Dissecting Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age of Ultron-Ultron
Age of Ultron is now readily available for everyone at home, and a lot of its naysayers best give it a second look.

Lauren: If you’ve read Zac’s spoiler free review of Avengers: Age of Ultron already, which you should have here, then you’ll know that he had a few problems with it. Granted, they didn’t deter his want to make the claim that “Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers on what you would hope for.” To this is say, not so fast, Zac! I hoped for a movie that came close to the glory that was The Avengers, knowing full well that something that would surpass its predecessor was darn near impossible. What I wasn’t hoping for was something disappointing.

That’s right! Shots fired! PEW PEW PEW!!! Ok, it was more of a safety off action, but know there are plenty of PEW PEWS coming. So let’s start with one of Zac’s main mentionables. One of the larger things working against Age of Ultron (a major thing in my book) is that there is just too much going on, and thus too little going on. In other words, there are so many ideas floating about in the plot that most barely get explored past the surface level. So kneeling beside Zac, I too am begging for a Director’s Extended Cut. I refuse to believe that Whedon would make these mistakes when it comes to character development, story development, and all around development of my happiness.

Let’s take a look at all the problems I have with the movie:

The Nightmares

Lauren: One of Scarlet Witch’s powers is that she can make people see their fears. I absolutely love this idea and think had there been more time, or maybe fewer characters, we really could have fully immersed ourselves in this, maybe even adding flashbacks to the initial experiences throughout the film. The problem is that it doesn’t really work with certain characters. For Stark, it’s just a means to get him to push the Ultron project forward, but I seriously doubt that this wouldn’t have happened without seeing the team dead once he knew what the power of the staff was capable of. Though it’s not necessary, it gets the pass since it introduces us to the Witch. However, Thor’s vision does not. Like Stark’s waking nightmare, Thor sees himself as the death of everyone around him, but somehow this then moves on to him knowing something about the infinity stones. That is, after he goes into a pool to re-immerse himself in his dream he realizes the infinity stone had made an appearance. Come again? I think I need a few more connecting points between point A and B on this one.

My main complaints about these nightmares is when they’re used to move the main plot along, but as an idea and weapon I would have loved to see more out of this. It’s fine here, but I wonder if Scarlet Witch would have made a better villain in a Captain America movie, maybe The Winter Soldier. Captain America and Black Widow are the more haunted individuals of the group, and I think seeing these two crumble under their stronger exteriors could work much better than it did here.

Zac: On Stark, you are right, Tony was going to get there sooner or later, but on a second viewing I think Scarlet Witch might have known more than the audience is ever let on to. What if the only thing Tony actually contributes to Ultron is the final piece of the Hydra puzzle, his namesake, and some daddy issues due to Ultron’s misperception that Tony is his father? Tony, Bruce and Jarvis all seem really confused and don’t understand how Ultron came to be, maybe whatever they collected from the Hydra base is the major majority of who Ultron is, and hence why he is so bent on destruction. Vision is the Ultron Tony always wanted, as Vision proves Tony was right as long as he got to be the one putting the AI in the body this time.

As for Thor, I can’t really defend the rushing of it all, but I feel like Scarlet Witch’s powers are something more than just visions of their fears; there is supposedly some truth to it all as well. I think that what Thor is seeing is based in some reality, but I think that whatever he sees actually helps him put something together that he already knew.

And I totally agree on the Cap and Black Widow stuff, but while I would watch more I think we also need to give out some credit for being so economical, yet so effective, with what amount they do. Both of their pasts weigh heavily, and totally affect the plot and their motivations on top of it all.

The Tone

Lauren: Like Zac said in his review, the humor and tone of this movie is different from what we got from the first movie, traveling a path with fewer large laughs, and I found myself forgetting this was a work by Whedon seeing as his usual charm and comedic timing are gone. It’s not that Whedon isn’t capable of hitting you with a serious case of the feels that will stick with you for days (years even in some cases), but we don’t really get there either, even when considering the fears. Instead we find ourselves in an in between level of emotion, what I like to call “the mehs” where my emotions don’t really range noticeably in any direction. The jokes that were here don’t always hit, and I found myself super bummed whenever they missed, especially because a lot of the other aspects felt the same.

Take Ultron. There’s a lot going on with Loki in the previous films so I’m not going to begin to pretend I understand that man completely, but Ultron had this hint of sarcasm (inspired by him being created by and slightly obsessed with Stark) that made him feel like a similar villain. Especially because of how equally prone to throwing tantrums both these characters are, the wronged children who resent their fathers. Their motivation is different, but there are plenty of similarities in personality that had me wanting something more and different (granted this commonality can just be the writer’s voice bleeding through).

