In the summer off 2012, legions of true believers and newcomers alike in Fresno and all of the world assembled at their local movie theaters to witness cinema history. The superhero film genre had grown to exponential heights since the explosion of comic book adaptations throughout the 2000s, but with the founding of Marvel Studios and the previous successes of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Iron Man 2 in 2010, and Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, the stage was set for Marvel to final realize the secret dream of fans the world over, an epic crossover film of their favorite heroes from separate film franchises came together to form one of the greatest superhero groups of all time, The Avengers. Directed by Joss Whedon, the film was a unprecedented feat as it succeeded in paying off four years and five films worth of buildup, balanced screen time fairly among six colorful characters, and, ultimately, set a new standard for the superhero film genre that the competition are all struggling to live up to today. This examiner absolutely loved every frame of the film when it came out, and three years later I can still pop it in anytime and always enjoy it.
In the wake of The Avengers‘ release, the now fully-successful Marvel Studios quickly shelved out their next slate of films labeled “Phase II” of the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU as it is sometimes abbreviated. Iron Man 3 was an exciting and fun film as a great way to kick start Phase II, even if some of the humor could have been dialed back a little bit and saying noting about a controversial plot twist. But the exploration the film offered of Tony Stark’s character and the high quality of the action sequences made it a worthy ending to the Iron Man trilogy. Thor: The Dark World was an entertaining ride from start to finish that served to furthers the MCU into the cosmic scale with it’s terrific visuals, universe building, great action set pieces, and some worthwhile performances here and there, particularly with yet another scene-stealing performance by Tom Hiddleston as Loki. But the film was sadly bogged down by more misguided moments of humor, an imperfect romantic plot line, several underutilized characters, and most of all by a poorly crafted villain. But it the God of Thunder’s latest solo adventure was the low point of Phase II, then Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the polar opposite. The film was an exciting, thought-provoking, surprisingly topical and character driven political thriller suitably adapted into the superhero genre to further prove the range of potential of the genre, not unlike The Dark Knight did in 2008. The film did more to advance the MCU than any of the previous individual installments have done before and for fans of this franchise, it was, quite simply, a game changer after which nothing was going to be the same. But then Marvel, showcasing their admirable commitment to taking risks, followed their game changing political thriller with the most unlikely of properties…a intergalactic action-comedy starring a talking tree and raccoon. Guardians of the Galaxy was a very fun, thrill ride through space with a team of likable and colorful characters that became one of the most unique superhero teams out there and the surprise hit of the summer; in fact, in may have been the biggest film of 2014 period. It was far from a perfect film, but it nevertheless ranks up there with Marvel’s best, proving that sometimes it pays to follow your instincts and take a risk from time to time.
During the three years that Phase II played out, fans also got to see their favorite cinematic universe play out of television. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered to some lackluster review in it’s first season, but it got a major boost in quality after the events of Winter Soldier and the quality has improved in it’s second season. Marvel’s Agent Carter offered a different flavor for the time it was on the air and broadened the range and appeal of the MCU even further. Recently, the franchise has also begun prepping a series of four show that will air exclusively on Netflix, the first of which, Marvel’s Daredevil, was made of excellent quality and premiered to rave reviews.
But now, finally, after all of the detours, buildup and three years of anticipation, the much anticipated, long-awaited sequel to one of the biggest superhero films ever made has finally arrived.
Avengers: Age of Ultron faces an uphill battle as it not only has to live up to the standards of the first film, but it also has to keep the MCU franchise going and serve as a satisfying capper as the second-to-last film of Phase II (don’t forget, we do still have Ant-Man coming up this year). If Internet chatter is any indication, then this is perhaps the second most anticipated film of the entire year after The Force Awakens. But does Joss Whedon and his team live up to the challenge? Lets find out.
