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'Avengers: Age of Ultron' features a winning formula
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A Sub-Ultron (voiced by James Spader) climbs up a rock in Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron. - photo by Doug Wright
Speaking as one whose comic and superhero geek credentials could easily be called into question, I have to tell you that "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" is amazing.

For those of us who have not been steeped in the comic book world since diapers, it can be a little daunting to deal with the onslaught of heroes and villains thrown on the screen from different eras, different countries, different worlds and even different galaxies. I havent even mentioned all the intricate cross-pollination of the stories and the baggage each carry. Were talking some serious superhero angst.

But somehow it all comes together and irons out in the watching.

Speaking of superhero angst, this ends up being the focus of the film, when a new villainous force is created and unleashed by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner while the two are musing about peace in our time. I wont go into all the intricacies mostly because I cant (refer to geek credentials above) but heres my humble attempt to set the stage. Stark and Banner have obtained Lokis scepter and combined with their genius, Ironmans sidekick Jarvis and a whole bunch of artificial intelligence run amok, Ultron emerges and preys on his creators by exploiting their inner thoughts and weaknesses. If destroying mankind is necessary for peace, well, let it be so. (OK, I stole that line from Capt. Picard.)

Well, lets just say our heroes have no intention of going gentle into that good night. Combining might, brain power and toys, the Avengers fight for humankind with some unexpected help when its needed most.

All the star power is back, with a few notable exceptions, including Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper. But the heavyweight names that remain are a whos who in Hollywood, and all of these usual suspects turn in great performances. Some highlights include Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo handling a budding romance between Black Widow and the Hulk with charm and delicacy. I was especially pleased to see Paul Bettanys talents expanded in this film. He underscores how the perfect voice and tone can create a perfectly wonderful character out of virtually nothing.

The magic of the Avengers is the ability to not only deliver intense action and great special effects, its the characters you can't help but care about with the perfect dash of humor, often at most unexpected moments.

Avengers: Age of Ultron gets 3 stars and its rated PG-13