Harper Watched: Avengers Age of Ultron

First off, I want to apologize for the lack of updates. I finished off my school year (barring a few finals) and it was an incredibly trying last few weeks. Thank you for bearing with me.

Moving on, I've got to tell you my thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron! This is probably one of the biggest movies of the year, and I was super happy to go see it with my friends. I've been enjoying the Marvel Cinematic Universe's development (some parts more than others, admittedly) and this installment was pretty exciting.

I'm going to try to keep this review spoiler-free and I'd appreciate it if the commenters did so as well, at least through this week! Thanks for your cooperation. I am writing this review under the presumption that everyone has at least seen the first Avengers and hopefully Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier (PS That's still my favorite Marvel installment thus far).

Okay, let's get down to business! You'll remember that at this point in time, SHIELD has fallen. It was infested with Agents of Hydra, the nefarious organization (affiliated with, but not actually controlled by the Nazis in Captain America) that had plans for world domination. If you follow the ABC series Agents of SHIELD you'll also know that other powered people exist in this universe and something big is happening which resulted in calling in the Avengers. Here's the trailer for the film:


The Plot

Loki's scepter has been misplaced following the events in Avengers and as of yet, the Avengers are still looking for it. They succeed in finding it at a Hydra base but not before encountering some powered people, one of whom has abilities including telekinesis, mind-reading, and other weird getting-inside-your-head type abilities (you might know her as Scarlet Witch) and the other is her twin with super-speed (Quicksilver). Before the Avengers abscond with the Asgardian device, the psychic person plants a terrible vision in Tony's (Iron Man's) mind which pushes him to do the thing all super-talented scientists in such situations do-- take science too far.

Tony and Bruce (The Hulk) have been toying with the idea of creating a device that would protect the world from any other alien threats that might seek to destroy it. After all, the Avengers can fight the bad guys all day, but an alien invasion is something they are just not equipped to handle. Tony in particular is a little obsessed with it-- he's prideful, but also anxious. He knows he is gifted and his greatest fear is losing everything, letting the earth crumble, because he didn't push hard enough to do something. In this case, it's creating Ultron. Tony convinces Bruce to help him get into the apparent Artificial Intelligence living within Loki's scepter and finally build Ultron (without discussing it with the team). There's a great scene of science bros doing science (yay!)

But then of course, it turns out that the Asgardian AI is batshit crazy. It's bent on improving the world by destroying it: An extinction level event. Ultron is the garish and terrifying version of Tony's almost obsessive desire for progress and his intellectual panic/hubris. The Avengers have to unite to stop this incredibly powerful mad-AI, but many questions are tearing the team apart (as usual).

These questions include wondering who can and can't be trusted? What is the end-game of the Avengers? Are they redeemable after all the destruction they have wrought? Can you be an Avenger and have a life? Like most second installments of superhero franchises, this film is all about the hero being tested in their capacity to be heroes, and the blurring lines between the good guys, the bad guys, and the civilians who get to go about their lives like normal people.

Getting Down To Business

This movie was good, but it still didn't top Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. But I had set my expectations kind of low, so I didn't expect it to top Cap 2. I tried to not read up on any news or hints about what was going to happen (I mean, apart from watching Agents of SHIELD) so I feel like I walked in with a clear head.

The movie provided some exciting new developments in terms of the overarching Avengers plot, so I am very excited to see what the next Avengers installment has in store. Like the other films, the writing was pretty snappy and funny, but it also delved more into who the Avengers are outside of the Avenging part of their lives. I found it particularly exciting to see more of Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) and Clint Barton (Hawkeye) outside of the Avengers context because they are both very interesting and neither have their own films.

The film is two and a half hours long, so plan your day accordingly, kids. I went in kind of expecting it to be stupidly drawn out, because often times action movies that long just do it for the sake of the fight scenes and not to help get more story done. Were the fight scenes gratuitous? Yes. Were they awesome? Also yes. Do I think the movie pointlessly took time out of my life so that Cap could get in more punches? No. I don't think the time is excessively spent on the fight scenes. I do think that some of the storylines were not handled the best, though.

There are some developments with Bruce's character and Natasha's character that really befuddled me. Often when their storylines became the focus, I found myself asking, "WHY??" Some of their storylines were so odd to me, in that they seemed to come out of absolutely nowhere and move very very quickly (the events in the movie take place over maybe a couple weeks) and I was just left sitting in my seat thinking "This is so extra. No one needed this." I think that the characterization that they wanted to draw from those stories could have been handled much better if they went with a different story to showcase.

!!!MINI-SPOILER OF RAGE!!!: There was also a line in which Natasha refers to herself as a "monster" that really upset me because the conversation was about how she had been sterilized to make her a better assassin. I understand that she was referring to the fact that she had been forced to undergo this procedure against her will to become the killing machine that she is today and will never have biological children, but really, Joss Whedon? You had to make her call herself a "monster" for being unable to have babies? You couldn't have found a better way to word it that didn't smack of "women who can't have babies are broken"? You didn't consider the fact that Natasha could very well adopt a child and still pursue motherhood if she wanted? You could have made it about how a life with one of the things she dreamed of having (biological children) was taken from her, or how her body was turned into a tool with no regard for her wishes-- but no, you had to make her a "monster".

I'm also very confused by the role Thor played in the plot because his contributions are not very well explained. He literally peaces-out for a portion of the movie and then comes back like "what's up bitches, I got so many answers for you." Granted, I haven't seen Thor 2: The Dark World and I generally have a hard time focusing on his character because he looks exactly like a human version of the Entei from Pokemon 3: The Movie to me, but I have been assured by people who have seen Thor 2 and can focus on Thor that Age of Ultron made pretty hasty work of this. I honestly hope we get a movie where all that gets explained. Maybe comic book fans knew exactly what was happening but as someone who solely consumes Marvel through the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) I was very confused.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor looks like human-Entei from Pokemon to me
Twinsies.
That said though, Age of Ultron did exactly what it needed to do, in my opinion, which is test the team in new ways, challenge their core values, provide additional characterization of the team we met in the first installment, and build up tension and intrigue for the next and final piece of the trilogy. Successful movie? Yes. Fantastic movie? Not quite, but still pretty good.

Harper's Rating: 3/5

Pros:
Rad effects
Awesome crazy fight scenes
Sassy characters saying sassy things (including Ultron-- he probably gets it from his dads Loki and Tony)
Natasha backstory
Clint outside of the Avengers
Steve ripping a log in half in frustration
Super-powered twins
Really great build of things to come!
Cons:
What even is Thor doing??
Bruce and Natasha having stuff going on that was neither well-done nor necessary
It's long
I hope Tony isn't off the hook-- obviously they had bigger fish to fry, but Tony needs to be dealt with.

Did you see Age of Ultron yet? What did you think? Feel free to comment below but keep it spoiler-free for the week-- you can also let me know your thoughts over twitter by tweeting at me!


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