Marvel Cinematic Universe: Avenger: Age of Ultron

SPOILERS!!!!! I ruin all of Age of Ultron. Also sprinkle in some talkings of other MCU films, but no major plot spoilers for them.

Click here for my Ant Man review and get all caught up with my backwards retrospective. Now let’s talk about Age of Ultron!

Origins

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So this kind of runaway hit Disney released called The Avengers caught on enough for them to make a follow-up. Plans for a sequel to Avengers were in the pipeline before it even came out, because even before it took over the world, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a runaway success.

Shortly after The Avengers release, none other than Bob Iger himself announced it and, despite some hesitation, writer/director Joss Whedon was back on board. Whedon’s hesitation was understandable, as by that point the MCU was such a behemoth that a lot of fingers were in lots of pies and his want to do a more personable story about…death? Kind of weird considering what followed after Age of Ultron, but okay…were quashed by the head honchos at Disney and the hilariously titled “Creative Committee” came into play.

The subtitle announcement of ‘Age of Ultron’ surprised people who assumed Thanos would be the villain. Whedon ended up clarifying that that was never the case, as Thanos was part of a much larger plan he admitted later he didn’t know really anything about. Also, in case people cared, yeah it’s named after an arc in the comics, but that’s literally where the similarities end and it was only named that because they thought it sounded cool. I think the story is more based on Ultron’s first few appearances.

As for new characters, Whedon wanted to add twin Avengers Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, saying their powers could help diversify a team of mostly heavy hitters. This would prove to be a a tad difficult given that the Fox technically have control over the characters as well. Still, Whedon managed to dodge all this, even with Fox adding Quicksilver to 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Vision ended up part of the film as Whedon wanted to use him and Ultron before he even signed up for the first film. it was a natural fit given both character’s origins in the comics, and he ends up playing a key role.

Adding characters provided somewhat of a stumbling block creatively for Whedon. He wanted to add Spider-Man and Captain Marvel, even going so far as to draw concept art for the latter. However, the rights deal for Spider-Man had not been finalised yet and Captain Marvel hadn’t been cast. This proved to be a blessing in disguise given how overstuffed the story is, but it continues a theme of Whedon fighting for ideas dismissed out of hand by the whims of the studio.

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I’m sure Spidey missed out on being introduced by Whedon…

Nearly the entire cast was on board for the sequel. The exception being Robert Downey Jr, whose four-film contract had ended with Iron Man 3. I’ll likely go into why that didn’t stay the case when looking at that film, so for now let’s just say RDJ signed a brand new contract to continue playing Tony Stark, who ends up being Ultron’s creator. This has been changed from Hank Pym in the comics, due to Wright having use of him for Ant Man and the Avengers already having two scientists and not really needing a third.

Other issues came in wanting the Quinjet the Hulk was in at the end of the film to end up on Saturn. Age of Ultron left this ambiguous as to not directly set up Planet Hulk. This is way funnier in hindsight when you consider when the Hulk shows up again, but that’s for another day. There were also problems such as having to essentially compromise keeping the farm scenes and the dream sequences in exchange for that bullshit with Thor in the magic pond. And that got cut down even more! He was also seen tweeting a sign of solidarity for Wright after his leaving Ant Man. You can’t actually see the photo of Whedon holding up a Cornetto, because he deleted his account due to possible bullshit involving this movie (though Whedon himself denied that was why), but I’m sure you can imagine it. Or find it elsewhere online.

All of this eventually culminated in Whedon stepping down from directing the next Avengers film and overseeing the direction of the MCU like he had been. While none of this is really that surprising, as he was clearly reaching burn out and never actually committed to the entire trilogy of movies (now quadrilogy). As for whether getting the creative freedom away from the supposed Creative Committee would have helped the movie, it’s hard to say. All these ideas would make it seem like the film would have neared 3 hours to sufficiently tell, and looking at Serenity I don’t think Whedon balances a lot of ideas into one film very well. Either way, Avengers: Age of Ultron was released on May 1st 2015.