In the wake of the Chitauri’s invasion of New York and the recent collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D., Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers–Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (played by Chris Evans), Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.), Thor Odinson (played by Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johannson), and Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye (played by Jeremy Renner)–have assembled once again to pick up the slack and defend the world while Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson) has faked his death to go underground and investigate the overseas operations of the terrorist organization Hydra. On their latest mission, in the Eastern European country of Sokovia, the Avengers raid a Hydra outpost led by one of it’s greatest leaders Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (played by Thomas Kretschmann), who has been experimenting on humans using the alien scepter previously wielded by Loki. While on this mission they encounter two of Strucker’s experiments–twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, respectively), the brother having been given superhuman speed and the sister the ability to manipulate minds and throw energy blasts. The twins prove a formidable threat, especially Wanda, but the team is eventually able to apprehend Strucker and retrieves Loki’s scepter.
While investigating the scepter, Stark and Banner discover an artificial intelligence existing within it’s gem, and they secretly use it to complete Stark’s new vision for a global defense program, which he calls “Ultron” (played by James Spader). The plan ultimately proves successful, but when Ultron activates he unexpectedly turns out to be sentient and comes into conflict with the mission which Stark designed him for, instead coming to believe that saving the Earth means that must eradicate humanity altogether. Ultron destroys Stark’s A.I. computer J.A.R.V.I.S. (played by Paul Betanny) attacks the Avengers during a victory party at their headquarters, escaping with the scepter, and later builds himself an enhanced body from Strucker’s former resources, recruiting the twins into his service at the same time as they too have reason to seek revenge on Stark.
Tensions arise within the team as they blame Stark’s ambition and vision for going AWOL and turning into a global threat. But the Avengers must work together to track Ultron down and stop him. But that proves difficult as Wanda uses her powers to get into many of the Avengers’ heads, showing them images of their dark pasts or horrific visions of what could awaits them in the future. She also messes with Banner’s mind, causing him to become the Hulk and go on a rampage in the middle of a African city. Can the Avengers overcome their own faults and rally together to save the world once again? Or does this new “Age of Ultron” mean the end of humanity as we know it?
Let’s get something out of the way before we dive into this thing. The first Avengers film had an advantage to it that can be thanked for a lot of it’s success, a novelty factor. As I’ve said, it was the first time Hollywood had ever dared attempt a superhero crossover extravaganza of this scale, paying off several solo films worth of buildup, and if any one of those solo films had failed, then all of their planning would have been for nothing and we would have never even made it to The Avengers. The fact that the whole worked and that it worked so excellently is an amazing accomplishment. But with the sequel that novelty is inherently gone. We’ve already seen all of these characters appear on screen together so we cannot be wowed simply by seeing it again. So, yes, Age of Ultron does have to work that much harder to impress. And, while the question of whether it actually surpasses the first film is debatable, it does work hard to impress and it very much succeeds.
Everything that you loved from the first film and loved from that film is back again and in a lot of places is amped up even more. Remember that lengthy pan shot in the first film where we see all of the Avengers fighting off aliens as they pan across the entire city? That shot is the way this movie opens up, with each of these six characters doing their thing against Hydra. But instead of Whedon blowing it out far too early, we instead get a final battle that arguably rivals the first film, including one glorious shot of the Avengers all fighting together in a circle.
The visual effects in this film are even bigger than anything I have seen in any other MCU film. We have seen alien invaders ransack New York, fleets of Iron Man armors flying around at once, Norse Gods and Dark Elves being teleported to different dimensions like a game of Portal, Helicarriers falling from the sky and crashing into the Potomic, and even a full-blown sci-fi space battle in Marvel’s most recent film, and even by those standards, this film has the most visuals effects shots (reportedly 3,000 of them) than in any of the previous films. There was even the use of a motion capture system known as Muse to further help combine different takes into a single scene, Whedon hired a master drone flyer and a remote car racer to capture camera angles that we’ve not seen before. Admittedly, the first sequence of the Avengers fight Strucker’s forces look rather rough, especially in the non 3-D format, but the effects improve significantly from there. Ultron’s face was even redesigned from it’s classic static, open mouthed look from the comics to fully take advantage of James Spader’s performance. I’ll go ahead and say right now that the Hulk vs Hulkbuster scene (or V.E.R.O.N.I.C.A. as the movie calls it) that we all got a glimpse of in the trailers really does deliver on what we have all been hoping and waiting patiently for ever since the first Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk came out in 2008.
