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Some of the best times are those when I have just sat around chatting with friends and family.   The moments when each person in the group, having known each other for years, can just relax and be themselves.   They can joke about their flaws, laugh about the trials of life, and tease one another endlessly.  Typically, true friendship is forged through the bonds of crisis, having supported and loved one another at the most crucial of times in each other’s lives.   You can laugh, cry, and reflect with the people who surround you and make you feel whole.

Avengers – Age of Ultron has this central theme running through its core.   The Avengers are really at ease with one another, and having formed a team led by Captain America (Chris Evans),  working to solve one crisis or another.  During the initial battle in the movie, we are introduced to the newest superheroes, twins who have been experimented on to enhance their abilities.  They are orphans, having been subjected to the horrors of war.  Wars that were made possible by the use of Tony Stark’s  (Robert Downey Jr.) weapons.  Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who is lightning fast, and The Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) , who’s telekinesis allows her to use a person’s deepest fear against them.

This is where having seen the various Iron Man movies will benefit the viewer greatly.   Tony Stark’s initial  mission in the first Iron Man movie, and the reason for creating his suit of armor, was to rid the world of the illegally sold arms that were distributed globally to warlords and despots.  He deperately wants to fix everything wrong in his world.  And because he is a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist”, he thinks he can take chances and everything will go his way.   “Textbook Narcissism”, per Nick Fury. (Samuel  L. Jackson) When the The Scarlett Witch shows him his fear, he sees the alien invasion from the first Avengers, with all of his comrades dead.   In Iron Man 3, he has severe PTSD from the alien encounters and in Age of Ultron it hasn’t quite been completely been worked out of his psychi.  He is absolutely driven to not allow this to happen again, hence the creation of Ultron, who will become the ultimate shield around the world.

Ultron is a wonder to watch on film.   Given voice and movement by James Spader, he is a wonderful villain.   He represent’s Tony Stark’s view on the world to an extreme.  The only real way to save the world from the flaws of humanity, is to rid the world of humanity completely.  He is delightfully snarky and quick of wit.   And he throws tantrum’s like a two year old.   Classic parts of Tony Stark.  Spader just gives it his all here and the commitment to the character really shines.   A movie is only as good as it’s villain, and this villian is excellent.

With Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) back story and the sweet romance between Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, and Bruce Banner, the Hulk, the move has its emotional grounding.  Hawkeye is given more screen time and this really pays off as you see the “lesser” of one of the Avengers with a normal life.  And each of the Avengers looks at it longingly, understanding that some normalcy is possible.  Romanov and Banner are really cute together.  Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk / Bruce Banner) does a a fantastic job displaying his character’s insecurity, he just stammers when Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow / Romanov) turns up the heat.   What nerd or geek wouldn’t melt like this when a major hottie is flirting with you? (this reviewer included).

The story is much more character driven this time.  The movie actually feels smaller and intimate.   That in itself is a huge success for director Joss Whedon.   More often then not, sequels try to outdo their original, bigger, louder, and more of everything.   Whedon really puts the  character s and  their flaws up front and lets the affects fill in everything around the actors.

This movie does have outstanding affects.  Do yourself a favor, see this in a theater with great sound and projection. This movie is made to be seen on the biggest of screens, with the best of sound systems.

4 stars – A Hitting a Mark recommendation.