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Joss Whedon proves that his first time at the MCU bat was a fluke.

James Spader is too much for this movie.

Does the MCU want to create an extended trilogy or this just part of an uncompleted master tale? Now that Joss Whedon is departing for parts unknown, I feel like we’re missing out on the third act of a grander tale. But, how is that any different than when Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart or Gerry Conway left the comic? Creating periodical entertainment as cinema is Disney asking a commitment of audiences around the world and they seem to be answering the call.

However, I feel that we’re seeing a build to Phase 3 that might be daring audience involvement going forward. If fans become invested in certain lineups, how will they handle replacements and new versions of characters? I ask after hearing several younger fans grown at the hint of War Machine taking over for Iron Man. While Rhodey has comfortably taken over as Iron Man and related Armored Avengers before, it’s different in the cinema.

Hell, fans are still bitching about Sean Connery stepping down as James Bond. Those of you that follow the grand Marvel comic book tradition knows that the old roster changeth many times. The film goes out of its way to draw attention from this by focusing on warmth and humor. Whedon has his patented brand of both and helps to take heavy concepts down to a realistic level unlike the grimdark Gods of the DC Movie Universe.

What it doesn’t do is help when things like editing and pacing go awry. There’s already talk of a longer Director’s Cut heading to Home Video in the late, late summer. The choppy first and second acts of the film make the need for a longer cut very apparent. This “second act” of a movie works its ass off to setup the worlds of Black Panther and the new Avengers team. Hell, there’s an extended period to showcase the ideologies of Cap and Iron Man. It’s just that it comes as a run-in to the birth of the Vision.

The serious character moments and necessary plot developments that slow down the first act of “The Avengers” is everywhere in this sequel. However, “Age of Ultron” does far greater acrobatics to hide these issues behind insane set pieces. A Hulkbuster fight in Wakanda or South Africa or non descript African nation helps to cover up the fact that the film can’t talk about Vibranium yet or why Klaw was branded. In comicdom, we call this a filler issue.

In a sustained storyline, the middle issues get the hard work of introducing characters, but never initiating a finale. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a perfect dick as Pietro Maximoff and that perfection makes it hard to take him seriously as a hero. Pietro looks like a mall runner taking his paces through a war zone while wearing New Balance sneakers. I didn’t mind Elizabeth Olsen and her ill-defined power set. The potential for growth with The Scarlet Witch is immense. Which makes for an interesting counterpoint to the work done with Black Widow.

The background given to Black Widow as a means to make her romantically compatible to The Hulk produces a conundrum that has stalked the character in the comics. If you remove a character’s human connections and constantly make them demanding human interaction, you’re not giving them an identity. Spy fiction is littered with these types and Scarlet Johansson does her best to make the material work. But, she feels like a red shirt on an overpowered team.

Things change at the end of the movie to make her seem a little more in her place, but similarly powered individuals seem to get the message that time runs thin when you run with this crew. Mortality and futility are issues that get tossed around during the film, but no one seems to have answers. If anything, they shirk responsibility or the rationale that they could all die at anytime. The only person who comes face to face with the terminal consequences of their action is Tony Stark. But, he uses that as the reasoning to create Ultron.

The film is a pleasant visual effects feast with humorous heart. But, it’s a trifle that appeals the nostalgic appeal that I will feel for the House of Ideas deep in my heart. I can’t call “Age of Ultron” a great movie. But, I can call it good enough for the immediacy of now. That answer won’t satiate the people that want to hear how this sequel is going to redefine everything for them. But, does it need to do anything other than keep a story going? I have spent the last few days asking myself that question and I don’t think I’m going to have an answer for awhile.

The Blu-Ray/Digital HD release comes with featurettes, gag reel, commentary and deleted/extended scenes as the special features. The A/V Quality is reference quality. The 1080p transfer skews way too dark during interior shots at the beginning of the film. Still, the DTS-HD 7.1 master audio tracks is one of the best mixes I’ve heard on a Blu-Ray. Make sure to pick it up this Holiday Season.

RELEASE DATE: 10/06/2015

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