Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Here it is. I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since seeing the first Avengers, and I’ve been hoping for access to an early screening to the sequel ever since, well, I’ve been going to early screenings.

Here it is. I was able to catch Avengers: Age of Ultron in theaters yesterday at an early press screening. (Thank you, YelpDC!) I got there 2 hours early and I was SO excited in my lazy Scarlet Witch-bound.

I am of the firm belief that I photograph so much better when the top of my face is excluded.
I am of the firm belief that I photograph much better when the top of my face is excluded.

MANY spoilers will be following the trailer, so please be aware of this! I’m not sure how much you all know about the movie already (some things have been revealed over the past few months) so I’ll try to keep it as vague as possible with regards to actual plot points.
Note: I wasn’t sure where in the MCU timeline the events of AOU were meant to take place. Right after Winter Soldier? How does Agents of SHIELD factor in, especially since I don’t watch AoS so… I had to do a little bit of research afterwards since AoS does have tie-ins with AOU.

(Abbreviations I will be using in this review: AOU = Age of Ultron, aka this movie; AoS = Agents of SHIELD; MCU = Marvel Cinematic Universe)

You know what, I’m likely going to watch this in theaters again at a later time. The problem with seeing it with zealous fans this early on is… they’re very excited. Someone kept clapping during the screening, a girl fangirl-screamed at one point. Full-on squeal/shriek/scream with delight. (Maybe it was horror, who really knows.) Sometimes you miss dialogue because the audience is laughing too hard at a joke or because there is applause throughout the theater. It makes for a fun experience, but you miss things in the movie as a result.

Of course, the movie was spectacular. It was fun and exciting to watch, and it delivered on many of the things that we have come to expect from Marvel films. This review will sound nitpicky, and that’s likely because I have just been anticipating this for so long and it’s easy to nitpick at a sequel, you know? But I loved this movie, I did. It isn’t perfect and no movie is.

It kept with the tone of the first Avengers film, which was easy since director Joss Whedon returned for this one. However, when the Russo brothers were announced to be coming onboard for the 3rd film, I remember being really confused by the response from some parts of the MCU fandom that went “Good riddance!” Wasn’t everyone so excited that Whedon directed the first one? Wasn’t a really good portion of the MCU fandom also Whedonites? I didn’t really understand when people became so anti-Whedon and/or pro-Russo brothers?

Here’s Joss on the set of the first Avengers film. Hey, it’s good that he makes work so fun.

But by the time AOU was over, I kind of understood the decision to go with a different directing style for the next Avengers film. I felt a bit burdened by Whedon’s one-liners and quips by the end of the movie. It felt like when the class clown — who everyone knows is funny — makes just a few too many jokes during a class presentation. It’s not that the jokes don’t land but it feels like he is trying a bit too hard to make you laugh when you’re not there to laugh your butt off. Did I find Whedon’s jokes funny? Sure. But did I want to be laughing at these quips every 5 minutes? Not really. I was pretty tired of them, to be really honest with you all. Still, the quality of Whedon jokes is good; it just felt like the quantity was a bit excessive. And I think it is strange with regards to the tone of the MCU as a whole. Iron Man movies are pretty snarky, because Tony Stark is Tony Snark. Every Avenger movie has its share of jokes and quips. But this one seemed to try much harder than the others, and to me, it seemed to slightly disrupt the overall tone of the MCU. Is that a strange thing to say?

STILL a fan of a Whedon, just to be clear. And I did like the jokes, I did! It was just more than I expected.

AOU starts off in the middle of action, and it was a little disorienting for me for the first 15 minutes or so. I would later find out that watching AoS would probably have helped me out a bit. We begin immediately with the Avengers kicking butt and taking names to find Loki’s staff (yep, the same one from the last Avengers movie). Like I said, I was a bit disoriented about what was going on and who this Strucker fella was since I didn’t remember him from any of the other Marvel movies. We definitely weren’t picking up after Cap 2, and I knew that Agents of SHIELD had handled a lot of the Hydra fall-out, etc.

So for folks who also don’t watch AoS and/or need a refresher on previous events: Baron von Strucker is a doctor who has been experimenting with human enhancement. SO, when we first meet the twins — who moviegoers last saw at the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier, and who are the only surviving subjects — they are referred to as “enhanced”. As in like “there’s an enhanced here”. (This is Marvel Studios’ way of avoiding the word mutants because 20th Century Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and all mention of mutants.) This is how we enter the “Age of Miracles” and step into real superpowers within the MCU, which until now only had Asgardian pseudo-godliness and some superserum-induced abilities in addition to highly trained operatives and whatever you would classify Tony Stark as.

