AvengersAgeofUltronGrade: A-
Entire family: No
2015, 141 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments/language
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HDMA 7.1
Bonus features: A-/B+
Included: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, Digital HD (DVD sold separately)
Amazon link

All superheroes try to save the world. It’s in their contract. But the crisis usually isn’t of their own making, as it is in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The sequel to 2012’s The Avengers is a slam-bang action and special effects movie that requires you to pay attention to pick up the plot points—which means that family members on the low side of the PG-13 rating might be slow to figure things out, though they won’t care a bit. They’ll be happy enough savoring the breakneck action and appreciating the CGI antics of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Captain America (Chris Evans).

In the pre-title sequence, the Avengers raid a Hydra stronghold in a fictional Eastern European country and recover Loki’s scepter that Hydra scientists were using to experiment on human subjects, including a pair of twins—the now superfast Pietro and mind-manipulating Wanda. But what viewers can see that the Avengers can’t is that Hydra actually wanted them to take that scepter, knowing its power for evil and Tony Stark’s all-or-nothing personality.

Thor is anxious to return the scepter to his world, but trouble ensues when Stark (aka Iron Man) borrows it to upload into his global defense program, dubbed “Ultron,” and the scepter A.I. causes Ultron to go full-blown evil. He eliminates Stark’s A.I., J.A.R.V.I.S., and, like all non-human intelligences, looks around and decides that the world would be a better place without so much bickering flesh and blood. The rest of the film follows the Avengers attempts to track him down—which means a return trip to fictional Sokovia and some pretty cool all-out battles.

AvengersAgeofUltronscreenI’m giving this an A- only because the special effects are uneven. That long pre-title sequence incorporates shortcuts—sped up shots, wildly sweeping cameras, and quick cuts—to generate the appearance of furious action. Thankfully the rest of the film is mostly devoid of those cheap tricks, and viewers can “marvel” at the action as it plays out. In Avengers: Age of Ultron the characters Hawkeye, The Hulk, and Black Widow get more development, and Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, but only for the third act. Ultron is the star of this show, and he’s villainous enough to pull the very best out of the Avengers.

Some viewers might have flashbacks to the 1999 remake of The Mummy, in which an evil one tries to “upgrade” himself from walking skeleton to fully flesh-and-blood villain, because the same thing holds true for Ultron. The opening sequence might also remind viewers of the Star Wars series—particularly the speeder bike sequences from Return of the Jedi—because, even more than the first Avengers film, this one goes full-bore CGI in action, backgrounds, settings, and objects.

But it’s accomplished and it’s as entertaining as popcorn movies get. Because of the complexity, because of the accomplished special effects, it’s a film that ought to get plenty of repeat play. The collector’s edition comes with 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and Digital HD, with more than 45 minutes of exclusive bonus features. The DVD is sold separately, but Blu-ray is the way to go, mostly because the sound is so amazing. The picture has plenty of pop, but it’s the immersive soundtrack that sells it. And if you have 3D capability, the depth and tracking during quick scenes is pretty amazing.

Language: A surprising “s-word” early in the film that’s used as a running joke, but otherwise pretty clean
Sex: n/a
Violence: Plenty of fantasy violence, but no graphic blood-letting
Adult situations: Some innuendo, but that’s it
Takeaway: Marvel and Disney are inching closer into Star Wars territory, and creating a series of movies with just as many connections and complexities.