Friday, May 01, 2015

Age of Ultron

I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. A few scattered thoughts:

* The primary weakness is that it is overloaded; it is trying to do far more things than it can entirely do successfully. The first Avengers movie managed to work despite a weak story premise by keeping things relatively simple and streamlined -- there was a lot going on, spectacle-wise, but the actual plot and themes were straightforward. This movie does not stay streamlined. This is practically symbolized by the movie itself, which has a plethora of cameos.

* I don't know if it's just me, but the cinematography also seemed sloppier in this one -- there are big flashy spectacle scenes in which it is difficult to figure out exactly what's going on.

* The reason I think it doesn't fail, and manages to make a sequel almost as good as the first Avengers movie, is that almost all of its story premises are better than the story premise of the first one. There's more than one, and one is occasionally left feeling that a good thread in the movie would have been much better if it had been its own movie. But the way in which they are integrated is at least watchable.

* The scene with all of them just hanging out after the party (which comes somewhere in the middle of the movie) is even better than the trailer suggests. Of course, part of the joke (which they put in the trailer) was that Captain America is one of the very small handful of people in the comics who actually is 'worthy to wield the power of Thor'; he has wielded Mjolnir more than once. But it works even better with more context.


  1. My wife has a crush on James Spader so we went last night.

    Agreed on the camera felt like a Transformers movie at times in that regard. Although I did see it in 3D, which I would not choose to do again. I'm clearly too old for these kids and their MTV.

    I still haven't processed why yet, but the themes did not feel properly done to me. Possibly just because there was a lot going on and the unity was not quite there. The fear/fortitude angle was extremely promising in the first half but did not feel properly pursued. I did like the ideas in play (not uncommon for Whedon).

    There's also the concept fatigue--a lot of them are a little too-1970s for me. Ironic that the movie is too faithful to the source material in that regard. Have we yet to say anything new about the dangers of AI, the tortured "I can't be with you" love angle, getting back to basics in the home country, etc...

  2. branemrys7:20 AM

    I had heard complaints about the 3D, so I deliberately avoided it, despite the fact that it meant I had to wait forty minutes longer.

    Thinking about this more, I think the movie does much better give us ideas than it does actual themes -- as you say, something is lacking the development, because they are all crowding each other out. It hardly raises an idea before we're on to another one.

  3. Enbrethiliel9:19 AM


    I saw it a couple of nights ago and agree that it was trying to do far too much.

    An impression I carried over from the first movie is that Tony Stark is Joss Whedon's favourite character--and indeed, it's Stark whose moral dilemma gets to drive the plot of Ultron. (Or do I just think so because Robert Downey, Jr. just naturally steals every scene he's in?) Related to that impression is my sense that Whedon is out of his comfort zone with Steve Rogers--also reinforced by the weird dream/nightmare sequence Whedon gives him. (Or maybe I was just a dull viewer. Someone needed to spell out for me that Captain America's "dark side" is that he actually doesn't want peace in his time. I do recall this coming up at least one other time in the movie, but I wasn't able to connect the dots while watching.)

    The Mjolnir scene after the party was my favourite--at once very human and superheroish. But my favourite line was Nick Fury's "multiplying faster than a Catholic rabbit." ROFLMAO!!!

    Black Widow and Hulk, on the other hand . . . Where did that come from? Probably the same place as Hawkeye's family. LOL!

  4. branemrys9:12 PM

    I get the sense that Whedon is out of his comfort zone with Steve Rogers, too, although I think he handles the matter better than most directors would. Rogers is about as un-Whedonesque a hero as can be. This came up with Rogers's comment about God in the first Avengers movie ("There's only one God, ma'am, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that"). On the film commentary he noted that a lot of his friends remarked that it was not what Whedon himself, who is through and through atheist, would say; and he replied, "No, but it is what Steve Rogers would say."

    A lot of this film felt like it was setting up for films currently in the works. Thus it seemed to me that there was an awful lot set up to foreshadow the future showdown between Captain America and Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War. (The movies show an admirable willingness to adapt them for what is good for movies, but they are drawing from popular comic storylines, which is why Marvel famously wields iron control over what directors can and can't do with the characters. The basic Civil War storyline, and the thing they can't do a Civil War movie without using, involves the showdown between a faction led by Captain America, who is the ultimate stand-up-for-the-rights-of-the-individual hero, and a faction led by Iron Man, who is Mr. Military-Industrial Complex himself.) Thus we get a lot of focus on Tony's obsession with security for all, and the thing that makes Steve listen to the Scarlet Witch is when she pinpoints exactly what he in fact thinks Tony's problem is: the willingness to do anything if he thinks it will make things right. I liked the movie overall, but a lot of it just seems like set-up for something else.

    I actually could see the Hulk/ Black Widow pairing here, although it was (like most things in the movies) too rushed. In the previous Avengers movie, their storylines were also paired, although there was no love story there. I think, actually, Whedon treats their interaction as a sort of Beauty and the Beast story, with the twist that the Beauty is just a beast of a different sort, and that makes a lot of sense of their overall stories through the movies.

  5. Enbrethiliel10:10 PM


    "There's only one God, ma'am . . ." is actually one of my favourite lines from the first Avengers film! I guess I can give Whedon credit for some things. ;-P

    What do you think of balancing Stark's obsession with perfect security with Rogers's psychological need for there always to be a war? I never got that impression of Rogers from what I know of his comics--and it seems very much like a modern critique of our own soldiers that we're anachronistically trying to lay on him. Without more information, my conclusion is that it was written in to add complexity to his opposition to Stark--because otherwise we'd all automatically side with Rogers on the issue, regardless of how much charm Downey, Jr. still flashes in our direction.

  6. branemrys10:35 PM

    I think a better way to think of it might be as a need to protect the 'little guy' from the 'bully'. (At least that's the way they should go.) But even with regard to war, I think it does make a certain sense in light of his story -- after all, the high point of his life was fighting in a war, where he became all that he had ever hoped he be and found the love of his life, and while it all passed him by, he never stopped doing that. And then when unfrozen, how did he deal? By jumping into the fight again. (I thought Tony's 'peace in our time' comment was interesting. Because who would be more likely to be suspicious of something like that than someone who devoted himself to fighting Hitler, who managed to grow so big because people were looking for 'peace for our time'?)

    The problem of siding with Cap is interesting. Captain America is the Man Out of Time -- no matter what complications might be added, he in some basic sense has to be a Golden Age hero forever, which means that while he's not always right, his cause is always just. And his background just doubles down on it, because one of his superpowers is his good character (this was pointed out explicitly in the first Captain America movie).


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