Joss Whedon returns to write and direct another massive Marvel spectacle with "Avengers: Age of Ultron," the sequel to "The Avengers," the third highest-grossing movie of all time. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Dr. Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk), Black Widow, and Hawkeye are back together again after their showdown with Loki in New York City, and this time they face an even bigger, globally minded villain: Ultron -- and two freaky, fiery, fast twins. The guys (and Natasha) love their witty banter and competitive spirit, but they're not just sitting around eating shawarma and telling jokes. They're busy trying to keep Ultron from causing an extinction-level catastrophe.
Here are five issues to keep in mind before heading off to see the latest installment in the "Avengers" franchise.
1. What's your kid's Marvel IQ?
Has your kid seen the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, like the first "Avengers," "Iron Man," "Thor," "Captain America," and their sequels? Do they know the basic origin stories of each of the Avengers and how they're connected to S.H.I.E.L.D. and characters like the Black Widow and Hawkeye? If the answer is no, you may want to watch those movies at home first and then head out to see the superheroes reunite in "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
2. How does your kid handle violence in movies?
All superhero movies contain elements of danger and violence; otherwise there'd be no reason for the superheroes to exist in the first place. And the violence in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is definitely no exception: there is macro violence that kills scores of people (explosions, train derailments, and a mass catastrophe that could potentially wipe out an entire city with worldwide consequences), and up close and personal violence that includes secondary characters being killed and our beloved Avengers bruised, battered, and bloody.
3. Do you worry about sex/language?
There's no need to worry about sex or language in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." While two Avengers flirt and eventually kiss, and a married couple shares a few hello and goodbye embraces, there's little romance, but most of "the ladies" (Jane, Pepper) are absent. Eyecandy, yes -- the broad-shouldered Avengers walk around shirtless and Black Widow wears a cleavage-baring costume -- but no sex. As for language, there's the occasional "sh-t," "ass," or "damn," but with straight-edge Captain America admonishing Tony for his "language," this is one of the cleanest PG-13 scripts around.
4. Who will enjoy the movie most?
Clearly anyone -- child or adult -- who is a fan of Marvel-based movies is the prime audience, and if you know and love the comics, even better. In fact, prepare to wear (or see) plenty of Avengers T-shirts or full-on costumes if you're going opening night. While I saw kids as young as 3 or 4 at the movie's press screening, it's not meant for kids younger than tweens; not only is it a loud and violent movie, but it's two-and-a-half hours long!
5. What are critics saying about "Avengers: Age of Ultron"?
Critics have generally enjoyed or even loved the movie, but the sequel isn't generating the sort of unanimously positive response that the first "Avengers" received. Richard Roeper raved "'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is a sometimes daffy, occasionally baffling, surprisingly touching and even romantic adventure with one kinetic thrill after another. It earns a place of high ranking in the Marvel Universe," whereas A.A. Dowd of "The A.V. Club" had a few issues: "There's so much ground to cover here -- so many introductions to make, so much story to churn through, so many gargantuan set pieces to mount -- that the movie never really finds room to breathe." "The New Yorker" critic Anthony Lane, however, was unimpressed: "First, you try to understand what the hell is going on. Then you slowly realize that you will never understand what is going on. And, last, you wind up with the distinct impression that, if there was anything to understand, it wasn't worth the sweat."
"Avengers: Age of Ultron" is in theaters everywhere May 1st.