Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is Awesome!

Don Cheadle [left] is James Rhodes/War Machine and Anthony Mackie [right] is Sam Wilson/The Falcon in Marvel's The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Don Cheadle [left] is James Rhodes/War Machine and Anthony Mackie [right] is Sam Wilson/The Falcon 
in Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Seldom does a sequel exceed its predecessor the way that this new film by Marvel and Joss Whedon and company does. Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, the newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, number eleven for those of you keeping track, ties in so many disparate threads and leaves you breathless, both from all the non-stop action and drama, as well as for the next two installments.

First of all, and this is important… watch this week’s episode of the television show Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s entitled “The Dirty Half-Dozen” and can readily be found online at the abc.com website, for free. You should have been watching all season, but just in case you have not, this episode pulls together what you would really want to know about the opening sequence of the film, and why it matters.

Now, in case you don’t have time to, or just don’t care to, watch the episode, that’s fine. It won’t stop the movie from making $200 million more dollars at the box office this weekend, because it’s just that darn good! I say $200 million MORE this weekend, technically its North American opening weekend, because it’s already made that much in wide release around the world, where it is setting – strike that, it is Hulk-smashing — international box office records. According to Variety, “Last weekend, the film racked up a massive $201 million from across 44 territories.”

When you go see the film, and you will, prepare to be spellbound for two and a half hours. Not because Wanda [the newest Avenger — the Scarlet Witch] casts one of her spells on you, but because Joss Whedon’s third major film is astonishing. It does all the things we love about a Joss Whedon joint, and does them extraordinarily well. It takes the Avengers characters we met last time out — Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Thor, Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff, and then introduces a villain they have to come together, with help, to defeat in order to save the world.

Marvel has figured out how to weave a tale from the foundations in comic books and superhero lore into gripping human stories about threats to humanity and how ordinary and extraordinary people — and non-people — act and react within the crisis. Last time the villains were from Asgard and outer space; this time around the big bad is basically a rogue artificial intelligence designed to save the world, but hell –bent on destroying it. Both times there are family issues that set in motion the conflicts that drive the multiple story lines.

I said that you would be left breathless for the next two installments. Marvel has announced that much like the current practice in fantasy franchises has become standard operating procedure, ala Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, the sequel to Age of Ultron will come in two parts, to be released in 2018 and 2019: The Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 [May 4, 2018] and The Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2 [May 3, 2019]. Joss wrote and directed Ultron, but will not be directing the sequels, as Anthony and Joe Russo will direct scripts by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.