How’d it do?

Order in the Chaos: A Look at Theme

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I actually think the themes in this movie are well handled, if not entirely made clear. I don’t mind them being subtle, but they feel a little understated given the bloat of this entire thing. But this is also a movie for children, so I’m not exactly lost in the wilderness here.

The main idea of Age of Ultron is whether or not the Avengers make a difference in protecting the world, and whether they should do more. This fits into my idea of the broader theme of Phase 2 being Adaptability. They take this newfound technology and  and try to make something drastic to protect it, instead of adapting to our surroundings slowly and gradually. The world is an ever-growing, chaotic mess, and we just need to state a sense of order, control, in order to keep it spinning. Should we force progress to protect the world from imminent threats, and push it into this protective blanket? The movie falls on the ‘no’ side, but it’s not that simple.

Let’s look at Tony, who embodies this theme the best. His arc is about accepting he cannot save the world by one massive gesture. There’s a small callback in the final fight where he says ‘Like the old man said; together’, harkening back to what Cap said to him after Ultron went free. He eventually gets that trying to build this perfect saviour being like he did with Ultron was not going to work, and he needs to rely on his team and work with them, which is hinted at with his speech to Banner before building Vision, putting Bruce on his level. It feels less guiding and more mutual when he told him about creating Ultron.  He cannot build a suit of armour around the world. This is kind of undermined in his next feature appearance, which unfortunately is a theme for Tony.

Iron Man 3 clearly set him up as someone who was willing to let his obsessions go and take care of himself better-this is something unfortunately unlearned here. And sure, he no longer powers hundreds of suits (and likely doesn’t build them), letting drones do the work instead, but it feels kind of a betrayal to his promise to Pepper. This is something Civil War picks up on, but it feels brushed aside here.

Also, while that moment with Banner works well to show Tony relate to his teammates better, 1. Banner gives in way too easily, and 2. His solution to the psychopathic AI he accidentally created is to…put another AI he created into the body the other AI made? I mean I kind of get why he does this, given that JARVIS was helping them, but still. Damn Tony. You stupid. .

Find order amongst the chaos. This is the thesis. What is the antithesis?

Ultron is Nearly a Good Villain, and the Fact that He’s Not Really Hurt this Movie

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In terms of having an ideological threat, Ultron is pretty much on point. He hates the Avengers, Stark in particular, because they prevent the world from changing, and just makes the death of the planet more inevitable. His solution, because he is an AI and this is the only story you can ever write with an AI, is to wipe out humanity and move the planet onto its next stage in the evolutionary chain. Part of this is creating a synthetic body to hold himself. Hence the MacGuffin Pod of Magical Goodness and the Bullshit Magical Magic Metal that Does Fucking Everything Because These Movies Were Based on Pulpy 60s Comic Books For Children So Maybe You Should Write More Coherent Speculative Fiction If You Think You’re So Fucking Clever. Also known as vibranium.

As an opposition to The Avengers mantra of ‘Are we really the best fit to save humanity?’, and the humanity mantra of ‘Should we use our talents and resources to force a solution to an imminent problem?’, Ultron provides the perfect counterbalance for both. They are the order, he is the chaos. Good writing, have a gold star, Millionaire Writer Man. So where does Ultron fail? On two fronts: his planning and the level at which he is an actual threat.

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I seriously googled Joss Whedon’s net worth. I’m glad my joke wasn’t a lie.

Let’s go over his plan first. Ultron wants to create a new body using the pod, and wipe out the rest of humanity and usher in their evolutionary replacements; metal beings. Fine, except these are two separate plans. Most of our time is focused on the one that doesn’t really matter to the climax, that being getting Ultron a new body. It’s why he goes to get vibranium, why he uses the Mind Stone on Helen Cho, and why the chase scene in Korea happens. What’s weirder is that, while he expresses disappointment that the body ended up hosting a hero, he goes ahead with his world destruction plan anyway, so why spend most of the movie chasing this if it ends up not mattering all that much?

