Credit: Marvel

Do you already have your tickets for Avengers: Age of Ultron?

No? Then good luck seeing a screening of the Avengers sequel this weekend, which is a near lock to break the first-frame box-office record established by its predecessor in 2012. Director Joss Whedon and Marvel looked back at the original Avengers—which grossed $623.4 million in North America—and decided what they did wrong was not have enough superhero characters and spectacular action sequences. In Ultron, the core unit reunites to save the planet from Ultron, a deranged artificial-intelligence devised by Tony Stark who sounds like James Spader—but they also rub elbows with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the Vision (Paul Bettany) and a squadron of supporting players from the other Marvel movies.

We also get plenty of Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who stole the first Avengers movie despite flunking in two previous standalone movies. Not only does Hulk get to tear up urban landscapes again, but he and his scientist alter ego have to negotiate with their romantic feelings for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

But a Marvel movie—any superhero movie, really—is only as good as its villain. And Spader certainly sounds formidable. “With his smarmy metallic croak, Spader is perfectly cast as the voice of Ultron,” says Chris Nashawaty, who gave the film a B- grade. “So much so that it’s surprising it’s taken this long for someone to tap into the actor’s gift for threateningly bitchy condescension in one of these things. While the gang hopscotches across the globe finding new excuses to face off with Ultron, Whedon does his best to occasionally slow the action down and give us the sort of character moments the film could have used more of.”

To read more of Nashawaty’s review and a sampling of other critics from across the country, click below:

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

“There are more than a dozen main characters (including a few new ones) all jockeying for screen time when half that number would have already been pushing it. Even the film’s rimshot-ready one-liners have the overkill desperation of a stand-up scared of bombing. Either through his own ambition or the mandate of his corporate overlords, writer-director Joss Whedon simply has too many balls to keep in the air for one movie—even a two-and-a-half-hour one—and you can feel his exhaustion.”

Wesley Morris (Grantland)

“The upgrade feels like as much the result of a mandate for ‘more’ as everything else in this movie—more plot, more action, more banter, more villains, more everything. When Smulders asks the men where Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, and Hayley Atwell are, you have to laugh. Has she seen the poster? Where would you put them? This is a movie ravenously greedy enough to be mistaken for a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.”

Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)

“Instead of trying to elevate his source material or leaven it with importance, the way Christopher Nolan did with the Dark Knight pictures, Whedon embraces the comics’ pulpy, colorful, playful roots, and he doesn’t try to convert the uninitiated … Whedon knows this is all nonsense, but it can be great fun, too. Age of Ultron is all rush and sensation with little substance. But what a feeling.”

“If anything, Whedon’s writing is almost too sharp. The characters are so finely drawn and verbally quick (they name-check Banksy and Eugene O’Neill) that they seem to belong to a different universe than the cartoonish one they find themselves in.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle) ▼

“Adapted from the Marvel comics, the film was written and directed by Joss Whedon, a human being with wit, feeling and an appreciation of art. Here and there, he tries to let us know this, like a prisoner sneaking out a coded message: A wisecrack here, an unexpected cultural reference there, a few bars of Maria Callas singing “Casta Diva” over the soundtrack. But amid the massiveness and din, these little smothered attempts are at best pathetic, an attempt to trick the devil while inside the devil’s pocket.”

David Edelstein (New York)

“The scenes that anchor Age of Ultron are the loosest: demigods drinking, goofing on one another, competing to pick up Thor’s hammer as if it were Excalibur. Whedon does everything well except, alas, action. He gets by (the Marvel house style is bombardment), but still, nothing he and his FX designers do has the graphic punch of Sam Raimi or Tim Burton at their (increasingly rare) best, or Brad Bird.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times) ▲

“At times, Avengers: Age of Ultron gets so dense with the plot machinations, I was reaching for the Advil to stop the pounding in my head. Just as often, I sat back, adjusted the 3-D glasses and enjoyed the cutting-edge special effects, the elaborate battle sequences and the Oceans 11-type banter among Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow and company. By the house of Odin, who knew the Mighty Thor was so funny?”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)

“Whedon stages the literally earth-shattering mayhem with impressive commitment, but the inevitable computer-generated apocalypse has begun to look tiresomely standard-issue by now. No one will leave Age of Ultron breathlessly analyzing how the filmmakers staged a disastrous earthquake in a fictional Eastern European country, any more than they’ll be talking about redundant set pieces involving robot armies and last-ditch rescues.”

Manohla Dargis (New York Times)

“A lot of effort has been expended so that the Hulk can make like a big baby with tantrum issues, tossing cars and whatnot around like toys, including in a disastrously protracted street brawl that stops the movie dead. Once the character reverts to ordinary form as Bruce Banner, though, Mr. Ruffalo lifts his every scene, as does Ms. Johansson, even if she doesn’t have much to do but strut in her form-fitting costume and exchange meaningful looks with a romantic foil.”

Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)

“Ultron [is] one of the most memorable of Marvel movie villains … Beautifully voiced and brought to life by Spader in a motion capture suit, Ultron is eccentric enough to do things like singing ‘there are no strings on me’ when he initially breaks free of Stark’s control. Ultron is certainly a memorable creation, which is not always what you can say about the film that brought him to life.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)

Avengers: Age of Ultron spins its wheels—entertainingly, but still—until about two-thirds of the way in, when Paul Bettany turns up as a Player Not to Be Named in This Review. An air of Zen calm enters the proceedings, as well as a bit of the movie magic that has been missing. As designed and played, Bettany’s character is visually beautiful, eerily contained, the latest in a line of otherworldly cinematic wunderkind that stretches all the way back to Metropolis in 1927.”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 66

Rotten Tomatoes: 75 percent

Rated: PG-13

Length: 141 minutes

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner

Directed by Joss Whedon

Distributor: Disney

Credit: Marvel
Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Movie
  • 150 minutes