Editor’s note: this review originally ran at Brother Decker’s website, www.moviedad.com. Reprinted here with permission.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” face off with Ultron, a self-aware artificial intelligence program that has decided to rid the Earth of corruption by destroying humanity.

IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: B+)  Avengers: Age of Ultron (buy tickets here) may not be a superior sequel, but it is a worthy one. It trades the bubblegum tone of the original for something a bit edgier, gaining some emotional heft in the process. Not to worry, it’s still loads of fun and is lightened considerably by some great one-liners, but I’d not recommend it for the littlest viewers.

Although the novelty of seeing all these heroes together has largely worn off, it’s given way to something equally satisfying: genuine camaraderie and new avenues for character development. Returning cast members bring the goods as expected (with Jeremy Renner’s role beefed up considerably). Cameos by supporting players hit the crowd-pleasing button squarely.

James Spader’s Ultron is the best kind of villain: scary, funny, rational, and twistedly endearing. Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as sibling “experiments” Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver, struggle out of the gate (their accents were shaky to me), but their characters have a gratifying payoff. A character introduced in the third act may well become a new fan favorite.

Unfortunately, the film has too much going on for its own good. It is densely-packed with character arcs and plot-lines, any of which could fill their own movie, and some interesting things feel rushed and underdeveloped. Still, writer-director Joss Whedon is a master at cinematic juggling, and if this isn’t his best work in that regard, it’s still a testament to his screenwriting (and the caliber of his actors) that it works as well as it does, and that the audience cares as much as they do. Location shooting throughout Europe gives the film a unique feel. Bonus points for a rare superhero movie portrayal of a happy family. Oh, and the action rocks.


CONTENT OVERVIEWAvengers: Age of Ultron is rated PG-13. There is a considerable amount of action violence and mayhem, with a bit more blood than the first film. A woman with telekinetic powers causes others to have disturbing visions (of their violent pasts, of their friend’s deaths, etc.). There are a few mild and moderate profanities. There’s a few humorous innuendos and flirtatious comments that will likely go over kids’ heads.

MESSAGES TO DISCUSS – The human race is capable of atrocity and horror; it may therefore seem that humanity deserves to be destroyed, but people are also capable of compassion and beauty, which makes them worth saving (see Mosiah 9:1). No matter what you’ve done in your past, you can be a hero by doing the right thing now and by using your gifts to help other people (see Ezekiel 18:21-22).

Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist available for face-to-face and online webcam sessions. He’s also a film critic for KJZZ-TV Mormons at the Megaplex, and Movie Dad. His book, 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families, is available in paperback and Kindle.