Take a look at the previous Avengers film, and how well Loki’s plan flowed. He brainwashes people and, while deliberately getting kidnapped, manipulates the Hulk into going on a rampage, and with the heroes broken, opens the portal from space to let the Chitari army through. It all flows into each other and every step is necessary.

And sure, there’s a moment where Ultron breaks the Avengers, probably worse than Loki, but it’s not part of that stage of his plan. He wants the Avengers to feel like they are responsible for this, but that’s more in the climax (he even waits for them to arrive before he starts floating shit). In Africa, they just got in his way and he got Wanda to mess with them while he completed the actual plan. To have all this build up for a plan that ends up not really mattering to our antagonist’s overall goals feels a little flat.

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“Let me tell you why you two are incredibly important to my plan, except not really.

Not as flat as Ultron’s character, however. Which is a shame; his opening scenes are great! I love that confrontation he has with JARVIS at his “birth”, and him enveloping himself immediately into the internet. His speech to the Avengers in the broken bot is chilling. His initial goal of saving humanity warps into saving the world from humanity, it’s depraved and menacing. Then he gets his overly-chunky body which isn’t that threatening, and starts quipping.

While having him be emotional and immature can work, they try to make him too much like Stark for better or worse. And there is precedent for that; Ultron in the comics had his brainwaves based on Hank Pym’s, and took on a few of his complexes. The problem is that, despite Ultron’s powers, he’s a bit too easily batted around even after he tears a guy’s fucking arm off. Loki may have been weedy and kind of a pushover, but he made up for it by being cunning and manipulative. Ultron is neither. Even with James Spader doing legitimately great work in the role, Ultron fails in any way to be charming or menacing. He’s just kind of an overpowered brat.

Also, he talks way too much. His pontificating about the ennui and uselessness of humanity get tiresome really quickly, and his God complex and obsession with religion isn’t that well baked into the narrative. He does get a killer final scene, though. So, a good beginning and end. It’s the middle that lets him down.

But hey, speaking of his final scene, we have the thesis and the antithesis. What’s our synthesis, Hegel be asking?

Vision: A Synthesis for our Future. Just Not this Movie’s Present

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Vision is great, and inarguably one of the best things in the film, and goddamn does he come in way too late to save everything. It’s great that Paul Bettany, who’s been with us since Iron Man all the way back in 2008, got to step into a more physical role here. Bettany plays him with a sense of wisdom, and yet a quiet confusion over this brave new world.

I really like how the opening emphasised JARVIS and his importance to both Tony and the AvengerS. It shows not only how advance JARVIS is, but also how cooperative. While Ultron was a creation of Tony’s own ego and obsession, JARVIS was an AI who had been programmed and slowly mastered to be the best he can until he learned to run everything. Ultron was created immediately, and wanted destruction. JARVIS learned slowly, and only wants what’s best.

It’s no mistake that Vision is built with a piece of everyone. The indestructible vibranium from Cap’s shield, Tony and Banner’s tech and know-how, Thor’s mighty thunder. He’s a being saved from being a monster by the supposed ‘monster’. Though it’s…weird that the solution to Tony’s problem, the one where he created a machine to protect the world, was to create another machine to create the world. But the understanding that he is not here to be the complete safeguard against the big threats, but one of those able to help stave them off. It makes his use in later films even more hilarious, but that’s another day.

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Vision is noble, calm, collected and curious. He is beyond most human impulses and failings, but is straightforward and brisk enough to make him layered enough despite him literally moulded to be perfection. I love that callback to the Mjolnir scene at the party when he hands the hammer to Thor. Not only is that scene one of the best as it’s just the Avengers hanging out having a good time, but it subtly asks if any of them prepared to fight the good fight. They are all incredibly gifted but damaged people, and a lot of their neuroses could come to bite them in the ass. So this not only proves that Vision is legit pure of heart, but it answers this question. Here’s a pure being, created by them. They may make mistakes, but the world is better for having them in it.