Whedon’s signature sense of humor, a staple of the MCU franchise and especially notable in the first Avengers film, returns this time as well, even if it is not quite as excessive and omni-present as last time. The jokes are recognizably still in Whedon’s classic style and flare, but like the first film, all of that levity did not turn the film into a self parody like, say, the Tim Story Fantastic Four films are often viewed as being. There were high stakes last time and this time the stakes feel even higher and more introspective.
There is a ominous core to this entire film, starting from the moment Scarlet Witch first gets into Tony Stark’s head. We get a visual look at the inner fear that was giving Stark PTSD in Iron Man 3, and that is the fear the compels him to make the decisions he does that result in the creation of our villain. We also get a taste that maybe the Avengers aren’t as world-renowned and beloved by the entire world as we thought in an early scene where Stark’s Iron Legion tries to evacuate the citizens of Sokovia for their own safety, and the citizens boo them instead. The way that Ultron represents Stark at his worst, his greatest failure made incarnate, complete with much of Stark’s own persona no less, causes a huge rift in the team that they spend a great deal of time having to fix. Even the color pallet, with or without the 3-D glasses, feels more subdued and less popping than last time, not to Man of Steel levels by any means, but there is still a clear difference.
Also back for this installment is Whedon’s talent for balancing multiple characters. In this case, not only is the film tasked with paying off all the development that the original six Avengers have received in the three films that have come out since the original (Guardians of the Galaxy, sadly, has nearly nothing to do with Age of Ultron), but it also needs to properly introduce and give wight to three new avengers that are introduced in this film. A lot of this is accomplished by the hallucinations that Scarlet Witch shows our characters within the story; each of the original six (except for Hawkeye, who I will elaborate on in minute) are shown a vision either of their worst fear, haunting visions of the past, or even some being shown visions of what might come in the future. Tony sees his Avengers teammates laying defeated, dying, as the Chitauri from the first film launch another full-scale invasion of Earth, which sets off his plans to retire the team in favor of a global artificial intelligence system that, once awakened, instead become corrupt and tuns into Ultron. Captain America’s mind is taken back in time to the post-WWII celebration that he would have been a part of had he not gotten frozen in ice, complete with a bittersweet but tragic cameo by a familiar face. We are also, finally, given an actual glimpse of the Red Room program that created Black Widow, building upon what we got to see of it in Agent Carter and, while still minimal, it gives us a good taste of the kind of horrors they put her through to turn Natasha into an ultimate weapon. With Banner we do not see whatever Scarlet Witch shows him, but instead the chaos that having the Hulk in such a state of madness causes, leading into that big Hulkbuster fight scene.
Hawkeye is the only one of the classic six that does not undergo the mental manipulation, as a way to make up for being used as Loki’s mind controlled puppet for the majority of the first film, there is a even a joke making direct reference to this fact. Hawkeye is actually far more fleshed out this time around since he has been the least established Avenger before now. We get a look into his private life, one that actually explains why the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been playing in direct defiance of his relationship wit Bobbi Morse from the comic books. It was unexpected that the sequel seems to be making him a heart of the team in the wake of all of this turmoil, but it definitely makes him more important and more likable than he was already.
Of all of the visions had by the characters, the most unique of them is perhaps Thor’s vision. The reason for this is because while the their fears that are often linked their past, Thor is, for whatever reason, given a foreboding vision of something terrible in store for his how world of Asgard. This sends Thor off on a subplot to try to make more sense of what he is seeing, which IGN protested in their advance review, calling this the vision plot line that chewed up the most screen time yet didn’t really matter much to this film’s plot. After seeing it, I cannot say that they are wrong about that, but I did not mind it as badly and it does not consume as many minutes of time as their review suggests. It does, however get into a big aspect of the film that will thrill certain Marvel fans and annoy others.
