“The Avengers gotta get with the assembling.”

-Xander Harris (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is absolutely unstoppable. I can’t imagine a scenario in which an Avengers film gets released and hundreds of millions of dollars aren’t spent seeing it on the big screen. But all this fortune can be lost just as quickly as it was won. Ask Sony and Fox how much money was lost on Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men: The Last Stand. Audiences will turn on you if you don’t continually give them quality. Age of Ultron almost missed the mark, which would have be catastrophic.

It would be wise for Kevin Feige, the head of MCU, to take note of this. Joss Whedon cut almost 45 minutes from his original edit, and the film feels it. Feige and Whedon have been somewhat at odds since the firing of Edgar Wright from Ant-Man, but Whedon has said that Feige’s request to cut Age of Ultron was smart because, “No one wants to watch a film that long.”

I believe Whedon is wrong, and I will tell you why. The plot holes in Age of Ultron are few but gaping. There are obviously scenes missing that explain the group’s apprehension about the Ultron project, but Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark only mentions this in passing to Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo. Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, goes on a secret side mission that is thrown together in just a few quickly cut scenes.

Then there is the Jeremy Renner/Hawkeye effect. It is extremely evident that Hawkeye is Whedon’s Avenger version of his Buffy the Vampire Slayer character Xander Harris. Hawkeye is the centered down-to-earth human, who has no real super power but plays with our heart strings. This would be great, but Renner isn’t a very good actor and has the charisma of an empty milk carton.

It may seem that I’m being overly harsh, and I know that I am. Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t nearly as bad as I have made it seem. Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth all do an outstanding job. Ruffalo and Downey Jr.’s scenes are so good I wanted more. Evans is the perfect Captain America. His all-American looks and genuineness help him own the character. Hemsworth’s brute strength and witty dialogue are delivered without a second thought.

With the exception of the first action beat, the CGI looks outstanding. Speaking of action beats . . . the Ironman vs. Hulk fight is worthy of the price of admission. Ultron feels almost practical at times, and James Spader makes you forget that Ultron is just a cartoon.

Whedon’s writing and direction are once again top-notch. With so many characters battling at once, a lesser director might muddle the action, but Whedon finds unique and interesting ways to show the scope and stakes of the battles. Whedon is an expert storyteller, and perhaps that is why I was so disappointed with this story. His dialogue and wit, however, are as funny and biting as ever.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a huge success: a success for fans, the filmmakers, and for future MCU films. Downey, Ruffalo, and Evans are great actors who fit perfectly with Whedon’s dialogue. Beautifully shot and written, Age of Ultron is another notch on Marvel’s championship belt. But caution yourself, Kevin Feige, because with the imminent departure of Joss Whedon, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, the MCU might fall into the same abyss as D.C. and Warner Bros.

Grade: B