Avengers: Age of Ultron

“Language!” scolds Captain America after Iron Man uses a PG-13 expletive as the first line of dialogue in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But Iron Man can be forgiven. And after witnessing the $250 million spectacle on the big screen yourself, you may be tossing a few interjections, too. Movies don’t get any bigger, louder, or flat-out bombastic than this crazy thing– a 141-minute wall-to-wall action fest.

With a cast that makes all other films pale in comparison (when’s the last time every single name on the first page of a film’s IMDb cast list was recognizable?) and special effects that make the Transformers films look like low-rent Hot Wheels flicks, Age of Ultron is as huge as they come. It’s not perfect, and it pales just a bit compared to 2012’s first installment, but it’s still as rock-solid a kick-off to the summer movie season as any movie fan could hope for.

And I mean any movie fan. Writer/director Joss Whedon, not content to just make a smash-’em-up testosterone flick, spends plenty of time infusing humor, drama, and honest-to-goodness characters into a movie that not only blasts you through the back of the theater but also gives you some genuine feels along the way.

Continuing the storyline set in motion by all 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies that came before it (studio president Kevin Feige’s head must be perpetually spinning), Age of Ultron picks up most recently after last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, with the galactic hunt for the all-powerful Infinity Stones. But, in all fairness, that whole plotline takes a distant backseat to the task at hand.

The latest creation from the mind of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is Ultron, a super-charged Siri of sorts, built to bring peace to the world. When Ultron (James Spader), though, realizes his mission can best be achieved by completely obliterating the world and starting over, the band quickly gets back together. Iron Man teams up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to bring an end to Ultron’s plan, no matter the cost.

There are plenty of new characters, too, including twins Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) that help keep things interesting and also add a much needed alternate dynamic to the heroes’ super abilities.

Whedon, more than anyone else, is the real star here. Able to expertly intersperse laugh-out-loud comedy with touching, quieter moments, all alongside some of the most extravagant and downright bull-in-a-china-shop scenes in recent film memory takes a level of inventiveness and skill that may well have doomed the movie if had it been trusted to anyone else.

There is room for a little editing and tightening, particularly in the final half-hour, but it doesn’t do much to mar what is otherwise as good as Marvel movie as any that came before it.

Some pretty damn good #!$@, indeed.

4.5/5 stars