J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Avengers: Age of Ultron review.

I know, I know. I’m a week later than the rest of the internet in weighing in on this movie. But my mom wanted to go watch it with me, so I waited until Mother’s Day to catch a showing.

Kind of weird that Ultron himself did not make it onto this poster.

Outside of the odd trailer in front of other movies I was watching, I managed to stay clear of any hype or spoilers regarding this movie. Felt nice to watch it without any bias going in. All I knew was that a) Ultron was the main villain b) Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver would be in it, and c) Vision would be in it. I got the most excited about the Vision part. He’s one of the Marvel characters that identifies most with the Avengers, so an appearance was overdue.

Not to mention he was the only one missing from the movies from the awesome arcade game.

What I liked:

The action. This movie tells you what it’s going to be from the starting line. As soon as the movie starts, you’re in the middle of a huge battle with explosions, gunfire, and Hulk smashes. It was the first of many, many panoramic shots where you look at it and think “Yeah, some guy really worked hard on his computer to make this scene” rather than “Oh, this actor really kicked butt!”. Typically I’ve been critical of movies that lean on computers a lot to do action scenes. I’ve been of the opinion that if I wanted to see computerized action men taking on other computerized action men, I’d just go play a video game instead.

But I’ve come to realize that sometimes, to realize a visualization of what a comic book really looks like to the big screen, you NEED vast amounts of CGI. Only characters like Captain America or Hawkeye would’ve worked in the 80s or 90s, and even those iterations sucked with the limitations of human actors and stuntmen. If you want the big explosions and real life versions of those big pretty splash pages in comic books, you need the computers.

I gotta admit, it was damn cool.

I also thought that the Iron Man vs Hulk battle was as good as any fight we’ve seen in a Marvel movie so far. I REALLY enjoyed that part, even if the sheer destruction in that scene and the climax made the battle in New York seem like small potatoes in comparison. This movie rivals Man of Steel on the disaster porn scale.

But that’s the point of the Avengers movies in particular. They’re basically the crescendo of all the other smaller movies, and set the tone for the next phase of Marvel movies. I personally enjoy how they play with this, like Tony’s PTSD from flying the nuke into the portal, or Matt Murdock getting a cheaper rate on his office rent because the neighborhood got destroyed, and they’re rebuilding everything from where the Hulk smashed a giant space dragon. It almost makes the universe its own character.

The character moments. There were a few things about this movie that came out of nowhere, at least within the narrative set by the movie universe. First, we learn that Hawkeye has a wife and kids, complete with a picturesque farm. The second, we see a budding romance between the Black Widow and Bruce Banner.

The obvious common denominator here is that none of these characters have their own movie. So they NEEDED their moments moreso than Iron Man or Captain America. But each one did an important bit of work.

1) Hawkeye needed something. Anything. Up until now, he’s been the most generic hero of all. He still is, honestly, but at least they gave him something to build off of. Assuming he’s not retired now.

2) Black Widow got some depth, too, with the theme that she’s not even sure if what she wants is actually what she wants, thanks to her conditioning as a child. It at least gave some depth to why the mission is the biggest thing to her. It’s the only thing in her life that is black and white.

3) The Hulk… well… he’s got the same story as always. But that story is actually quite good, so it doesn’t matter if it gets done over and over again.

The parts where the characters are bantering together are also great, like Thor and Tony trying to one-up each other with their girlfriends, other Avengers trying to pick up Thor’s hammer, and Cap and Tony having a staredown (multiple times) in terms of trust. Great foreshadowing for the upcoming Civil War movie.

What I didn’t like:

Uh, haven’t we been here before? I’m not even talking about the whole “villain wants to destroy or enslave the world” part. When you have a bunch of heroes that all have dealt with world-breaking threats solo, it’s expected that the stakes must be that large when they’re all assembled. Anything less would be grossly underwhelming.

No, I’m talking about the “Let’s turn the team against each other” storyline. Granted, there will always be a level of friction between certain characters. But the first Avengers movie had Loki doing the exact same thing. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, since in the comics Loki was the one who turned Hulk berserk, like Scarlet Witch does in this movie. But still, making it a major plot point in the direct sequel is a bit obvious. I know Joss Whedon likes to talk about how they’re a group where it’s hard to imagine them even being in the same room together, but sometimes… sometimes it just belittles the threat. More on that shortly.

Ultron. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not too familiar with the original character. I’ve only really read one or two Avengers comic arcs with him involved. I’ve always thought that he was a cool character concept. And for the most part, he works in the movie too. His motivation makes sense, his methods work well too, and his… immature mannerisms work too, for the most part. But one part about him bothers me.

Not sure about his speaker-cheeks, either.

He’s too funny. Too upbeat. For character that wants to end humanity, he doesn’t take even his own plot seriously enough. Not to mention, I’m not even sure where it comes from. The movie establishes that he’s an AI, similar to JARVIS. But Jarvis doesn’t joke around. It’s kind of an odd character trait.

Again, I don’t know THAT much about the comic version. But I feel a more… robotic villain would have made for a nicer contrast with the antagonists of most of these movies. A villain that establishes that the sensible, logical option is to snuff out humanity. Not from a spoiled teenager throwing a tantrum. But from a supercomputer that knows better than we do about what the planet needs. There’s enough wit coming from the hero side. Or perhaps…

The wit. I’m torn. Like a lot of geeks, I’ve loved Joss Whedon since Buffy the Vampire Slayer*. But I’ve noticed something about his work. His writing voice is so strong, that it sometimes blots out the actual voices of the characters he’s writing. Sometimes this works fine. Buffy, Firefly, and his run on Astonishing X-Men were all amazing.  But sometimes it gets away from him.

*For the record, any of these feminists calling him out for perceived slights against female characters should go back and watch this show. He’s done more for strong female characters than arguably anyone in this generation.

There’s so many cute little one liners in the movie, and little bits of witty dialogue scattered everywhere. This is a great thing in the beginning of the movie, when they’re taking out low end foes or chilling in the Avengers tower. Not so much, though, when they’re facing off on a floating island that could fall and snuff out all life on earth. But no, there’s still time for them to stop and joke.

It’s cute, and it’s fun. But it belittles the stakes, and makes the movie feel like less of an event, and more of just something for these characters to do while waiting for Thanos to come and ruin them all.

Bottom line:

This movie is worth watching. It made for a fun afternoon at the theater. But if you’re expecting a ground breaking movie that you’ll want to watch over and over again, this probably isn’t it. It’s death by a thousand cuts – too many minor problems for it to be a real classic.

***.

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