Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

NOTE: There will be spoilers for the whole movie (and previous movies in the MCU). If you’re wondering about a certain scene involving Bruce and Natasha, I will discuss it briefly. But if you want a spoiler-free (the post, not the comments) discussion of that scene (as to better equip you for the movie), please read this post over on Hello, Tailor (I highly recommend you read it before going to the movie). 

Maria Hill

Maria Hill (is going to kick your ass)

So, Age of Ultron. As everyone who knows me already knows, I’m a fan of the Avengers (the movie, some of the comics, etc) and I was pretty excited for Age of Ultron. I was way too excited, even though I knew I shouldn’t be, I sort of let my excitement get carried away. Why? Because have you seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3? While neither movie is perfect (and IM3 has significantly more issues than Cap2), both of them are pretty damn good. And, to be honest, Cap2 is probably my favorite of the MCU movies to be released so far. I think that’s a problem, though, because while the only thing missing from Cap2 was Hawkeye (Clint Barton), it was, with a few exceptions basically perfect. Steve ended up with two BFFs, a woman (Natasha) and a man of color (Sam), and he got his OLD best friend, Bucky, back, too (sort of). Every one of the three main characters had agency (read about character agency here). They were not defined by the fact that they were Avengers. In fact, the whole point of Cap2 is that Steve is not just Captain America. He’s also Steve Rogers. Natasha releases all of SHEILD’s secrets to the world — taking action that will destroy all of her covers and everyone else’s too. And at the end of the movie, Natasha goes off on her own because she needs to figure shit out. Sam goes with Steve because he knows he’s not a superhero, but he can be a hero as much as Cap can. And, of course, at the very end of the movie, Bucky finally gets to be more than just a pawn, he gets to try to be his own man. That was good storytelling. Pretty much everything about Cap2 was about character growth, friendship, relationships and history. IM3 was about Tony Stark realizing what kind of man he’s become and who he wants to be. It was about his character growing, mostly through having a mental breakdown. But by the end of both IM3 and Cap2, three of the Avengers had changed. This was good, this was really good. I couldn’t wait to see where Age of Ultron took their characters.

Black Widow

Black Widow (is my favorite Avenger, even now)

And herein lies the rub. Because, well, it didn’t take them anywhere. A friend of mine and I have been discussing this movie at length and she said that it’s usually the second movie that’s the better one and she’s right. The first ones tend to either come on too strong or not strong enough and the second picks up where the first left off. But for various reasons, that was never going to happen for Avengers. Probably because in between the group movies are individual movies, directed by different people, and thus things can be ignored. I’ll give Age of Ultron credit, in the beginning of the movie, before Ultron reveals himself, there’s a party at the Avengers Tower and we have lots of shout outs to previous movies — where’s Pepper and Jane? Catching up with Rhodey (ugh, I love Don Cheadle). Sam shows up and basically mentions (but doesn’t mention) Bucky to Steve. But that is it. After that scene, it’s as though IM3, Cap2 and Thor2 never happened. Which is a big honking pile of crap. Because even Thor2 had more character development than Age of Ultron (except for Hawkeye, but that’s for later). I had read some spoilers before going into the movie so I knew that I probably was going to find some of it disappointing — I didn’t expect to find the whole first half to be a disappointment. One of the things that made the first Avengers movie so good is that we spent time with the Avengers as they tried to become the Avengers. When the first movie started, the only things we knew about them were from previous individual films (for the characters that had them and bit parts for those that didn’t — where’s my Black Widow movie?) and we had basically no idea how these characters would work things out. What happened was an entertaining, though not excellent, superhero movie. The characters overcome their differences and find common ground (even if it’s through Coulson’s “death”) to fight together instead of against each other. In AoU, it’s as though none of this happened. I’m not kidding. We waste half of the movie trying to get the characters to like each other again. Not all of them, of course, but most of them. Now, there are several ways this could’ve gone that would’ve worked. Our opening scene could’ve been a montage of the Avengers coming together after the three previous movies to deal with the fallout of the fall of SHIELD and the hunt for Hydra. We could’ve started the way the original Avengers movie did, with the characters being called to action and then the montage of them bringing down Hydra. But that’s not what happened. Instead, we jump straight into a battle that at first I thought was Tony playing an Avengers video game (WTF). I didn’t think it was real and then when it became clear it was real, I was already totally out of the moment. The battle is Avengers vs a Hydra team in an Eastern European country. It is also the first time we meet the twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver — and we don’t even really get meet them. They’re glimpses until they suddenly disappear from the bad guys’ castle.