I love the final confrontation with Vision and Ultron. When Vision tells Ultron that he accepts humanity’s failings where he cannot, it gets across what to take from all of this. Even in our failures, we’re still trying. In our current climate that’s a solid message to make. This quiet note of hope proves stronger than Ultron’s bouts of rage, as Vision very quickly evaporates him. Waste of a great villain, but a decent summation of the theme. The belief in the human spirit will always conquer our cynical quest to make everything compliant and organised, even in the midst of inevitable doom (here embodied by Thanos). Order and chaos go hand in hand, don’t try to control that.

The Other Avengers did Stuff Too, You Know

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Stark, Ultron and Vision are kind of the major stand in for the themes presented in the movie. But what of the arcs for the other characters? While not as representative, they are still significant in the film’s story and thematic set-up.

Cap’s arc is the opposite of Iron Man’s. Steve is perfect and always knows the right thing, so he knows controlling faith always ends badly. As he states valiantly to Tony, they’ll fight the threat together. He understands that this is a perpetual war he’s fighting to serve, and there is no easy fix.

This is something that’s very much hit on; that Steve is always a soldier. He cannot function without a war to fight, and that part of him that could settle down with a family died at the end of his first movie. This is poignantly noted by having him hallucinate his dance with Peggy…and constantly see war. It’s an interesting thread that sadly the film doesn’t do a lot with and hasn’t really been picked up since. This is why, of the Big Three, Cap is the one that stays with the team. He’s leading the new soldiers into a never-ending battle. Someone has to be there to not tell the Avengers to assemble.

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Thor gets kind of short-changed here, mostly because his characterisation is not needed to be fleshed out for Civil War. But he’s somebody who understands the chaotic nature of the ever-enclosing cosmic nightmare closing in around them. When he takes his stupid magic bath, he sees how the Infinity Stones have kept on popping up recently, and that they need to embrace the change that is coming. It’s why he ends up helping Stark create Vision. By embracing this, Thor realises they all have a part to play. Despite that, though, he’s the only one convinced that there are answers. Even knowing he might be fighting the inevitable, he’s still determined to save Asgard and the universe from the growing presence of these deadly artifacts. Man I…I hope he succeeds.

Also, the Thor bath is dumb, and pointless, and a complete plot cul-de-sac from an already busy film, and I hate it, and I wish it gone, even if it’s the only time we see Stellan Skarsgard and without Thor is just kind of…here with not much to do.  Fuck it. Everyone’s bitched about the bath, now I have. Let’s move on.

Nick Fury, Maria Hill, War Machine and Falcon are…here. Look at them, being all here! Falcon’s moment at the party just seems like a setup to him appearing at the end, and War Machine fighting in the climax seems to be making up for the fact that he wasn’t at the Battle of New York in Avengers, so they’re fun little beats. Not much to really say character wise. That exposition dump at the farmhouse does drag on a skosh.

Three of the Kooky Quartet! Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Balance

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There’s a really conscious effort here to make up for how Hawkeye was treated in the last movie. While that’s admirable, I think it kind of comes at the cost of developing more important characters. Especially the Twins.

We spend a lot of time on Hawkeye’s farm, and I really dug that. It’s nice that they actually take time to unwind and reconsider their priorities, especially as a lot of Age of Ultron is more contemplative than the previous outing. But it also means we find out a lot about Hawkeye, mostly that he’s secretly a family man. And I honestly really like that, especially with how rare superheroes with a wife and kids are, particularly in the films.

You get a real sense of the love and commitment Clint has. In particular that really small moment where he tells Helen Cho he doesn’t have a girlfriend. His wife is so much a part of him that he doesn’t even need to state that he’s married. That’s really fucking sweet, and makes him a more fully-rounded character. It also makes him the most grounded of he heroes, and with the theme of their purpose in saving humanity, Hawkeye knows his. Tony wants to fast track keeping the world safe, Clint slowly wants to see his grow.

