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‘Age of Ultron’ kicks off summer season

By Jack Ryan, For The Miami Student

Joss Whedon's, "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is the ultimate Marvel movie, the best superhero movie since "The Dark Knight" and quite possibly the most fun you'll ever have at a movie theater.

This year's first installment in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) once again assembles the titular squad of heroes: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

"Age of Ultron" begins with the Avengers assaulting an enemy base and, in impressive single-long-take fashion, Whedon manages to display each of our heroes taking out bad guys, effectively reminding us of their individual powers and personalities. In this opening alone, new fans are taught everything they need to know about the good guys, and experienced Marvel vets are given a moment of pure nostalgia before the real action begins.

The major conflict here takes place between the Avengers and Ultron, a Stark-created, unintentionally sentient A.I., who plans to destroy the Avengers and, inevitably, the world. Ultron is a very interesting supervillain, as he is equal parts omnipotent and immature, with James Spader's creepy voice-over making even his occasional wisecracks a bit ominous. Ultron also seems to be the first Marvel villain to truly pose a threat to the heroes, and, with the assistance of a pair of mysterious, super-powerful twins, actually pushes the Avengers to their extremes.

Whereas many action-adventure pictures follow very straightforward plots, "Age of Ultron" - and most Marvel films, for that matter - always manage to have good, unpredictable storylines thanks to the enormous reservoir of canonical comic book material. The script is fine-tuned with supporting cast appearances from all corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, allowing allies from the individual characters' movies ("Iron Man," "Thor," etc.) to fly in and feel like an essential part of the experience, rather than just cameos.

Story aside, the major reason we go to superhero movies is for the action, and "Age of Ultron" doesn't disappoint. As the Avengers fight back against Ultron, their powers are explored in great cinematic fashion, with each punch and explosion feeling both painful and powerful. Buildings collapse, cars are tossed and robots explode, all with a feeling of collateral damage and impact, unlike 2013's "Man of Steel." These action scenes look their best when they are combined with slo-mo - each frame packed with impressive detail, constant motion and a sense of importance.

However, the most striking part of this superhero flick isn't necessarily the action, but rather in the humor. Whedon takes advantage of nearly every possible quiet moment, tossing in quick jokes, continuing funny dialogue and even implementing sight gags in order to keep us entertained. There are entire scenes devoted entirely to making us laugh, one highlight being a montage of our heroes trying to lift Thor's hammer.

This rapid systematic approach - fight, laugh, repeat - is, at times, the film's most clear flaw, but we are an ADD-ridden audience and the filmmakers know it. Similarly, the tongue-in-cheek sarcasm can feel a bit excessive in some of the bigger fights, when the protagonists really should be focusing on the enemy instead of their comedic timing.

Ultimately, the greatest success of, "Avengers: Age of Ultron," is its universal appeal. Despite its status as a sequel and an intimidating roster of main characters, this is an unbelievably accessible film. The entire storyline is packed with subtle references for those who have seen all the movies and read the comic books, but these hidden gems are never necessary for basic viewing. The great action sequences, the uproarious one-liners, and several emotional sequences make this a perfectly acceptable choice for anyone, regardless of Marvel background.

As I walked out of the theater on opening night, I saw children with Avengers toys, teenagers and college kids in ironic Marvel shirts, and even some middle-aged and older viewers, all smiling, laughing and sharing their favorite scenes, characters and jokes. "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is the kind of film that brings people together. Go see this movie - and bring a friend.