Hawkeye

Clint Barton (is super great, thank you)

Stuff happens to basically forward the plot, including Tony getting zapped by Scarlet Witch and he sees a truly horrible future where he could’ve done more to save all the Avengers — he lives, they die and therefore we have our movie. Then we go to the fancy tower and the movie continues to fall apart. You see, Bruce and Tony decided to create an AI from whatever is inside that staff of Loki’s (remember that, it’s the one that brainwashed Clint for a couple of days) because they’re stupid. To be fair to Bruce, he’s against it but is then blinded by science. Things happen, it gets out of hand, Ultron’s created by mistake — they wanted someone to protect the world and Ultron, as Scarlet Witch says, can’t tell the difference between protecting the world and destroying it. So, you have infighting because Tony and Bruce lied about creating this AI. You have the dumbest robot AI (it has a mouth, A MOUTH, it’s ridiculous) ever (I mean, he’s smart but looks dumb). They try to stop Ultron, more things happen, Scarlet Witch brainwashes Thor, Steve, Natasha and Bruce — lots and lots of bad things happen. But people get “better” … only they still don’t get along. Thor leaves. Steve and Tony argue (it’s not banter, it should’ve been batter, but it’s not and it’s fucking shitty). But, BUT we get some the awesomeness that is Clint and his family (!!!). I know people were upset that he had a family, but of all the randomness thrown into this film, I liked this. Clint in the movies is very different from comics Hawkeye, and that’s fine. His family is lovely and wonderful and call Natasha Auntie and Laura calls her Nat and I LOVE IT. That was legit one of my favorite parts of the movie. We find out about Clint’s family because that’s the safe house the Avengers go to after Maria tells them they shouldn’t go back to Avengers Tower because Ultron.

Scarlet Witch

Scarlet Witch (might be the best?)

We also get one of the worse scenes in the film here, too. This is the scene I alluded to in the warning at the start of this post (here’s the link again). Out of left field, not unlike Clint’s family, was the weird decision to try to get Natasha and Bruce to hook up. So, all of the agency and character growth that Natasha developed is erased in her few scenes — and most of them are with Bruce. So, we get Natasha getting defined by the fact that she wants a relationship with Bruce and then we get the scene where Natasha basically equates getting sterilized and not being able to have children to being a monster. I’m entirely certain this was not how the the director/writers/etc meant the scene to come across, but what they want doesn’t matter. The scene could’ve gone a million different ways and almost all of them would’ve been better than the scene we got. Bruce says he can’t have kids (probably implying he can’t have sex because he’d Hulk out) and Natasha is like I can’t have kids either, then explains and then calls herself a monster. I kind of get what they were going for but it was so horribly done that it doesn’t matter. UGH. You see, Natasha is my favorite character in MCU. I love her so much. She’s kick ass, she doesn’t need a love interest and she’s better than all of the men combined. She’s a fucking spy and she doesn’t run from a battle — she runs into them. AND YET. She’s the Hulk wrangler, she’s the one Ultron captures, she doesn’t even try to escape and it’s Bruce that frees her. That’s not to mean she doesn’t kick ass throughout the movie because she does, it’s just that they’ve stripped a lot of what made her such a wonderful character and role model for girls. I can’t forgive the movie for this. There are a couple other female characters, which was nice. Dr. Helen Choi (played by Kim Soo Hyun/Claudia Kim) is a geneticist who is pretty fucking great. She gets brainwashed so that Ultron can make himself a new body, but I forgive her for that. She’s not a superhero, though I hope she becomes a regular in the Avengers franchise. I wish there’d been more to her role, small as it was. The other main female character is Scarlet Witch (Wanda), she and her brother (Pietro aka Quicksilver), were experimented on and turned into superheroes (villains) by Hydra. Their only goal was to kill Tony Stark/Iron Man because it was a Stark bomb that killed their parents and didn’t kill the twins when they were kids. Of course, their goal is revenge and when Ultron reveals to Wanda (one of her powers involves being able to get into people’s heads) that his goal is to save humanity by destroying it, both Wanda and Pietro throw this goal aside in order to save the planet. Wanda is fantastic. She initially uses her powers to feed on Tony’s fears, which leads him to build Ultron. Then she uses her powers to fuck with the memories of the rest Avengers (except Clint), which is awful, but within her character. And then she uses them for good, the same with Pietro. They are not fully developed, which is a shame, but we get enough that I adore Wanda, in spite of what she did.

