Monday, May 4, 2015

Hey! We Saw a Movie - Avengers: Age of Ultron

 Since I figure most people who were going to see Age of Ultron probably have by now... certainly the geek population at least, I won't really go into a plot summary. I'm also not going to worry about spoilers... so if you haven't seen the movie yet, don't read on or you will be BIG TIME SPOILED!

Bullet-point Observations

- Avengers: Age of Ultron was not as bad as I was worried it could have been. I probably had my expectations low enough and maybe Joss Whedon is talented enough as a writer and director to do an admirable job juggling an overstuffed script and movie... something most other writers would fail at. Compared to other superhero films that were too full of characters and plot points, like X-men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Spider-man 3 and Amazing Spider-man 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron does a better job than any of them. That said, there was still too much going on and too many characters crammed into the film.

- I don't blame Joss Whedon for how overstuffed the film was. Marvel was clearly trying to make a bunch of new Avengers to take some of the weight off of their bigger stars whose contracts are running out soon as well as advance the plot for the Infinity War movies. Unfortunately, that did confirm what I was worried about in that Age of Ultron was more of a stepping stone at times than it's own entity. I will give Whedon some credit in that he tried to give a good chunk of screen time to each character, which could not have been easy.

- Note to Marvel Films: STOP KILLING OFF YOUR VILLAINS! Iron Monger, Whiplash, Red Skull (as far as we know), whoever the hell Guy Pearce was supposed to be, Malekith, Kurse, Ronan the Accuser, Baron Strucker and Ultron! You know, some of these guys could be useful in the future... and then there's that whole adage about superheroes not killing (though to be fair only four of those deaths were inflicted by good guys... maybe Iron Monger too... that's debatable.)

Why the hell was Baron Strucker even in the film? He did nothing and brought nothing to the table. The end of Captain America: Winter Soldier made him seem like big shit and he did nothing at all... then was killed off-screen. I mean, Baron Strucker was never a top-tier villain, but he was a solid second tier at times. Hell, the guy in charge of Hydra has to be of some worth, right?

- Why didn't Ultron use the vibranium to make himself an updated body. Yes, I know that Vision had a hybrid of the Korean scientist's artificial flesh and vibranium, but that seemed more like a special experimental project he was doing. Why didn't he right away make an updated form with a steel and vibranium alloy to ensure his success should anything go wrong. That's the thing here, Ultron is supposed to be Marvel's analog to "the singularity" where artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence and more or less takes over the world. Ultron should have had multiple plans in place with contingencies in place. Yes, I know the Avengers needed to win in the end, but don't try to make a realistic interpretation of AI run amok and skimp on the reality of it.

- Ultron wasn't quite right. I know Ultron from the comics, he is a cold, relentless machine bent on killing human life. This Ultron was a smooth talking, suave, gentlemanly villain... a witty manipulator. I get that part of his personality was based on Tony Stark's and therefore he would be a suave smart-ass, but he seemed less like Ultron and more like a robotic Lex Luthor!

- I want to be the first to predict it: Ultron will turn out to be a better Lex Luthor than Jesse Eisenberg!

- Could Ultron's plan have been anymore outlandish, random and convoluted? He wants to bring about peace by destroying mankind... sort of. He wants to cause a cataclysm that will wipe out most of humankind and force evolution... except that's not how it works. Evidence suggests that the dinosaurs were not wiped out immediately by the KT impact, but gradually over a few thousand years. If Ultron's logic was that peace can be attained by machines that are programmed to live harmoniously, I could buy that, but his plan was about forcing evolution... which would never bring about peace. Ask the Cro-Magnons who were most likely killed off by the Neanderthals, who were most likely killed off by Homo Sapiens. Strangely, Ultron's goal was more in line with something Apocalypse might do in creating a condition where only the strongest can survive.

- And in the middle of all that, Ultron had some weird fixation on making a robotic fleshed upgrade to himself that eventually became Vision... that whole thing felt forced into the script for the sole purpose of creating Vision and not a natural plotline. Many things felt forced in Age of Ultron.

- BIG TIME SPOILER - I am still a little surprised that they killed Quicksilver. I know why he was killed... Joss Whedon loves consequences for characters. I once saw a Q & A with him where he said (*and I'm paraphrasing because this was about ten years ago*) "In war, people die, that's what happens. It gives gravity to the situation. It can't just be clones versus robots." Regardless, Quicksilver was a major Avenger character that now, barring some unforeseen resurrection by ways of his magic sister or a certain gem covered glove, we will never have the luxury of watching develop.

- That being said, if one had to die, Scarlet Witch was always the bigger Avenger character anyway. Pietro wasn't always the best team player and he often would run off (pun possibly intended) to do other wacky things like join X-Factor or The Knights of Wundagore. Besides, we need the awkwardness of Scarlet Witch and Vision hooking up.

- In speaking of awkward, I guess this settles the debate about whether the movie versions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch's will have the "extremely close" relationship from Ultimates.

- So in the debate of which Quicksilver was better, I think it goes to Evan Peters from Days of Future Past. His was fun and more memorable with arguably the best sequence in the film. Aaron Johnson's was probably truer to the Pietro Maximoff of the comics, a brooding cocky prick that grows on you, but having to share time in a massive ensemble film (that did not have the luxury of half the cast set decades into the future to make the film seem less crowded) and given that he died without being little more than a fun side character, the Quicksilver of Age of Ultron just wasn't as good. Plus, there was that fake accent.

- If Ultron is a super smart AI computer, then he would have had to know that an impact of the level that he was creating (with the chunk of Sokovia acting as a makeshift meteorite with a vibranium core) would have created a massibe electro-magnetic pulse that would have fried every version of himself in the vicinity. He would have certainly had to have had a back-up of himself somewhere else to ensure his survival... which is exactly what the comic book version does... which is why he is pretty much impossible to kill. Meaning... Ultron could probably return in a future film... though I doubt he will. There are too many villains and storylines and not that many movies for them to appear.

- I'm hoping the next Avengers films (Infinity War parts 1 & 2) will not follow this same formula of a single big villain with a generic army that threatens the Earth. In that way, Avengers 2 felt a lot like the first one... just replace aliens with robots. I would have preferred a villain team like The Masters of Evil. That way, instead of bland generic minions that we all know pose no threat to our heroes, the Avengers can face named villains with unique powers.

- I was really disappointed with the mid-credits scene. Once again we see Thanos and he has a gem-less gauntlet. Whoopee. And where the hell was my shwarma scene? I sat through the entire end credits for NOTHING! Captain America: Winter Soldier had a shwarma scene... so did Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy! In fact, most of the Marvel films have had shwarma scenes. What the hell Avengers 2?!?!

Final Thoughts: In the end, Avengers: Age of Ultron was entertaining enough to watch, but isn't anything near as special as the hype would have you believe. I'll put it this way... Avengers was something special. It was a culmination of several movies with big actors in one big super superhero movie that told it's own self-contained story with only subtle hints toward future films. Avengers: Age of Ultron was just a popcorn flick.

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