By this point the continuity of the MCU has become very important and very dense, and as fans we all expect to see as much foreshadowing of what to expect in the future as much as paying off what has come in the past. To that end, Age of Ultron is filled with Easter Eggs and set up for fans to chew up and which we are expected to take note of. Thor’s vision is obviously here as set up both for Thor: Ragnorok and the the two-part Avengers: Infinity War, films that we will not be seeing until years later in Phase III. We even get an appearance by Andy Serkis as villain Ulysses Klaue, a character who will pay off in a much bigger role in the Black Panther film. There is also furthering of the already established tension between Cap and Stark, which will finally come to a head in Captain America: Civil War.
In speaking of furthering previously established tension, one of the most surprising aspects of the film is that the dynamic between Black Widow and Banner seen in the first film has, apparently, blossomed into a full-blown sort of romance between them in this film. Whedon is not unwise to keep going with something that resonated and worked of some level last time around, but I can see IGN’s concern that is doesn’t feel as earned and natural as it ought to. I get that Whedon sees both characters as monsters in their own ways–one literal, the other for her past sins–so they definitely have reason for a bond, but recall way back in The Incredible Hulk they had already established Banner’s relationship with his actual comic book love interest Betty Ross, played by Liv Tyler in that film. Now, it is being treated as though Betty, or much of anything from that film, never existed. I think that’s a shame, but even so I am intrigued by this tragic romance enough to want to see where it goes in the future, if it can go anywhere.
By the way, in one of Bruce and Natasha’s scenes, she reveals that the Red Room program sterilized her so she can never have children. The irony of her saying that line when Johannson did this film while pregnant is not lost on this examiner and I have little doubt that Whedon did that intentionally, or if it was conceived of before hand than he was well aware of the irony of it.
One character that is sadly underutilized this time in Nick Fury. after the pivotal role he played both in the first film and in The Winter Soldier, this was very much a return to pre-Avengers Nick Fury, where he basically just shows up for a cameo to deliver key exposition and then he leaves. Granted, yes, he does pay off in a nice way by the end, but there are several questions left open about him after the events of The Winter Soldier that Age of Ultron simply doesn’t answer.
But what about the new characters? Aaron Taylor-Johnson is introduced as Quicksilver and one of the questions that people inevitably want to know is whether his version of the character lives up to his Kick-Ass costar Evan Peters’s version from X-Men: Days of Future Past? Well…no, sadly it doesn’t, and given the way his story is resolved at the end, I suspect that Marvel was aware that Fox had stolen their thunder on that one. Nevertheless, his Quicksilver is still enjoyable and stands apart for his more brooding mannerisms and a different speed effect.
More impressive is his Godzilla costar Elizabeth Olsen’s portrayal of Scarlet Witch, which only allows her to express so much range for much of the film’s run, but which she is free to do much more with as it nears the end. She comes across as a formidable threat and a powerful force, falling in line with Whedon’s gift for crating powerful female characters. Her powers are also impressively visualized given their sometimes vague and confusing nature in the comics. Like Johnson, she too has to put on a artificial European accent that may be cartoony to some people, but it really isn’t that intrusive, and help set this adaptation of the twins apart from their the X-Men roots that Marvel is prohibited from even touching upon in their movies.
And then there is the Vision, a character introduced fairly late into the film despite plenty of subtle set up. Paul Betanny, after already providing the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. since the MCU first began, is finally aloud to appear in the flesh, so to speak, as this iconic android superhero, and no, the double-up casting of him is no coincidence. He doesn’t get much time to endear himself to us, but he commands the viewers attention the instead he is on screen, making us wish we could have seen him earlier and look forward to seeing where his character will go in future films, which is a very good thing. The Vision is on track to turn into something special within the MCU, and this examiner is very pleased with that.
Alright, now that we’ve finally gone over all of our heroes, lets explore our titular villain. Ultron has always been one of the most classic and quintessential Avengers villains since the early days of the comics, and James Spader brings the character to life in a way that completely sells that. When we think of evil robot antagonists, we instantly assume that they are going to be emotionless beings driven totally by logic and not express any trace of emotion. However Ultron, despite the resentment he has for Tony Stark, is very mush Stark’s character as a robotic doppelganger and skewed toward evil. His sarcastic, quippy and narcissistic, yet he also has a twisted ideology to go along with it. He sees the mission of maintaining peace that Stark programmed him for as impossible so long as human nature constantly seeks to cause war and violence, hence his turn to human extinction and ultimately a robot apocalypse. To reference IGN yet again, he is presented more as Stark’s own version of Frankenstein’s monster than the twisted Pinocchio to Stark’s Geppetto, despite the eerie use of that classic Disney song. Ultron is a fairly decent combination of and middle round to both Loki’s charm and charisma and the Winter Soldier’s physical intimidation.