Dr. Helen Choi

Dr. Helen Choi (needed more screen time)

Which leads me to the second half of the movie, Rather, what I really mean are all the events that happen after the Avengers go to Clint’s house. We finally get the team working together, but the highlight of the movie is the final battle. I wish the whole movie had been like this. We get the team clearing out the civilians from the city — as an aside I want to say that there was far, FAR too much civilian death (I didn’t even talk about what happened when Bruce/Hulk’s memories got messed with because honestly, it’s horrible and I’d rather that whole thing never have happened) for an Avengers movie. When the Avengers, plus Wanda and Pietro, work together it is perfection. Like, THIS is what the movie should’ve been. THIS is what I’ve been waiting for. Only we had to get through a whole bunch of useless crap to get to that moment. After all of this (and if you made it this far, I’m sorry?), I don’t regret going to see the movie. And maybe when I possibly see it again on Sunday, I will enjoy it a lot more. But, god, it was a mess. I am 100% ready for someone new to take over the Avengers group movie part of this franchise. I’m really not looking forward to Captain America: Civil War (I feel like we just had that in this movie, ugh). So, you know. Can we just skip ahead to that Captain Marvel movie, please? I need me some Carol Danvers to wash away the mess of this this movie. Ugh. Verdict? If you’re a Marvel movies fan and don’t think too hard, you’ll probably enjoy it. As the NPR reviewer said this morning, you’ll remember Ultron, but not much else. Obviously that’s not really true, but god, it’s close enough. Go see it, if only so we can rant about it (and maybe to show that comic book movies are popular).

Advertisements

Reading Comics: The Beginnings

When I moved back home after I graduated from college (in 2000), I indulged myself. I got into NYSNC and the Backstreet Boys, I made friends with strangers on the internet* (some of them I’m still friends with to this day) and I read a lot of Robin comics. And then I stopped. I don’t know why. Maybe it was costing my unemployed self too much money, maybe I just stopped caring. I eventually moved out and in with my sister (in a larger city). We had no AC, so we went to bookstores (remember those?). She read books, I read Sandman. But that, too, stopped. I had a brief love affair with Prince of Tennis (I’m still occasionally plowing through those, though mostly online). But pretty much my comic and manga reading stopped. I moved near Detroit for library school and it was only in 2006 that I even broadened my fiction reading away from science fiction (and into Scandinavian mysteries and YA).

Once I became a librarian, I started to read more graphic novels. I mostly read things aimed at girls (Minx did a great collection of teen-focused female-centric graphic novels), but I sometimes read other things too. The Louvre collaborated with some French artists/authors and put out some graphic novels, so I read those. I read a couple of YA novel comic adaptations (rarely as good as books, though) and random things here or there. But I wasn’t a heavy graphic novel reader, mostly because I was too busy reading YA. A friend started recommending graphic novels to me in 2010, but again it was only an occasional thing. It wasn’t until the end of 2010 (with Locke & Key and Chew) that I started just looking things up on my own.  And then, suddenly, I was reading more. Maybe it coincided with my interest in kpop (though that was at the end of 2011), but I’ve been steadily reading more and more graphic novels.