Zac: I liked Ultron a lot more the second time through and I felt like the Wanda and Pietro motivations were extremely solid. Ultron feels fresh to me and some of the best “fun” in the movie. It took some warming up to, but he (and the rest of the film) play a lot better on a second viewing.

As for the humor, you’re right, it isn’t as funny, but I also don’t think it is trying to be. None of the jokes really fell flat for me.

Lauren: You can’t tell me you didn’t find the Old Man Captain America running gag a bit forced.

Zac: Nope, I’m pretty much pro everything Cap related.

With the opening of the film, Whedon is giving us The Avengers formula we all know and love, but the moment that title card hits after Tony’s vision we should know that we are in for something a bit darker. I was caught off guard as well the first time through, but the tone felt assured from start to finish the second time around. Plus, the look on Thor’s face when Cap moves Meow Meow a couple millimeters, and the subsequent relief that washes over him, is funnier than anything in the Avengers. I also laughed really hard at War Machine’s, “Uh, what?!” to Vision transcending through an Ultron droid and ripping him in half.

Ultron

Lauren: See above. On a positive note for him, his introduction was great. I know it wouldn’t have made sense, but I almost wish he had looked that way throughout the entire film. It was just so disturbing!

Zac: Agreed, his intro was one of the film’s highlights, and I to wish he had been able to keep the scraggly, creepy look. If he had that body and was building Vision for his new one that would have made more sense too. Could’ve just had a bunch of big ass bodyguards protecting Ultron Prime, might have made for some interesting set pieces too, with the Avengers trying to take out the vulnerable Prime Ultron and his minions have to defend him.

Black Widow and Hulk

Lauren: Usually Whedon is all about writing strong female characters, it’s pretty much what he’s known for, but here Black Widow really takes a back seat to the rest of the group. She gets her combat in during the initial intro to the team fighting their way through a snowy forest, but after this her inclusion in the movie can be labeled as The Hulk’s love interest with a mild side of shooting. I have nothing against this relationship, I just was taken off guard by how quickly it progresses from flirting to wanting to run away together. Scarlet Witch does a lot to catalyze this, I’m sure, but it still just didn’t feel right. Nor did the reveal about what happened to her when she was being trained as an assassin. This divulgence of something so personal just didn’t feel earned at this point. (For the record, Banner was also lamer in this movie as well. Gone is the confidence of the man who said “I’m always angry.” But Hulk still got to do a lot of smashing so my disappointment in this character isn’t quite as strong. And seeing as he was the one who was fighting the relationship and Black Widow was the one who was pushing for it more, my interpretation of this is automatically that she is the weaker one, weaker than a man who looks like a pouting wet dog during the big convo thanks to his post shower status)

Also, one last note on Black Widow: in the final fight when all the heroes are in the church defending Ultron’s machine, they cut to her once, as opposed to the multiple shots everyone else gets. I know they’re fighting robots so her guns and fighting skills can only go so far before she breaks the bones in her fists, but she is completely forgotten in this sequence. Maybe instead of cutting from one character to the next make it more of a group effort with more combo kills and team ups. She had some minutes before with Captain America and his shield, so do it again if you’re not inspired enough to come up with something else!

Zac: I’m going to have to disagree with you here on this, as from a plot standpoint she has as much to do with it as just about anyone else. Everyone’s job is, basically, to be a part of the team, and it is their personal struggles that are interesting. Tony is the only one really creating any “plot” in the film, and Cap’s ideologies play into the direction of the plot, but everyone else is just doing their part for the team.

I also think you aren’t giving nearly enough credit to her role in the relationship. She is the instigator, which is, sadly, pretty progressive for movies. I think Johansson is just wonderful in that bar scene at the party and I totally bought into a history of a crush and some possible one-sided flirtation between the two. And while we don’t see the opening up between the two on-screen, Cap telling Banner that he’s never seen her like this says a lot about where Natasha is coming from. Plus, the whole “lullaby” of Hulk is totally a signpost for their relationship and I think we can infer that Natasha has to be truly vulnerable and open with the Hulk for him to be able to succumb to her calming. Plus, Natasha’s out of the shower confession was her realizing that Bruce was not only recoiling from her, but that he needed to know that he isn’t all that different from everyone else; she is trying to rationally comfort him and only being that raw could convince someone like Banner.