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This does lead to a bigger issue, however, and that’s how long we actually spend on the farm. It takes away from our antagonists sans one short scene until the Korea chase. This becomes an issue because Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s turn is really not that well set up. While it’s apparent from the start their priorities aren’t as large scale as Ultron’s-they only want revenge on Stark-they really do turn on him way too quickly. It just feels unearned.

What’s a shame is that they were also a great counterpoint to the Avenger’s place in the world. Here are two people who also see their destructive side like Ultron. So much so that they augmented their own bodies to fight them. That’s a way more nuanced take on the issue because they’re not as genocidal or as warped as Ultron. They’re two very angry young people who lost everything because of the destruction affiliated with the Avengers. This is a theme that should have been built on more (and it is more wonderfully in Civil War), but it really shows that process of Adaptability, and how not everything in this brand news superhero world is entirely rosy.

But nope! They get one really cool fight at the beginning, and they become Ultron’s lackeys until they betray him. Wanda’s mind warping powers are used really effectively, but to explore other characters, not her. Quicksilver is…there. He’s the less serious and more impetuous of the two, but he’s not that interesting and it kind of sucks that they try to milk his death for all its worth later. Especially with how they pay off the ‘Didn’t see that coming’ gag with Hawkeye (Whedon specialises in silly bits paying off in a crushingly painful display of pathos).

Speaking of, Clint is the one picked to officiate the two new heroes into the team. Pietro through this little bravado bond they’ve built up already, and Wanda with probably one of the better scenes in the film where he outlines the ridiculousness of their situation. It really suits him being one of the most ‘normal’ in this team of misfits, and the speech is well written and encouraging enough that you totally buy Wanda standing up and taking charge. It’s just a shame that so much focus on Clint’s life and character kind of takes away from further fleshing out two pretty important elements to this movie.

Killing Your Darlings: The Hulk/Hulkbuster Fight Gotta Go

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This movie has a massive pacing issue. And I don’t mean that in terms of its length, it’s roughly the same length at the first Avengers flick and that one glides by. Pace is the flow of a story, how it moves and how fast or slow that is depending on the necessity of the story. Because we are asked to focus on a lot here, it really exacerbates the ability of the plot to formulate and breathe. An example of the ‘lot’ being the Hulk/Hulkbuster fight; a scene I love and serves very little purpose.

I think the action in this movie is pretty good. I feel the climactic fight scene gets a little rote and repetitive, and they don’t do that great a job at tracking the continuity of what’s happening easily for the audience, but in general it’s creative, well-paced and fun. The Hulkbuster/Hulk fight is, personally, my favourite of these scenes. It’s only two opponents so it resolves the clutter issue, and it’s set in a sunny location so the visuals aren’t as muted (really don’t dig the cinematography of this film, while I’m here). There are a lot of funny and thrilling moments and you really feel the tension of what’s going on. One problem though: what does this fight add to the story?

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Action scenes, like all scenes really, should do something to progress the story in an engaging and fun way. Let’s quickly look through how all the other action scenes do this:

-Opening fight: Reintroduces the Avengers and shows how their team dynamic has grown, sets up the importance of the sceptre and taking down Baron Von Strucker/HYDRA, introduces the Twins and their powers
-Ultron’s birth: Introduces Ultron and his powers, has him come across Helen Cho, shows why he is a threat while establishing the themes of the Avengers being good for the world and how far you go to safeguard humanity
-Fight with Ultron and Twins in Africa: Shows Ultron gets the vibranium, destablises the team with Wanda’s visions which incapacitates them for the next half hour or so  (this Is technically the first half of the Hulk/Hulkbuster fight, but it works better on its own and Banner is not involved in this fight anyway)
-Chase with the pod in Korea: Twins heel-turn is here, so is the team getting the pod with Vision’s body and Ultron kidnaps Natasha
-Battle of Sakovia: …it’s the climax of the movie. A lot happens here

