The most anticipated movie of the Summer, err… Spring, has arrived. Avengers: Age of Ultron has finally been released in North America. How is it? This review is in 3 parts. The first is a non-spoiler recommendation about the movie. The second part involves snarky comments I made while watching the film, quasi-spoilerish. The last part is full-on spoilers, looking at what the movie means for the future of the MCU. So sit back, get some popcorn shrimp, and get all the 411 you need from your favorite penguin.
I may be alone with this, but I do think this was a more enjoyable movie than the first Avengers. There was no scene that seemed to drag on and on, like in the first movie. I also enjoyed the banter between the cast. Most of my qualms about the movie derive from being an old school Marvel fan, where the personalities of Hawkeye and Quicksilver are wrong, and Scarlet Witch’s power set are a confusing meld of hodge-podge plot conveniences. However, I have long ago accepted the fact that even if everyone who buys an Avengers comic buys ten tickets apiece, that is still less than $5 million, which is not even a hundredth of what this movie will make. In short: the comics audience means little in regards of revenue, and are more important as free publicity via social media, althro with this being a sequel to one of the most successful movies of all time, this is not that important. Of course, we live in a world now where a comic book movie can make $700 million and be considered a failure, ala the last Spidey movie.
Two qualms still remain, however. The first is that the stakes never seemed as high as they did in the first film. The major battles of the film take place in the fictional country of Sokovia. One thing that really made Marvel stand out from DC is, by basing their characters in real world settings, the locations brought meaning to battles, as opposed to DC’s fictional towns of Gotham, Metropolis, Central City, etc. Sokovia means nothing to anyone. If what Ultron threatens to do to the city the battle takes place in is a London, Paris, New York City, Tokyo, et cetera, it means something. Heck, other than giving a reason for Wanda and Pietro to care what happens and to be there, just basing the film so heavily in Eastern Europe means nothing. Worldwide, Eastern Europe has meant nothing to anyone outside of it ever since Ronald Reagan and his legacy kicked the Soviet Union’s ass. The other qualm feeds the first. Ultron never seemed as menacing to me as Loki or Ronan did. Heck, he didn’t seem as menacing as the Destroyer in the first Thor movie. Awesome villains can make the film (see the original Star Wars) and bad ones can break them (Phantom Menace, Fantastic Four).
Anyways, this gets the penguin recommendation from me, being my third favorite movie of the MCU. The rest of the article gets spoilery, so if you do not want the film to be spoiled, then go out, watch the movie, and come right back here for the finish.
Snarky Comments (quasi-spoilerish):
If she really wanted to mesmerize Hulk, she should have flashed him #justsaying
Don’t have a girlfriend, Hawkeye? My advice: guest star of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and brush up on your “Morse” code.
Being a long time Marvel fan, just hearing the word “Ultron” and I’m like ABORT MISSION ABORT MISSION
Stan “the Man” Lee loaded off his gourd…priceless.
Looks like Mark Ruffalo had the most fun of anyone on the sets.
Wakanda??? Hmm, paging the future Black Panther movie
Looks like Klaue needs a Klaw.
So much for my earlier girlfriend crack.
Ironic that Widow is sterilized, considering what Scarlett Johansen was going thru at the time
Can’t help but hope that tractor is a Transformer…I don’t ever remember a tractor transformer. A Bi-plane, yes, but not a tractor.
Look’s like that guy is Fury-ous.
Damn Thor, where were you when we needed you…at Thunder Over Louisville. Better light show, and no crappy music.
I guess Thor knew to do that…from a Vision?
Way to “hammer” your point, Vision.
C’mon guys, don’t leave me here…alone…with the newbies.
The Take-away (HEAVY SPOILERS)
This movie is like The Empire Strikes Back in that is an enjoyable film, but it is not a movie that stands on its own. The movie starts while the Avengers are first engaging the enemy, with no lead in. If you are one of the few people who had never heard of the first movie, and walked into this movie cold, you would have no idea who these people are. In fact, you need to have seen the last 10-15 minutes of this week’s (April 28, 2015) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to have any idea why these people are attacking other people. When Joss Whedon earlier this week was complaining about such things as Coulson’s resurrection and that movies shouldn’t need to reflect what has happened on television, you should easily see this TV prequel as maybe the catalyst for his bloviating. Then again, last year’s Captain America: Winter Soldier totally screwed up the premise of Agents, and with Ultron it seems back to the previous status quo, flying helicarrier and all. I like how Marvel wants TV and Movies to be one universe, but it does mean that creators will need heavy oversight.
