Avengers: Age of Ultron brings the heroes down to earth

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      Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jeremy Renner. Rated PG.

      In the expanding serial that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, last year’s Winter Soldier was about making superheroes politically relevant, while Guardians of the Galaxy was about making the formula funnier and harder to predict. By contrast, Age of Ultron feels like a retrenchment, an episode that focuses on detail more than scope or shape. If you don’t already love costumed adventurers, this outing won’t give you any fresh incentive, but fans will learn more about their heroes.

      In particular, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) gets an overdue spotlight from writer-director Joss Whedon, who highlights his relative normalcy. His entirely human outlook, and exhaustion, provide an emotional and literal home for the Avengers.

      If Hawkeye needs rest, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) seeks peace, a grander notion that leads him to create Ultron, a self-aware robotic sentry.

      It’s taken Marvel several years to come around to seeing that Tony Stark’s godlike achievement is not Iron Man but JARVIS (voice of Paul Bettany), a genuine thinking computer. Ultron, Stark’s second crack at artificial life, is clearly an independent being (and, as played by James Spader, touchingly wry) and obviously well armed, but he’s sadly homicidal and quickly in league with new enemies capable of tearing the Avengers apart mentally and physically.

      In other words, just when things had been cleaned up, Stark created an overwhelming amount of extra work for the team. That’s a defensible dramatic
      choice that kicks off the action while nicely foreshadowing next year’s Captain America: Civil War, but it does cast something of a bummer vibe over this movie despite Whedon’s throwaway funnies. I understand that Marvel wasn’t going to give us two hours of the superfriends eating shawarmas, but that’s sort of what I wanted.