The only thing it really does is have Banner get more reticent about using the Hulk because he actually causes damage here, and this influences his decision to leave after. Which, fine, but this didn’t need a ten minute drag out fight to get to this place. Banner is hesitant about ever using the Hulk in general, it wouldn’t take much to tip him over the edge. There can be a less dragged out way to convey this and show that the Hulk himself is growing too, which is the important part of his final scene.

And I’m not saying we can’t just have awesome action for action’s sake-I do love this fight-but when the film has this much pacing problems, keeping in a fight which does so little to advance the story just seems like a waste. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.

But oh boy, we get to everyone’s favourite part of Age of Ultron

The Actual Living FUCK is Up with Bruce and Natasha?!

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Oh Christ, we’re talking about Black Widow and Hulk now. Okay…

The thing about ensemble movies is that, well, depending on how large your cast is, it’s hard to juggle everybody and give them sufficient time on the screen. On paper, Whedon makes sense for movies like this because he’s known for writing compelling ensembles with large and nuanced casts where everybody gets their turn to shine, but the advantage of television is that you have time to give that time. I think it’s why the Russos had the smarter idea; their many-casted movies just focused on a select few characters while giving others smaller moments to shine.

Avengers was a better fit because, well, nearly all of the leg work was done by the other films. They established the biggest players, the villain, and the main conflict, so the plot is just a run around to get to the end. Nobody really has a significant arc here sans growing away from their egos and neuroses to become a team. The only one who really has an arc is, funnily enough, the Hulk.

Now we get to the sequel, and more shit needs to be done. We have an entirely new villain to set up, three new heroes (one of which evolves from a previous character, two of which get reformed). More themes, more location hopping, more overt connections to upcoming movies. But let’s ignore all that and show how they handle character. Tony is at the centre of everything, so his arc is fine and carries on (if rather clumsily and not the best throughline) from Iron Man 3. Cap and Thor already have their own movies continuing their stories, but they’re given shit to do as Cap is Tony’s main ideological opposition on the team and Thor has his bathing subplot. There’s a lot more attention given to Hawkeye so they can’t sideline him until the end like the last film, and we need to introduce his secret family life. Wanda and Pietro take up a lot of time, despite their arcs not being that well-handled, and Vision is incredibly important. That leaves Hulk and Black Widow with not a lot to do. So Joss Whedon decided to put them together. Because.

This is entirely on him, by the way. He talks about more scenes developing this bond that had to be cut and he was pretty gutted over it. He wanted this to happen, and outside of the lazy screenwriter’s way for people to do shit in your movie, I do not for the life of me understand why. They try to build the connection between them by having Nat lull Hulk back to being Banner, which makes sense from a strategical standpoint, but why is Nat his handler? This is just introduced in the opening fight and it’s never established how this arrangement came to be. Because she’s the woman on the team? The hell?! Nat isn’t even that overly warm and affectionate a person! She’s guarded and emotionally withdrawn, showing how this connection was formed feels like an important point to miss!

Let me be clear here: Black Widow being Hulk’s soother is not, in of itself, my problem with this. Hell, through her friendships with Cap and Hawkeye, we’ve seen that she can be very loyal, caring and even warm in her own way. But this is not set up at all, and it literally is how they lead into these two having a thing. It’s weird because Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johannson are the two most charismatic actors ever, and it’s like wet fish slapping together eveyrtime they speak to each other. There’s no chemistry between them! Hell, the only Avenger it makes sense to calm Hulk down is Tony. And I don’t even mean this in a shipping way (though if that floats your boat, I won’t judge ya), but their friendship is the most consistent thing between both movies.

This kind of goes into how badly written Natasha is in general, which is more of an overarching issue with her character I won’t go into here. So let’s cap this segment with the infertility thing.