Another problem with the hot opening is that it brings forth the question: why is Iron Man here? At the end of Iron Man 3, he destroyed all the dozens of his suits in a manner that Michael Bay would be proud of. What made him return to the field? If the movie started without the opening battle, and we see Tony and Bruce debating on whether or not to build Ultron, and THEN we go to the opening battle with Tony being a reluctant participant, it would make more sense. We’ve been told that in Captain America: Civil War it’ll be Tony versus Steve, and with Tony’s character arc in this movie, we will know where he’s coming for for that movie…so why not have a reason for his motivations prior to this movie’s story?
I accidentally heard a review of the movie before finishing writing this article that complained about Cap having no character arc in this film. While I can see why someone would complain about this, I feel the concern is misplaced…Cap just had a movie last year and he’s getting another one next year. The space a character arc for him would take was and is better served being used for the other characters. However, there didn’t feel like much of a lead-in for the next Cap movie…the aforementioned Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be a better precursor to that storyline, what with some in S.H.I.E.L.D. wanting to embrace superhumans (Coulson), while others want them eliminated (Gonzales). The Black Panther movie, due out over 3 years from now, had more allusions to it in the movie, with mentions of Wakanda (his homeland) and the appearance of his villain Klaw. (Note that in one article I read, this was unintentional.)
Now let’s talk about Black Widow and Hulk. I understand that they were going for “Beauty & the Beast” here, but it just seemed weird. I am not opposed to it, but again it just came out of nowhere. I do think Mark Ruffalo may have had the most fun shooting this movie, considering his scenes with Scarlett; great work if you can get it. Considering that Scarlett Johansen was pregnant during the shooting of the film, I find delicious irony that she states her character is sterile. That actually makes a lot of sense, as an agency dedicated to making top female agents at any cost would probably not want them to be indisposed at any time, and the fact they likely would become pregnant as sex and sex appeal has been for millennia upon millennia a great weapon for women against men. It would also give a reason for Widow to have a strong sense of melancholic maternal instinct, and since Scarlett could easily act it by imagining what it would be like to be childless, it would be riveting drama.
(Besides, they are going to be up to their ears in Infinity Gem turmoil in future movies, and surely one of them could make her fertile again.)
Hawkeye as a family man? I make a joke about a girlfriend for him and then less than an hour later, the joke means nothing. Being an fan of Marvel’s a couple of decades ago, I would still like to see him and Mockingbird together.
Thor was…there. He’s just there for women to drool over the way men can droll over Widow. The after-hours attempts by his teammates to lift his hammer were amusing, but for the most part there wasn’t much reason for him to be there. Speaking of which, the Vision can lift Mjolnir? What??? This is almost literal deux ex machina.
As for the Maximoff twins: what a waste. I usually find killing off characters a waste of resources and often reckless, so I hate seeing Pietro being killed off, but I do like him dying in a major act of heroism. But I find the Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past to be a better version, and neither one is exactly the comic version I am familiar with. (I finally saw Future Past this past month, and it’ll be a topic for a future article.) As for the Scarlet Witch, I really don’t care for what a hodge-podge of powers she has. What is so hard to understand about her power if you realize her traditional powers can be summed up nicely: she’s a Murphy’s Law projector. The plot elements that needed her to have mind control could have easily been edited away.
Speaking of deaths, why kill off Baron von Strucker like they did? As I said before, it is a waste of resources. Do they think having Baron Zemo showing up in Cap 3 and always having the possibility of bringing back the Red Skull means they have too many ex-Nazis running around, and Strucker was expendable?
Ultron was a crappy villain. In the comics he looked scary. Here, he looked like nothing special. All his clones were easily dispatched. In the comics he is made of adamantium, just like Wolverine’s claws, making him hard to destroy. Here he seemed to be made of aluminum. Ulysses Klaue seemed a far more serious villain. Also, while I kind of like the idea of making a city a meteorite to raise up and then having it drop, it never seemed that it was that close to happening, and with it being in a fictional country in an overlooked section of the world, the menace never seemed to be there like it was with the Red Skull or Loki, Even Obadiah Stane was more menacing than Ultron.
Right now, other than next year’s Captain America movie, it seems like the next 4 years of MCU movies will be filler until Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet Part I comes out in May 2018. Will I see them? Probably, as I have now seen 9 of the 11 MCU movies (I haven’t seen Hulk or Dark World). Ultron is a fun movie, one I liked better than most movies I have seen this millennium. However, it leaves me with a sense of “what next”, said more quizzically than “gee willikers, I can’t wait”.
Anyways, tomorrow (May 2) is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY across America. Next week I plan to review all the comics I can get a hold of from the event. Come back next week, same penguin-time, same penguin-channel.
Quoth the penguin…evermore.
My pop culture specialties are Star Wars, Transformers, Wizards of the Coast games, and the 1980s.My scholarly specialties are history, geography, and travel.
Join me every Friday for the Pop Culture Curmudguin.
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