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Some Thoughts on "Avengers: Age of Ultron"

So, I was just as excited to see the newest Avengers flick as the rest of you, I'd say. Maybe more so. I'm a Marvel nut, and always have been, and probably always will be. They've just always appealed to me more than DC, outside of like, you know, Batman and Wonder Woman. But yeah, I was really excited to see Joss Whedon's latest and ostensibly last Marvel outing, and was really hoping he'd deliver more of the witty, slam-bang summer blockbuster material that he did the first type around.

And in a way, he did. Only this time, in a world where Marvel Cinematic Universe outings have matured, and the old way of doing things in summer flicks is getting pretty outdated, it doesn't feel nearly as fresh and fun and bold as it did in 2012. I'm not really going to review Age of Ultron because it's hard to critically parse and slap a grade on it. It's a really, really mixed bag, and I figured I'd just give my thoughts on it. Cool? Cool.

Also, if you're one of those screaming, sarcastic, caps-lock-spamming people about this, marginal spoiler warning.

Why Does Everything I Love Blow Up?
"Who cares?" is a phrase I actually muttered out loud during the climax of Age of Ultron. The titular villain (who, by the way, James Spader does an awesome job portraying) puts rocket jets or something on a city and propels it into the sky to, like... kill the Avengers? To kill the city? I don't know. It should be cool, but it's just not. It just feels really, really forced. Like Joss Whedon ran out of ideas and said, "hey, fuck it, flying city that also sort of blows up sometimes? And maybe Ultron will give some speech about 'humanity rising just to fall,' because symbolism? I dunno, man, where's my paycheck?"

That's how I feel about pretty much all of Ultron's action sequences, really. They all just feel like excuses to throw in as many CG explosions as possible and call it a day. It gets to the point where it's boring. Buildings, cars, trees, planes, robots... all of these things blow up, and I could give less of a fuck about all of it. None of it is fun. None of it has any significance.

This is, I believe, the second most expensive film ever made, and practically all of the money just went to making CG explosion after CG explosion, none of which actually feel urgent or exciting. They're just... there. Explosions should never just be "there." They should be thrilling, scary, amazing, fun. In Ultron, they're none of these things. They're a backdrop, not an effect. And last time I checked, the word "effect" is in the term "special effects."

Because of this, every action scene with explosions in it just comes across as unnecessary. Like Whedon and whoever choreographed it just slapped together some loud and bombastic visuals, then called it a day. Which is why I uttered "who cares" to myself. Because I sure as hell didn't. I'd seen everything the movie had to offer in the first 30 minutes to an hour. The proverbial wad had been blown, and everything else was just a failed attempt at trying to capture that initial release again.

Whedon Can Shut Up About Sexism In Movies
I am officially tired of Joss Whedon. Man, that hurts to say. Every time somebody has criticized him, for years, I've jumped to his defense. But at this rate... I just can't. As I watched Age of Ultron and its really, really shitty treatment of its female characters, I kept flashing back to every time Whedon's called something sexist, or to the picture of him mugging with Anita Sarkeesian, or to all of the fanboy/fangirl squealing over him being some sort of amazing feminist mastermind.

Only... he's really not. Like, at all. And I'm not sure he ever was. Even when Buffy was on TV, Xena and Charmed blew it out of the fucking water in terms of female characterization. I mean hell, even X-Files did. And in a summer where we're getting Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Terminator Genisys, and (dare I say it) Paper Towns, Age of Ultron looks to be Whedon getting his ass handed to him again, unless all those movies somehow wind up being less progressive than their promo materials make them out to be.

And look, this isn't just me being some "radical social justice blah blah." I think anyone can see the problems with this movie if you think about it for, like, five seconds. The two major female characters in the movie get more emotionally traumatized than any male character, despite all of them going through roughly the same thing. Both characters are in the arms of a male character at multiple points, and every single woman in the movie gets put in some sort of situation where a man has to help them (the same doesn't happen to the male characters, in case you're wondering.) Also, every woman in the movie gets some sort of potential love interest, with Black Widow getting all tragic and misty-eyed over Bruce Banner, and Scarlet Witch most likely shacking up with Vision because that shit happens in the comics.

I could go on and on, but the point is, this would be pretty disappointing in any film. It's especially disappointing after Daredevil, Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy had pretty good female characterization. But what really seals the disappointment in solid vibranium is that this a Joss Whedon joint. This is the guy who self-righteously takes jabs at other writers and creators because they're not being up to his standards of "feminist enough." But you know what? Fuck his standards. Because if Age of Ultron passes those standards, then they're really, really fucking low.

I Want To Like Scarlet Witch, Because She's Pretty Cool
Aside from how Whedon repeatedly tries to fuck her over in this movie, Wanda Maximov aka Scarlet Witch is probably the best part of Age of Ultron. And I'm not just saying this because I really dig her in the comics... well, okay, maybe a little bit. Point is, the introduction of her is way more interesting and fun than that of Quicksilver, who exists solely to rip off Days of Future Past's best scene and die in this movie. She has some of the best powers out of anyone. She has one of the most interesting personalities out of all the characters. She would look the best out of everyone in her final costume if it weren't for how much they nailed Vision (and I mean that, he looks amazing.)

And did I mention how well Elizabeth Olsen plays her? Because, hot damn, she does a stellar job. It's pretty funny watching her and Aaron Johnson be siblings after they were a couple in last year's fantastic Godzilla, and even funnier watching him get outacted by her this time around. His Quicksilver is a bland, undeveloped, boring character who's basically Russian Sonic The Hedgehog. Her Scarlet Witch is a quiet yet forceful character who thinks strategically and has her own quiet motives and machinations that not even the audience is entirely privy to. Which actually makes sense, given that she's a telepath and all.