From their post-credits scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier — the twins.

ANYWAY. Thanks to the Scarlet Witch, we are able to explore some of the things that haunt the Avengers. It’s a nice way to see what motivates Tony, Natasha, Steve, Bruce, and Thor a bit. One of my favorite things about the Avengers movies is that you don’t lose sight of each individual character, their individual nuances, their individual motivations. As we move forward in the Marvel timeline, it’s important for us to see the very crucial differences in their worldviews and how those differences affect their actions.

Of course, it isn’t really an Avengers movie until they fight each other a bit. Their harmony as a team is only rivaled by their dissonance in conflict. The dynamics between the Avengers is really nice. Tony and Bruce science-bro-ing it up. (SCIENCE!) Tony and Cap’s ideological differences. Steve and Thor’s excellent chemistry in battle (Chris Squared forever!). (And okay, there’s one dynamic that I really didn’t like how they executed in this movie, I’ll talk about that in my spoilers.)

Clint isn’t in this shot because, well, you’ll see.

Avengers movies excel in bringing together these heroes and showing us how they play off each other. Half of them have their own film franchises now, and each one has their own style and ego. My favorite thing about the Avengers is the relationships between the characters. It’s especially fun because we see characters from individual franchises that get introduced to the mix, like Rhodey (War Machine from the Iron Man franchise) and Sam (Falcon from Captain American: Winter Soldier).

Also thank goodness there are some PoCs in this one. Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie and Claudia Kim (I’ll talk about her character in the spoilers section) added some much-needed diversity to the cast.
Even though they’re barely hardly in the movie at all. It’s a start, Marvel. It’s a start. But you can do better and you know that.

With regards to our new characters, the twins, I liked their dynamic a lot. They don’t really look anything alike, but it was a pretty convincing sibling relationship. I am always very wary when brother-sister duos get announced, because sometimes the actors play off each other with far too much sexual tension for sibling relations. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did nicely in this regard.
HOWEVER (no one is safe), their accents were a bit wonky. Elizabeth’s sounded decent, but she wouldn’t consistently speak with it. You could hear a very distinct American accent slip out pretty often. Aaron’s seemed like a bit much; I got a bit of a Borat vibe from his accent. Luckily for us, the two of them didn’t have that many lines, but I do wish they worked with their dialect coaches a little bit more.

Not sure how much I liked Ultron as a villain. He seemed a bit shallow for a Marvel villain, so it was disappointing. It just seemed like we don’t really delve very deep into his motivations and his thought process as a villain. He jumps so suddenly to villainous intent, and we don’t really explore how he got there or get a glimpse of how he’s doing the right thing from his perspective.  It’s hard to sympathize with him as a villain, which makes him a weak villain. Marvel is better than this, so it was disappointing. I guess the true villain(s) of the movie are their inner demons blah blah whatever. Andy Serkis has just the tiniest presence in the movie and that was disappointing, too, although I am guessing we’ll see more of him in the future?

I can’t really complain too much about the action sequences. Marvel delivers wonderfully on action movies, but with Avengers movies, you often have so many important characters on screen and there were so many cuts within any given fight scene that it was easy to just get lost. I kind of tuned out a lot of the action sequences because it was easier than trying to watch a flurry of arms and legs and guns and robots in IMAX 3D.

I was confused about Natasha’s TRON-esque catsuit. Why were there lights running through it? It was pretty cool but I didn’t understand the tactical reason for this. And she didn’t seem to have a set weapon or anything. I mean, her skillset is her weapon, I suppose, but she had guns, she had cool electric… dagger… things? No signature weapon and, seemingly, no assigned weapon? I loved that Clint (Hawkeye) got a lot more screentime compared to his brainwashed self in the first movie, although his personality is still not really fleshed out at this point. He was on screen and even got lines, but he was still not really an active character in the movie. (Do you see how small he is on the poster?)

It’s getting a bit dicey for me to talk about this movie without any spoilers, so let’s just jump into the spoiler section below the trailer!
Warning: It’s a lot of critiquing in this section. My big issue was that a lot of things happened in this movie that I thought there wasn’t enough of a build-up for: new characters, new situations, new relationships, etc.

Are you planning on watching Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Do you like watching MCU films? What did you think of the last Avengers movie?

LOTS OF SPOILERS COMING UP. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU! I MEAN IT.


Here’s the latest trailer, and spoilers below the jump.

 OKAY THE FIRST THING I NEED TO TALK ABOUT IS THIS RIDICULOUS BRUCE/NATASHA NONSENSE.