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Like, in general, the forced sterlisation thing is lazy. Not that this can’t be something that’s interesting to explore, like anything about Nat’s backstory. That was one of the more effective of Wanda’s hallucinations, and I was seriously curious as to how they would follow that up. It’s in the shitty conversation where her and Bruce talk about running away. First of all, Natasha wouldn’t run because of a spooky thing that she probably thinks about all the time. Second, this is why she brings up the sterilisation thing-because her and Bruce can’t have the babbies. Well, they both say it, and that leads into her infamous “You still think you’re the only monster on the team?” line.

Now, in the interest of fairness, I don’t think this was Whedon’s intent at all. It’s so easy to vilify him (for various reasons), but given the flow of conversation, she was clearly talking about how that facility place trained her to be a weapon. A murderous automaton and nothing else. But still, you think an Oscar-nominated script doctor would have realise having her say this right after she admitted to being infertile is really fucking tone deaf and weird?

Look, I ain’t gonna accuse the guy of sexism all willy nilly. There is nothing sexist about the horror of your body being violated like that. Of having your options for your future ripped out of you beyond your control. That’s legit messed up and gives Nat one of the darker origins in the MCU. What is an issue is that her problem seems to be more about not having kids with a man she’s had fuck all development with.  And that’s all her incredibly distressing backstory is used for; she’s been in two other movies now and it’s never been brought up. Fuck using that kind of thing for cheap drama, and fuck this entire subplot in general. It legit would have been better for both characters to be written out of the movie than how they are written here.

MCU Connections, and Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A megalomaniacal villain with a god complex and a connection to one of our heroes has plans to reign superior on the Earth and destroy it as we know it. He is brought forth by a powerful mystical object that he steals for himself. Parts of his plans involve using a sceptre that controls people’s minds and manipulating the Hulk to go on a rampage, causing the Avengers’ spirits to break. A big part of his dastardly scheme is this device he created in the middle of a city that can only really be destroyed from within. It’s okay, though, as the Avengers reassemble thanks to the sacrifice of a dear ally, and defeat the villain in a massive climax that involves fighting these creatures attached by a hive mind, all the while trying to save civilians. Nick Fury provides a surprising and bad-ass last minute save.

This movie borrows a bit too much of the story structure and plot beats of the last movie. This would be fine if the billion other ideas had been better interwoven in the familiar story beats, but they weren’t, so it’s awkward and distracting. It’s not the only MCU flick to borrow too heavily from its predecessor, but it is the most blatantly obvious. Not much else to say here, really. Try and make your movies feel more diverse, guys.

This film was made at the height of the MCU trying to eat itself, and part of the bloat is setting up other films in the franchise. I’m just gonna list them as this review is long enough as is and I run the risk of repeating myself:

-A lot of Steve and Tony’s bickering is just really here to set up Civil War. Ditto the idea that the Avengers are a danger to society rather than its salvation. It’s why this theme isn’t exactly resolved here
-Thor’s bath is set up for both the broader conflict involving the Infinity Stones, and his future movie. How Ragnarok chooses to pay off this makes one of the worst things in this film hilarious.
-I didn’t talk much about the scenes shot in Johannesburg. It’s there to set up Black Panther, it’s also where we’re introduced to Klaw. He’s a lot of fun (Andy Serkis is never not engaging), but the whole thing is gratuitous and Civil War sets up the film much more effectively anyway. Still, guess they wanted to do more globe-hopping than the last film.
-Nearly everything to do with the Mind Stone is just a set up for things to come in Infinity War. Vision just boarders on being relevant enough to this story to not feel tacked on to sell future movies.

This takes up a lot of time, and not really that necessary. Thankfully, they’ve calmed down with all this significantly, and the MCU films lately have had a chance to stand on their own and breathe.