All this in a script that always tries to screw her over, too. Like I said, she has to be carried, saved and encouraged into action by different men at several points. It's pretty shitty. That's why I said I want to like her. Because despite her being interesting, despite her being well-acted, the movie does actively attempt to weaken her at every possible turn. It ultimately doesn't succeed, of course, and what we're left with is a character who constantly feels in search of a better movie.

Well, she's in luck, considered the geniuses behind Winter Soldier are in charge of the next two Avengers flicks. I have a feeling, considering the magic they worked on their last Marvel project, she's in good hands.

I Feel Let Down Because of How Good Marvel Stuff Has Gotten 
Have you watched Daredevil? Or Guardians of the Galaxy? What about Winter Soldier? If you haven't, go ahead and watch those, and then go back and watch some of the earlier Marvel Cinematic Universe entries. They, um... They don't hold up so well, do they? In particular, every Iron Man entry after the first one is pretty pointless, the first Captain America is pretty much garbage (although, let's face it, it kind of was the first time around too,) and Thor seems pretty plodding and inconsequential, even though I do still like it a lot. And... oh, yeah, The Incredible Hulk exists, too, right? Yeah. That was okay, I guess.

Look, what I'm saying is this: Marvel movies used to be fun, harmless fluff. But then they got big. Bigger than anybody ever anticipated, I'd argue. And with more audiences coming in, especially comic fans who finally weren't getting jilted when they went to see their favorite characters in theaters, there became more of a demand for quality and diversity. More of a demand for substantial, relatively faithful adaptations, and not just prolonged series of explosions. That's why we got a smaller director like James Gunn doing Guardians. That's why Marvel took a risk on Edgar Wright, even if that did fall through. That's why Marvel finally gave Daredevil a gritty, violent, dark show that suited him. People started caring. These weren't just popcorn movies. They were all part of a substantial alternate canon, and each one added something new to the big picture.

And that's why Age of Ultron feels so tone-deaf and moronic. Yeah, we get blatant set-ups for sequels, and yeah, we get some new characters, but overall, it's just... typical. There's nothing different about this than a Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer movie. In fact, I'd actually go so far to say that I saw more heart and spirit in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, which, wow, is something I never thought I'd be saying this time last year. But I mean it. In all sincerity.

MCU stuff has gotten so, so good. I mean, so good. Like, fuck, so much of it is amazing. But Age of Ultron is just a big, dumb, CG-riddled action movie in a Hollywood landscape of big, dumb, CG-riddled action movies. That doesn't mean it's terrible. Not by any stretch of the imagination. If I were to review and assign a grade to it, then it'd probably wind up somewhere in the C to C+ range. Not awful, at all. But also not nearly as good as it should be, especially when held in comparison to all the great stuff Marvel's been pumping out.

Also, Joss Whedon Needs To Grow Up
This is more of an aside than anything, but shit, man, Joss Whedon's been doing the same damn thing for years at this point. Action, action, witty quips, action, tragic female character backstory, action, quips, quippy action, actiony quips... he's got it down to a formula.

Only that formula has passed its expiration date, like a can of Coke II from 2001. It tastes like something that once had significance, and felt different than everything else, but at this point is beyond flat and leaves a sour aftertaste.

As a person. Joss seems pretty rad, and supports some great things. But as a creator, I feel like he needs to mature and expand a little bit. Maybe lose the "everybody's sarcastic" method. Maybe ease up on the action films. Maybe make it so that not every female character has been hurt in some way, shape or form. Maybe make it that your idea of "good female characterization" isn't "woman who punches things and then is sarcastic while punching things." I don't know. He just needs to something else, is what I'm saying. He needs a new angle.

The Infinity War Stuff Is Going To Rock
One thing that Age of Ultron didn't make me feel disappointed about is the future of the MCU as a whole. Well, aside from Ant-Man. That looks pretty bad. But the setting up of a new team, the tension between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, and the framing of Thanos' attempt at constructing the Infinity Gauntlet has got me really excited about where things are going next. I feel like the next few years are going to be a gold mine, with Civil War getting an adaptation, Captain Marvel getting her own movie, Dr. Strange being introduced to a mass audience, and, eventually, an Avengers team that isn't all Caucasian. Come on. War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision? Probably Black Panther and Captain Marvel, maybe Ant Man? You really can't go wrong. Well you could. But I don't think it'll happen.

So, yeah, Age of Ultron really disappointed me, considering that it was my second or third most anticipated movie this year (can't kill that Terminator and Mad Max hype!) I really think it's one of the weakest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and I'd rank it with Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World. But it wasn't all bad. Yeah, its treatment of women was pretty bad, Whedon's shtick is beyond beat, and there were too many damn explosions.

That said? It, at the very least, made me excited for what's to come. I can't wait to watch Thanos wreck shit. I'm down for Black Panther and Captain Marvel kicking ass on the silver screen. Watching the Guardians of the Galaxy, the new Avengers and (ostensibly) The Defenders team up is going to be rad as all get out. So, if Age of Ultron's sole purpose in its 2.5 hour runtime was just to introduce a disposable villain to buy time and get me excited for more movies, then it succeeded. My faith in the MCU isn't killed, not by a longshot. If anything, I can't wait for more of it.

As for anything else Joss Whedon makes? Yeah, nah. I think I'll pass.


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