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Tuesday, Apr 21, 2015
Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

By Jason Marshall

Extinction events have defined and helped evolve our planet’s ecosystem for millions of years. Dominant species oftentimes arise out of those apocalyptic ashes, take their higher seat on the food chain and – this is the part that sucks – become a footnote in history when they are eventually wiped out themselves.

So the question is … is Earth overdue for yet another clean slate?

Avengers: Age of Ultron – the world sprawling mega sequel to 2012’s The Avengers – tackles that very idea. And it even goes a few steps further, suggesting the end of life as we know it could very well be meaningfully crafted by the hands of men.

It’s also a pretty damn good movie with a handful of flaws, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

The story launches right into action as Earth’s mightiest heroes are storming an intimidating (and pretty well guarded) Eastern European fortress. They’re searching for Loki’s scepter, you see, which has unfortunately fallen into the hands of Hydra following the battle of New York and the subsequent fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The whole team is thankfully accounted for, because they quickly realize how poorly equipped they are to handle the “enhanced” humans the evil organization had been experimenting on – Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, franchise newcomers Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen.

What makes things worse is the revelation that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have been secretly playing around with something they call Ultron – an artificial intelligence policing program meant to protect the world so Captain America and company can take a much needed extended vacation.

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

To keep a long story short … and spoilers under wraps … the sh*t really hits the fan once the scepter is back in Thor’s company and Ultron unexpectedly awakens to the unpleasant world he’s been tasked to save. Voiced by James Spader, he immediately accepts his mission and rather logically decides what the world needs more than anything is to be cleansed of the disease central to its destruction – humanity.

Extinction isn’t the only theme that runs throughout the two-hour flick, though, as the idea of family, and what its importance is to each Avenger, is a near constant presence. That’s especially true in regards to Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow, Jeremy Renner‘s Hawkeye and Paul Bettany‘s über cool take on The Vision.

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

It’s also important to note that Ultron is arguably the biggest, baddest (and best) villain to ever terrorize Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. He’s gleefully sadistic and thoroughly doesn’t understand the difference between saving the world and destroying it. He also comes backstory free, so there’s no chance in hell you’ll have sympathy for his tendency towards mass murder.

And while you will most likely love Age of Ultron if you’ve enjoyed the other ten films in the MCU, it is not without a few flaws.

Because the movie is so massive, it yearns for the simplicity that made Captain America: Winter Soldier such a success. New characters like Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and even the titular Ultron, as cool as they are, get lost in the shuffle of countries, characters and explosions. This’ll always be a problem in a flick that stars no less than ten massive stars, but the Brothers Russo proved that making a team movie intimate is possible. And as fun as Age of Ultron is, it’s clear Marvel doesn’t want to stray too far away from their established formula. Don’t get me wrong – Joss Whedon is a master at coordinating this Super Scooby Gang, but it’s nice to know Infinity War might take a few more risks with its storytelling in 2018 than Age of Ultron does in May.

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Also starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo and Cobie Smulders, Avengers: Age of Ultron begins its reign at the box office on May 1st.

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