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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).