Post-Credit Scene

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I forgot to talk about Ant Man’s post-credit scenes in the last review because I am an idiot. To rectify this: mid-credit scene is Hank allowing his daughter to be a hero and showing her the suit. Decent hook for the sequel, but I think that scene needed to be in the movie proper as it wraps one of the most significant arcs in the flick. Oh well. After-credit is just a scene lifted directly from Civil War.

As for Avengers: Age of Ultron’s mid-credit scene (there’s no after-credit one), it’s Thanos putting on the Infinity Glove and saying ‘Fine, I’ll do it myself’. People he hires to collect the Infinity Stones failing him are more what happened in Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy than this movie, but whatever. This is one of the most mocked post-credit moments in the entirety of the MCU because it seriously takes him 3 more years to actually do anything! This is Thanos’ last appearance until Infinity War. He took a while to do it himself.

Miscellaneous

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Observations I made that don’t really fit anywhere else in the article!

-I love the pay-off for the “Language!” gag. It’s one of those small ways to show that Cap is integrating into this brave new world.

-Baron Von Strucker was kind of amazingly fucking useless huh? Guess that ‘Surrender’ gag made me laugh. R.I.P. ya one-joke fuck

-Some of the editing in this film can be off at points, but nothing is as weird as the sting that leads into the title. Tony swings the sceptre and the main title just…smashes into the screen. It’s really jarring.

-Wanda letting Stark with the sceptre go because she thought he’d do something stupid is a little convenient, but I guess the needs of the plot won out in this case. She wasn’t exactly wrong that Tony’s an idiot.

-Banner developed a back-up AI for Tony and called it Veronica because she’s the opposite of Betty. Little things like that really make these movies so rich.

-I really like how the ‘net looks in this movie. Nothing really significant to add here, I just think it looks cool. Also the way JARVIS and Ultron are visualised in their component AI forms.

-Ultron constantly singing ‘There are No Strings on Me’ is probably the best cross-promotion Disney has ever done with two properties they own.

-I really hate that Loki was cut from Thor’s vision because that sequence doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense without him. the only reason he was cut was because he apparently confused test audiences into thinking he was in charge of Ultron. Further proving that test audiences should not be a thing.

-In the convo between Tony and Nick in the barn, Nick points out what scared Tony about the vision Wanda gave him wasn’t everyone dead, it was that he wasn’t there with them. Oof…

-Their attempts to goad the audience into thinking Clint will die are too on the nose to be believed. It’s not all that shocking that Pietro takes the fall here.

-Bruce looking into a mirror about to shave gave me Ang Lee flashbacks.

-That kid from Winter Soldier working on the Helicarrier is a great little detail.

-Seriously, fuck them for cutting just before ‘Assemble’.

Conclusion

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This review is a massive, messy behemoth. Feels appropriate.

Like I said, I don’t hate this movie. It’s filled with ambition and what works really works. I love the themes and ideas it plays with, I just wish they were better fleshed out or defined. Some characters have good arcs, some are just there with stupid shit to do. It’s large and audacious, but also sloppy and has too many cooks. Ultron is a great villain played by a wonderful actor, and they miss the mark on characterisation and making his plan flow well within the narrative.

I think with a merciless script editor and a lot of retooling, this legitimately had the potential to rival or even surpass its original. As it stands, though, it’s a disappointment with not enough interesting things happening, or at least them happening in the right ways, to save it. I’ve seen it twice in recent memory-once in preparation for Infinity War, once for this review-and I can’t see myself sitting through it again. If it was outright bad, it wouldn’t be so irritating to me. but it being so close to being so good is what disappoint

Final rating: 5/10

And on the list of where it comes in MCU movies I’ve reviewed so far:

  1. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  2. Ant Man

Huh. A movie I have mixed but am interested in beat a movie I really do not care for. Good for it.

So, what’s next on the chopping block, huh?

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Come and get your loooooove…

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7 thoughts on “Marvel Cinematic Universe: Avenger: Age of Ultron”

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