Hawkeye Has A Family

Lauren: Speaking of new relationships, turns out Hawkeye is married! The idea of this isn’t what I have the problem with, it’s that the way it fits into the story feels more like a work of convenience more than anything, giving the group a place to go and hide for a section of film in which they need to come to terms with things and figure out their next step. So technically viewers get what they’ve been asking for with some more Hawkeye, but all it really does is serve as a cheap way to add stakes to his well being in the final battle. Plus, knowing that he has kids somehow makes the joke he tells himself later about shooting Quicksilver in the back rather uncomfortable. The flow during this section of the film is off and just feels awkward, so I think it would have worked much better had they just gone to a safe house of Black Widow. Goodness knows she probably has some of those all over the globe.

Zac: I don’t know what to really say to this. I agree it felt awkward the first time through, but felt totally natural on a second viewing. I don’t know why we are complaining that Hawkeye’s character is more fleshed out so that we care about him. That is a good thing! And yeah, it served as a place for everyone to relax and regroup after getting beaten pretty bad, both mentally and physically, but this was going to happen regardless. Why not use it as an opportunity to strengthen the weakest character on the team who has also had the least amount of screen time. If they had showed up at Agent Hill’s house and they tried to force a background on to her, you might have something, but I appreciate getting to know Hawkeye better, and I think it all worked really well for the most part.

Andy Serkis

Lauren: Where did Andy Serkis go? I feel like a big deal was made of him being in the movie when the trailer came out (the big deal may have just been in my head), so I was all ready to love what he has to bring to whatever character it is he’s playing. Our introduction to him is great, being the one aspect of the film truly living up to expectations, but just as quickly as I began to love him is he gone. He loses an arm, tells the guy with him to shoot everyone, then disappears, never to be seen again.

Zac: It’s called Blank Panther, coming to theaters in 2018! Look for him to be a big bad of that movie, with a robotic arm of some sort, possibly utilizing a scrap piece of Ultron’s leftovers of that African Coast battle.

Enough complaining, there is nothing that you liked in this movie?

Lauren: On top of Andy Serkis’ scene with the twins and Ultron’s introduction, I guess another things I enjoyed was the blue highlights on Black Widow’s suit. Psych! They were distracting and made no sense for someone who works as a stealth assassin. Maybe if she used her electrified batons more they would have a practical explanation involved with being a charging mechanism, but no no no! I don’t wike it! (That’s a reference to a Jimmy Fallon / Chris Evans interview, FYI. Look it up!)

Serious answer? The Meow Meow stuff was definitely the highlight of the film for me, as was Hulkbuster’s arm coming in off-screen to punch Hulk out in a way similar to how Hulk punches Thor in the final battle of the first film. Actually, a lot of this fight was pretty great, including Stark’s reactions as he realizes that fighting the Hulk can be a super scary and terrifying uphill battle.

You know, it’s not even that I didn’t enjoy the movie as an entertainment experience. It’s just that my expectations were so high all the things that I consider flaws were hard for me not to get stuck on. It’s the same with Guardians of the Galaxy, and I don’t doubt that your experience with a second viewing will probably go down similarly for me.

And maybe catching up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D will help out too. Maybe then someone will fill me in on where the heck Fury got that helicarrier.

Zac: I really wish you saw this a second time to see how all your complaints smooth over. All my complaints pretty much subsided, and it became clear the finale is all about small moments, not big ones, and it is full of a million great little moments. Vision saving Scarlet Witch, Tony’s eyes darting all around for an escape as the city crumbles on top of him, Thor, Vision and Tony using their beams to take down Ultron(!), then Hulk uppercutting him, Hawkeye going back to save the kid, Quicksilver making the ultimate sacrifice, every Cap & Thor team up, so much good stuff.

Vision’s Speech was also a great little piece of writing and you should really pay attention to everything Paul Bettany says and does during that scene. Every dart of the eyes, landing on who he wants to emphasize his point to, is just staged perfectly. A lot of subtleties going on there, but Vision’s glance at Thor’s cape and giving himself one is one of my favorite small moments in any Marvel movie.

Lauren: Well Edna would hate it! The capes, that is; I can’t speak to her opinion of the film. But I can speak to mine, and it needs to breathe before going into the theater to see this one again. Maybe then I can come in with fresh eyes and appreciate Age of Ultron for what it does do, instead of everything I wish it had.

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