I know, the subject of this post is comics and I promise I’ll get there, but let me talk about graphic novels. In the library world, we try to keep things simple. Not everyone agrees and some libraries have graphic novel collections, some have comics and some have manga — and some have all three. Over the years I’ve read all of the above, but never seriously and never regularly. But as 2011 went into 2012, I was doing both. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed manga and discovered a whole new world out there (what with my interest in jdramas and how many of them start as manga or are turned into manga after they’ve been aired). But not comics. Why? It’s complicated.

My exposure to comics, prior to a few weeks ago was limited. Remember those Robin ones back in 2000? Yeah, I don’t either. I also picked up Marvel 1602, which I enjoyed without context. A patron tried to get me to read the Marvel Civil War series, but I wasn’t interested. Even after getting over my anti-RDJ bias and loving Iron Man, as well as the rest of the Marvel verse (though not Spider Man), I wasn’t really interested in comics. Hell, even when I was totally into the X-Men movies, I wasn’t interested in the comics. By the time I thought maybe I was, I felt it was too late. Comics are complicated and I’m a completionist. I need to read things in the right order and I need to read them from the beginning. You can’t necessarily do that with comics, there are too many story lines, too many back issues. I mean, maybe you could, but no one has that time or money — I certainly didn’t. So I quit again.

Until last week. I’d picked up the first volume of the Marvel comic Runaways a few weeks early and fallen in love. but after fighting with Wikipedia and library catalogs, I’d given up because I couldn’t figure out what to request next. Even though, prior to the second Captain America movie coming out, a friend had given me copies of some Cap comics. It wasn’t until a coworker of mine, at my new job, offered to loan me the first six Ms. Marvel issues that I thought about starting again. And start I did. I’ve since read the next two volumes in Runaways and I’m waiting on the remaining issues. And, after sorting out some confusing, I’ve also requested as much of the Young Avengers series as I can.

People often try to get me to like things. Sometimes it works (my return to loving kpop music was one of those things, thanks to my friend J) and sometimes it doesn’t or sometimes it just takes a long time. It took me four months to go through a music-related email from my friend A, because I just wasn’t ready. And the same applies to my interest in comics. I wanted to like comics, I wanted to love them, but every time I thought about reading those Captain America comics I have, it just made me tired. But now? Now I’m ready.

And that means I’m going to blog about it. You’re not going to find anything new here. You might not even find anything interesting, but it’s just a way for me to talk about getting into comics and what reading these means to me. I’ve always loved the medium, now I’m embracing it in all forms. I don’t necessarily know what I’m talking about; after all, I’m coming into this blind. The only history I have is through the movies — and that’s fine. It’s been several years since I really got a new fandom, so I’m ready. I hope y’all are ready for me.

This post is brought to you by this article from The Atlantic:  The Female Thor and the Female Comic-Book Reader

*My first foray into making friends on the internet was in the early 90s, in the pre-web days. I was on MUDs and MUSHs and my first internet friends were a boy from Iceland (we’re Facebook friends now) and another from Germany (I have no idea what happened to him, but I will always fondly remember Mark, because he used to send me letters at band camp). That was only the beginning, and even today, I’m still making friends with strangers on the internet.

Super Hero Movies + My Parents

I’ve written in the past about my love for The Avengers and I really want my parents to go see the movie (when my Mom’s ready), so when I went home over Memorial Day, we spend the first three days I was hoping catching them up on The Avengers movie-verse. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. We seriously watched three super hero movies: Captain AmericaIron Man 2, and Thor.

I know that my relationship with my parents is different than most people’s. I feel this way about my relationship with movies, too. The first R-rated movie I ever saw in the theater was Rain Man. The first movie I ever rented with my good grades was Rear Window and the first R-rated movie I saw at home with my parents was Four Weddings and a Funeral. I have always, always loved going to movies with my parents, basically as much as I like going to movies with my friends. Over the Christmas holidays, my dad and I went to see Hugo and my whole family went to see the second Sherlock Holmes movie and The Artist. Sometimes when I’m at work, I’ll be looking through our DVD collection for something for a patron and stumble across movies I’ve seen with my parents. I can still remember the excitement of going to go see The River Wild (I was 16 and kind of in love with Kevin Bacon, so sue me). But also, my mom and I have seen a ton of movies, just because (Spy GameThe Usual Suspects,  and The Pelican Brief).