Before I get off the subject of the robot apocalypse, some people have complained that the climax of this film feel too similar to the first film, both basically being the same same for additions of new heroes, changing the location of the battle, and replacing an army of aliens with a army of robots. This may be true, but the Avengers action is so big and satisfying to this examiner regardless that I cannot say I mind it. In fact, the entire climax, as well as the Hulk vs Hulkbuster fight, feels like a direct slap in the face to DC and Warner Brothers for the reception of the climax of Man of Steel, taking every opportunity it can to show the Avengers rescuing and avoiding every single civilian they can during all of the chaos, even at the expense of their own lives, whereas Superman doesn’t come across as being nearly as considerate, arguably causing just as much reckless destruction as Zod does, in his own film which took the collateral damage factor to truly excessive heights.
Sadly, the news cannot all be glowing this time around. I feel like there are more positives to enjoy in this film than negatives, but the clunkiness of the storytelling, perhaps an inevitability when working on a project of this magnitude, just feels more visibly apparently this time. I’ve already talked about ll the time spent setting up future films, but in addition to that there are other issues as well. For one thing, Ultron makes his turn from Stark’s intended A.I. peacekeeping force into a world-conquering villain almost immediately after he’s activated. Stark appearing in the Iron Man armor at all may also confuse viewers who remember the ending of Iron Man 3, but that one can at lest be excused with clever introspective analysis. Stark in general make a lot of seemingly ludicrous decisions in this film, both with his idea to create Ultron in the first place and then to try it again in another form much later on, which I can’t help but wonder whether it is meant to be building him up for a more antagonistic role in Civil War. Also due to Johansson’s pregnancy, Black Widow’s action feels more limited this time and more reliant on stunt doubles. At one point she is even taken captive by Ultron and needs the others to rescue her! Seriously?! Given Whedon’s well-known talent for creating strong female heroines, this is a disappointment. Other details are not wholly explained wither, like the exact nature of the Vision’s creation and what the Cradle is meant for, which may take repeated viewings to fully comprehend. Ultron’s entire philosophy could have used more fleshing out. He sees humanity as imperfect so he seeks to wipe them out to complete his mission of creating peace; and yet he also wants to evolve into something that is a perfect hybrid of technology and living tissue. Huh? Also, there is an irony to Ultron making a joke about resisting the cliché of revealing his master plan to the heroes…only for him to do exactly that later on.
I’m not being as harsh about this as a lot of other reviewers have been. It has already been revealed by Whedon himself that he came into conflict with Marvel over some of the pacing and content and that his initial cut of this film was significantly longer than the already 141 minute version that got released. There has already been talks about the possibility of a director’s cut version coming out on Blu-ray and DVD, similar to the upcoming “Rogue Cut” of X-Men: Days of Future Past. I certainly hope that Marvel agrees to release that, because there are clearly a lot of details that could be filled in with all that extra footage. Either way, the sense of studio interference is obviously at work here, and it doesn’t surprise me that a personality like Whedon has been so vocal against Marvel lately or that he won’t be returning for the two-part Avengers: Infinity War.
