high pace that even a mid-movie sojourn at a farmhouse doesn’t fully weigh down the proceedings.

The character of Ultron also provides something unique in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film: a compelling villain. Besides Loki, every villain before this movie was entirely forgettable. They seemed to just blend into the plots of their respective films. Remember Whiplash from Iron Man 2? No? Didn’t think so. James Spader may have something to do with having him stick out from the crowd. He splashes Ultron with a dramatic, pontificating flair. He’s prone to busting out into long speeches while waving his hands through the air, almost like he’s conducting some sinister orchestra. But there are also childish moments that peek through. After all, he is the brainchild of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, and feels a bit shunned and betrayed by his creators. They’re smacking up against his vision of a perfect world.

Speaking of Vision, he’s one of three new Avengers introduced in the film. (Like that segue?) The others are Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Vision stands out as a highlight, with his peaceful demeanor covering up for the fact that he can whup some serious ass. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are twins; both have terrible accents, but the Witch is the more useful and less annoying of the two. Hawkeye also takes a a more prominent role here, and that’s incredibly welcome after his lackluster treatment in the original film. He’s always been one of my favorite Marvel characters. All of these elements then converge to eventually attempt to take down Ultron.

But is that their main concern, taking down Ultron? Because this is where the film falters a bit. You have such a great villain, with a storied comic book history, as your antagonist. Yet this movie seems less concerned with him and more concerned with setting up the next Avengers two-parter which won’t hit screens till 2018. Some of us could be (God forbid) dead by then. This has been a bit of an issue with past Marvel films as well. Overlooking your current storyline, and worrying about something that won’t play out fully for years down the line. By the time the final battle hits at the end of this film, everyone just seems to be going through the motions. The action is entertaining, sure. But there’s no real stakes. You know if anyone dies, they can’t be major. We still have Cap 3 next summer, and then thirty thousand other movies.

Look, I love Marvel and what they do with their cohesive universe. But maybe don’t announce your next 15 movies before your new Avengers sequel. Some of us like a bit of suspense. Some unpredictability. That’s mostly gone here. But that still didn’t stop me from having a great time. I’ll obviously be seeing this multiple times, with multiple different people. (You know who you are. Freebie assholes.) And I’ll be buying the Blu-Ray like a good little boy to continue my Marvel collection. But I’ll still never buy The Incredible Hulk. I like pretending that doesn’t exist.

I give Avengers: Age Of Ultron an 8 out of 10.