So it came as no surprise that my parents would like super hero movies. After all, my mom and I waited in line, when I was little, to see the Batman movies (you know, the Michael Keaton ones). And last May, when my dad was taking care of me after I’d sprained my left ankle and right foot (seriously), we went to see Thor. We’ve always liked the Superman movies as well. And when I saw that one of my libraries had Captain America in, I knew I had to check it out, and I did.

Captain America was way, way better the second time. I still don’t like tiny, CIG’d Chris Evans, but now that I have all these Captain America feelings, it wasn’t so bad. I also found that seeing these movies in close proximity with each other makes a huge difference. I got all of these connections (the tree on the wall that Red Skull knocks over, where Agent Coulson goes during Iron Man 2, etc etc) that I didn’t get the first time through. Back to Captain America, both my parents liked it — it wasn’t their favorite (it’s not mine), but was enjoyable. Then we watched Iron Man 2, which I’ve seen at least twice (it was on Netflix and I left my copy of the original Iron Man, along with my copy of Thor, at home). I love it, even though it’s probably the worst of the bunch so far. We mostly like Mickey Rourke and his electric whips. But what was also quite amusing that we watched it on Saturday, and then Monaco Grand Prix (which Tony Stark is racing in) was on Sunday the 27, aka the next day.

Then we watched Thor, which I’ve actually only seen once and my mother’s never seen. This was the favorite movie of the weekend (though I think we all agree that Iron Man is best). I’m in it for Loki/Tom Hiddleston. My dad doesn’t have a specific reason, though he does like Natalie Portman (she didn’t really annoy me this time through, which was nice) and my mom, well, she really took a liking to Thor. I found myself studying Loki far more than I had the first time through (because my dad and I had just watched Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander, which also stars Tom Hiddleston, so for most of the moving I was omging over him) and found him to still be a quite interesting character. But I also found the movie to be amusing, which made me realize that’s one of the things I love about these Marvel movies that I don’t like about the new Batman movies (aside from not liking Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne). They’re far too dark than what I’m looking for. Which is why even though not everything worked in The Avengers and some of the jokes weren’t quite in character, I didn’t mind so much because they made me laugh and that’s what I wanted.

Overall? It was a totally successful super hero weekend. I don’t know when my parents will see The Avengers, but now I know they’re prepared. Oh, and I totally saw Hawkeye in Thor. I didn’t realize who he was the first time around, so that was an added bonus.

Did I need to show them these movies? No. Am I glad I did? Totally. Should you see them? What are you waiting for?

Friday Links (are relevant to my interests)

I kind of hope this’ll become a weekly feature, but I’m just testing it out at the moment. The topics will change, from week to week, and so will the format, maybe (at first). But anyway, here goes.

The Avengers (assemble in my movie theater)

On this past Friday night, a friend of mine and I went to see The Avengers, which was an extremely good decision. Now, I have a few confessions to make, so let’s start at the very beginning (yes, this is going to be a post of lists … I’m not sorry).