One of my biggest issues with this movie was how it really wasn’t great for people without much context going into it. The disorienting action scene was one thing. But we basically jumped straight into “Isn’t it obvious that Bruce and Natasha have a thing for each other?” even with Steve giving Bruce a dad talk. There’s really no setup for this, though, and while I love Mark Ruffalo, I don’t think he’s very convincing as a romantic lead. This meant there wasn’t really much chemistry between the two of them, despite how much ScarJo was smoldering. Would it have been so difficult or awful for there to be a lead-up to this romance during the course of the movie, rather than just jumping straight into it? Sigh. By the time they kiss, I was completely noped. Not convinced, not into it, not for it, just nope.

NOPE

Not only was there barely any chemistry, but I am really tired of Natasha just being shuffled around to whichever Avenger pleases the execs. She is a complex character (who SERIOUSLY deserves her own movie) and she has been floated around as a love interest for basically every Avenger at this point. It’s annoying, it’s sexist, and it is no longer convincing anybody.

No thank you.

I was also not happy with the randomness of Helen Cho being here. She just appears suddenly as our first Asian and a randomly brilliant genetics genius? In fact, her work is really key to this movie so I don’t understand why she just comes out of no where. Why is it so hard for us to have context or background for these characters and relationships over the course of at least 8 Avengers movies? Maybe there was some explanation in Agents of SHIELD but even then, the show usually only does oblique little references to the movies. Claudia Kim didn’t show up on TV as far as I know. It upsets me that this happened like this, and I can only hope that her character will be expanded upon a bit in the next Avengers and/or Captain America movie, since she’s still alive by the end? Although our cast of characters is getting pretty long now…

I did really like the introduction of the Vision, who hasn’t featured very prominently in promotions so I got the feeling that he was a bit of a surprise. And of course, the creation of Vision is why Helen Cho suddenly became chummy enough to party with the Avengers in this movie.

Also, thank you Helen for adding another lady to the crew. Kind of. Not really but sorta.

We also get a little more fun with Mjolnir, which I loved a lot, as it’s a favorite fan question to ask: Can Steve lift the hammer? What about that door hook in Thor 2, was it worthy? (Even in the movie, Steve asks Tony about what happens when the hammer is in an elevator. Is the elevator worthy?)

And it was a really effective way to establish the Vision as a worthy member of the Avengers, as he’s able to lift Mjolnir and hand it to Thor. BOOM THERE IT IS. Excellent tie in, and I’m glad that this hammer sequence wound up being such a nice casual moment among the Avengers. We don’t get many of those, moments where the Avengers are just hanging out and being relaxed together. It doesn’t last long, of course, since Ultron crashes the party, but it was a beautiful moment. It was a nice fan service, too. (As Tumblr gushed: Thor in regular clothes!!)

Speaking of the gang in regular clothes, I want to talk about  Farmer!Clint and Farmer!Avengers.

This was another really nice, shortlived moment of peace in this beautiful rustic setting. ALSO Clint’s beautiful family!!!!! It was precious, and I was so happy to see Clint get some real substantial screentime that established him as a father and a husband (although, like I said, we still don’t know too much about his personality). It’s nice to see that Clint has a family, since up until now, he’s been portrayed as just this SHIELD operative who was working against SHIELD for almost all of the last movie. Also, thanks to the farm scene, we were able to see Steve rip apart a log. ALSO Clint and Tony in flannels, which was kind of bewildering but also amazing.

I wasn’t sure what the setup was for Thor’s weird… “let me sit in this pool of water to further explore the hallucinogenic dream that the Scarlet Witch gave me because I missed something” thing was. What?? He missed something? And he could just go back to that dream? It was a way to introduce the Infinity Stones (and I guess the Infinity Gauntlet, which we see in the mid-credits scene) but again, this appeared out of no where. It seemed to have no secondary function besides the fan service obligatory shirtless-Hemsworth scene. Again, it just didn’t seem to really fit in seamlessly with the information we already have about Thor and the other events.

And you know what?
I was really blown when Pietro died. How can he be fast enough to do what he does and then get shot down? He is faster than bullets, we see this in THIS movie (not even looking at Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past) and yet he… dies because he gets shot? I don’t know, it seemed an unfitting death for him. It led to an appropriate reaction, maybe, from Wanda… although even there, I don’t think that we explored that sibling relationship enough to have the audience really understand the impact of her twin’s death.

Ah, Whedon. You just love killing folks off and ripping out fan hearts.

Basically, the movie wasn’t perfect but you know what? I LOVED IT STILL. I am really glad I was able to see it early and I hope I get to rewatch it with more friends soon.

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