Movie review: "Age of Ultron" is overstuffed but anything but disappointing

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a little overstuffed and a little overlong. One thing it’s not, even a little, is disappointing.

Tasked with taking the already huge Avengers franchise and making it even huger, returning writer-director Joss Whedon manages to pull this sequel off against the odds. The only thing that holds “Age of Ultron” back at all is its own hulking weight — which is what you get when summer audiences are always hungry for something bigger.

Opening with a breakneck action sequence and rarely slowing down for nearly 2 1/2 hours, “Ultron” reunites the principle cast of superheroes. Refresher course: That’s Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (CGI/Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

There are also the baddies, starting with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and introducing the titular Ultron (voiced by James Spader). Oh, and a few more characters I don’t want to spoil.

Taking that many characters and trying to give them arcs and love stories while maintaining the required amount of eye-popping action sequences is frankly insane. It’s so crazy I think Whedon may be the only nerd up for the challenge.

As with his first “Avengers” script, Whedon’s secret weapon is humor. The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV show creator has a keen eye for the sort of witty one-liners that punch up the affairs without distracting from them.

Whedon is also an efficient storyteller — which is pretty damn important when you’ve got this much going on. He introduces new bad guys, new good guys, plots for world destruction, a requisite unlikely love story and more. Is it too much? You betcha. But it’s also wildly entertaining and everything fans of the series could want.

Visually, “Ultron” throws so much eye-candy, it’s hard to focus (sometimes literally), but it’s also a generally awesome spectacle, if a little heavy on the CGI. If you are so inclined, it’s also one of the best 2D to 3D conversions I’ve seen yet, though it’s not required viewing.

The overstuffed nature of the team movie is a handicap — it was also my knock on the generally great “Guardians of the Galaxy” — but “Ultron” is a fan’s dream team.

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

"Avengers: Age of Ultron"

Opens Thursday

3 stars out of 4