As with any film, Age of Ultron lives and breathes on it’s performances, which in this case amounts to a massive ensemble cast. Robert Downey Jr. is is top form once again as Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, this time, as previously mentioned, adding a sort of Dr. Frankenstein feeling to the character that spawns out of the obsessive PTSD-afflicted approach we saw last time. Downey’s is the character whom spearheads all of the ensuing events and he once again does not disappoint. Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor Odinson, playing the role much like he has in the past, which works fine, the change being his more grounded and friendly air as he spends time with his human friends and, later, an arc of worldly concern as he sees visions of the future. Mark Ruffalo is given a lot more emotional range to play as Bruce Banner a.k.a. the Hulk, getting go even deeper into the kind of tortured, emotionally scarred and isolated side of Banner that Edward Norton got to explore in the 2008 film (well, the original version of it at least). His relationship with Romanoff brings these levels out and makes us relate to him eve more than we already did, while likewise making us appreciate his moments of levity even more. Chris Evans also offers more of the same as Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, and like with Hemsworth it serves him just fine. Although, this performance gives us a further taste of the more stand offish side of Cap in his scenes with Downey, as well as brings his man out of time arc to a possible, if maybe unhealthy close by the end that will surely be explored further in Civil War. Scarlett Johannson, along with Ruffalo, gets to explore more emotional levels as Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, going deeper into her past than we’ve been aloud to before and bringing out her inner feminine and emotional side, though, with Whedon’s direction, never to the determent of her established character as is so often a problem when writing female protagonists. Jeremy Renner is given especially more to do this time as Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, being aloud to play with more levels and given greater depth than he has ever been aloud before. He emerges as an unexpected heart and soul of the team this time and that was wonderful to see this go around. Don Cheadle returns for a supporting role as Col. James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine, but while it great to see him back and hanging out with the Avengers this time around, he role here is essentially a prominent cameo, although the ending does set him up for bigger use in the future. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is introduced as Pietro Maximoff, a.k.a. Quicksilver, and as previously said, while he is ultimately not able to escape the shadow of Evan Peters’s performance, he still finds a way to do his own thing with the role and make it something worth watching. Elizabeth Olsen is doing the best she can as Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, coming across as a formidable threat as well as a woman with a tortured past and with the potential to turn into something horrific if she were ever to loose control. By the climax of the film she is aloud to flex some real acting muscles and the groundwork is laid for her to become a real force to be reckoned with next time. Paul Betanny both reprises his role as the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. and makes his flesh and blood debut as the Vision, commanding the viewers attention even with his limited screen time and setting up some promise for growth in the future. Cobie Smulders reprises her role as Maria Hill, serving as a key supporting character that provides the team with a lot of basic assistance, pretty much as their secretary, but even she gets to help out in the final battle at the end. Anthony Mackie reprises his role as Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon, but like Cheadle, he too is pretty much a prominent cameo, though, like some of his costars, he is set up for some very promising growth in later films. Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, and Stellen Skarsgård reprise their roles as Peggy Carter, Heimdall and Erik Selvig, respectively, but they are only here for welcome cameo appearances. James Spader, however, is delightfully cruel, twisted and charismatic as Ultron, presenting a villain that can provide a true challenge to the Avengers and who will surely go down as one of the top villains of the MCU. Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury in a, sadly, limited role, but he is always a welcome presence that instantly commands attention just by sheer force of his presence as an actor. Other performances include Thomas Kretschmann as Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, Henry Goodman as Dr. List, Linda Cardellini as Laura Barton, Claudia Kim as Helen Cho, Andy Serkis portrays Ulysses Klaue, Julie Delpy as Madame B., Kerry Condon as the voice of F.R.I.D.A.Y., and Josh Brolin as Thanos.
Oh yeah, and before I wrap this up, a little forward advisement: despite what has become a Marvel Studios tradition, there is only a brief mid credits scene at the end of this film and nothing waiting for you at the end of the credits. Whedon and company revealed that in advance and there were being honest. That Spider-Man scene that got leaked weeks ago, that’s totally fake!
Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn’t have the same groundbreaking novelty factor that the first film had, nor could it ever have, and some of the action might get exhausting after awhile. Furthermore, the storytelling feels more clunky and the fingerprints of studio interference are more more apparent this time around. But despite all of that it is easily a satisfying and worthy follow up to one of the greatest superhero films ever made, which is an impressive feat. It goes deeper and is more character introspective than the comparatively more light and comedic result of last time, and this shows that things are getting heavier as we bring Phase II to a close (save for Ant-Man that is) and progress onward into Phase III. This examiner enjoyed it just as he knew he would, and he’s giving it a high four stars.