  1. Comics: I don’t really read them. Yes, I do enjoy the occasional graphic novel (thanks to my parents introducing my sister and I to Maus) and there have been several that I’ve really liked (Watchmen is definitely not one of them, before you ask). But I’m usually pretty picky. Either the story has to be super good (see: Persepolis and Kim Dong Hwa’s Color of Earth series, along with a few others) or it has to be, um, shiny (aka Sandman (sort of) and Marvel 1602) — and sometimes even the combination of both (Joe Hill’s Locke & Key series, which is truly perfection in graphic novel format). I’ve also been known to dabble in manga (I enjoy Prince of Tennis and I’m attempting to get into Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi, which you may or may not want to google). But, honestly, the only comic-comics I read regularly were a brief phase of reading Robin (as in Batman’s sidekick) comics. Marvel’s Avengers series wasn’t even on my radar, much less something I was interested in. I’m not really one for lots of super heroes (I’m picky, sadly or something) and, honestly, trying to play catch up with all of these different characters isn’t something I’m interested in. So, you know, that’s one strike against me.
  2. I used to hate RDJ. Seriously. In fact, when he made his “comeback” with Iron Man, I totally refused to see it in the theater. I made fun of anyone who went to see it and loved it … um, and then someone convinced me to watch it on dvd and I did and … well, two strikes against me became one because I totally fell in love (and, uh, I own it. Seriously). I still regret not seeing it in the theater and yes, I saw Iron Man 2 and yes I loved it and yes, I will watch the shit out of Iron Man 3 (and if I hadn’t watched Iron Man, I’m sure I wouldn’t have wanted to see Sherlock Holmes, so there’s that — but that’s neither here nor there). So, no to comics, but yes to RDJ.
  3. Thor. I love Thor (I even have a copy, though it was given to me, so I didn’t actually have to pay for it). I saw Thor with my father (last May, actually). Now, there are two important things about Thor: the first is that every time I see Thor, the man, all I can think of is George Kirk (I love the ’09 Star Trek movie). I know, they look totally different, because Thor is scruffy with long hair and, you know, a god. And George Kirk is, well, not any of those things. The second thing is that the week before my dad and I went to the movies, we watched a bunch of Wallander on dvd. Not the Swedish version, but the Kenneth Branagh version. This is important because the character of Magnus is played by Tom Hiddleston, who I promptly fell in love with. And then we went to see Thor. Where I promptly did the fangirl flip out because OH MY GOD, THAT’S HIDDLESTON. And, well, I’m totally a Loki fangirl (seriously, even though I like it when the good guys win). So, you know. George Kirk and Hiddleston really made that movie great (and Clark Gregg, but I love him because of his character on TWW).
  4. And then, because I had to, my friend (same one who went to The Avengers with me) and I watched Captain America and … honestly? The movie wasn’t that good. And, besides, Chris Evans just doesn’t do it for me. He’s cute, but no. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy Captian America, because I did. It just wasn’t that good (but better than The Green Hornet, which is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in the past 10 years or so, and so if it’s better than GH, then that’s something). But, hey, it was okay and the action was kind of fun.
  5. Before The Avengers came out, I noticed that a lot of people really liked Jeremy Renner. I didn’t understand this, at all. He was just a dude who was in movies I wasn’t going to see (The Hurt Locker and The Town) and then a coworker of mine and I went to see the new MI movie (Ghost Protocol) and I totally got it. You see, it’s really all about Jeremy Renner’s ass. Honestly. You think I’m joking, but I’m not (mostly). I mean, I enjoyed the movie as a whole (shut up, I like Tom Cruise in the MI movies and also, Simon Pegg), but seriously. Have you seen Renner’s ass? Because, damn.

Which brings us to Friday night. I was going to The Avengers for two main reasons: Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Renner’s ass. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of Renner’s ass, but that’s okay because I watched Ghost Protocol on Saturday night. But there was a lot of Hiddleston and he totally didn’t disappoint. But even more awesome was the actual movie itself. Now, I don’t like Joss Wheadon or his shows (I have liked them, in the past, but they are far too problematic for me), so I wasn’t really sure what to think, because you know, Joss. BUT. Oh my god, y’all. It was so great! It was hilarious and kind of sad at one point, but it was also super well filmed and kind of surprisingly well acted. And also, I totally liked the cast. I mean, they had chemistry — we’re talking Ocean’s 11White Collar, early season AliasLeverage, and so on chemistry. Even when they weren’t supposed to be “getting along” they worked so well together.

Which is all to say, you should see all those other movies first, but you don’t have to because the movie does a good job standing on it’s own. My two complaints are the fact that there are only two women who are main(ish) characters (they both kick ass, but still, only two) and the fact that there was so much laughter that I couldn’t hear a lot of the dialogue after funny lines. Otherwise, it was pretty much the best (proper) super hero movie I’ve see recently — and certainly the best one with a group.

Tl;dr version: Go see The Avengers, it’s awesome. And also, Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Renner’s ass.

PS: I plan to see this movie at least once more. In the theater. At least once more. #justsaying