publishing 3800 words of movie opinion may be the most self-indulgent thing i’ve ever done.
wow, it has certainly been a while. still disappointed nobody thought that shadow of mordor comic was good. that thing killed me for two days until i drew it. this is kind of like that because i couldn’t focus on working at all this afternoon. see, i watched The Avengers: Age of Ultron last night and i have some thoughts. okay a lot of thoughts.
first in the interest of transparency, i feel like we all come at the marvel universe from different perspectives. mine doesn’t make any sense even to me. i’ve seen all of the mcu films except hulk, most of them multiple times, even the ones i hate. it’s a pretty silly attachment given that i’ve never been into comics in my life. i just really want to like superhero movies (except superman, who really doesn’t appeal to me, and spiderman, because fuck spiderman). who knows. i just want to make it clear that i’m not a comic fanboi here. i am the main audience for age of ultron: very interested in the marvel films, with almost no knowledge of the source material.
spoilers obviously follow.
my first reaction to ultron was that i didn’t really know what to make of it, except that overall i liked it. i was pretty sure i liked it. almost positive. it was definitely a good movie, probably. especially the part where the thing happened. which was the entire movie.
and that’s kind of the first problem. this movie slows down like, maybe twice, and one of those times is the second scene. the pace is relentless. i’m going to dive into the labyrinthine plot in a minute, and when i do, please keep in mind that all of this appears to happen over no more than a week. the timeline makes no sense at all is what i’m trying to say.
my favorite thing about this movie is all the middle fingers it gives to standard movie strategies. in the scene in the african arms factory, iron man asks ultron what he needs all the cap-shield-metal for (no, i can’t remember what it’s called, and no, i don’t care). ultron’s response is amazing and basically amounts to “why, yes, i do want to reveal to you my evil plan” PUNCHINTHEFACE. in almost every stupid action movie, there’s a scene where the hero confronts the villain and tricks him into revealing what he’s up to using the ancient interrogation method known as “just bluntly asking what he’s up to.” it’s lazy-ass exposition to help the audience keep up. ultron says fuck your exposition. i do too.
the movie also ends with hulk deciding getting away from this avenging lifestyle is more important than romancing natasha, even though the entire movie has done more than tease a relationship between them. thank you movie. we don’t necessarily need a romantic subplot with a happy ending in every goddamn movie. something different is refreshing.
we’ll get to the even bigger middle finger as i run through the plot. hawkeye is involved.
every fight involved an avenger throwing the shield to captain america, who immediately dunked the ever-loving shit out of one-to-thirty enemies. sometimes it was the other way around and cap fed a softball to thor, who bashed the shield through as many badguys as will fit on the screen. this was never not satisfying. it happened throughout every fight in this movie and it was always awesome. whoever coreographed this can work on my fight sequences any time.
of the new additions, scarlet witch was my favorite. after she gets over being an escort mission she becomes such a badass it’s unreal.
okay so let’s run through what happened. it’s a lot, so you might want to grab something to drink.
the avengers open this film by gettting loki’s scepter from hydra. they kill a fuckload of things–just kidding hulk don’t worry, someone deadpans in probably the flattest joke in the movie. ugh. tony, outside of his iron man suit, is the one who finds it. while he’s in the base a pair of “enhanced” twins are introduced. we are not told anything to call them in this film other than “the maximovs,” a really dickensian name to be honest. the most we’re told about their identities is they are orphans, “one’s fast and the other’s weird.” okay. the fast one, henceforth quicksilver, runs out into the fight like the OP asshole he is and almost gets hawkeye killed. that’s a first scene near-death. this dude is absolutely going to die. inside the base the weird one, henceforth scarlet witch obviously, makes tony hallucinate all the avengers dead and the robot behind him flying into the wormhole from the first avengers. after that wears off he tells nobody, being the sensible narcissist he is, takes the scepter and gets out.
we meet a korean doctor person whose name i can’t remember, so i’m calling her koreadoc. she heals hawkeye’s wound with some kind of magical cell generation thing. this is obviously bullshit, but so is all the other “science” in marvel so, so be it. it’s 3d printing with a medical application. remember that. meanwhile tony and bruce study the scepter and discover a computer code inside. this doesn’t make even the slightest bit of sense of course.
thor is taking the scepter to asgard in three days. that means tony has three days to use this neural network he’s discovered–not that anyone explains to the viewer what a neural network is, i felt lucky to have a general idea–to resurrect his ultron project (with bruce’s bullied help). ultron is a supervillain plot. ultron is iron man suit automatons policing the world. it’s honestly just fascism. tony, like most fascists, earnestly thinks this will bring about “peace in our time.” he’s been scared into it by scarlet witch’s vision, if you haven’t kept up with that. i’ve seen otherwise smart critiques that missed it.
so he and bruce attempt to “decode” this intelligence–is it code or an intelligence, guys? keep it straight–and we’re supposed to believe this all occurs in less than three days. we’re gonna need a montage. MONTAGE!
we see an attempt to integrate the intelligence with a suit fail just in time for the avengers to throw some kind of bender celebrating their victory. which always ends well of course. there’s some avengers being human going on, there’s some “haha let’s all try to lift mjollnir” shenanigans which of course result in only thor picking it up because only he is worthy–don’t forget this tiny scene–and right after all the guests have conveniently left, an iron man automaton shows up out of fucking nowhere.
that intelligence has started talking to jarvis, outsmarting jarvis, taking over jarvis. the intelligence builds a bunch of robots out of the parts laying casually around tony’s part of avengers HQ. that robot introduces itself as ultron, attacks, more of them show up to reveal nice and early that ultron is a hivemind that wants to destroy humanity because it won’t evolve out of destroying itself, and they take off with the scepter, but not before threatening to kill koreadoc and not doing it. remember that tiny scene too.
the avengers lose track of ultron because he deletes himself from their computers and escapes through the internet–um, okay, and hang on to that idea for later too–and they track him down through paper files on the guy who they took the scepter from. it leads to an arms factory in africa, where cap-shield-metal comes from. the maximovs are there, apparently doing ultron’s bidding. presumably we’re supposed to derive from this that this was always the plan. what if the rest of the avengers had walked in on tony sooner and just taken the stupid scepter back to asgard? RIP movie i guess? anyway ultron himself shows up and basically fills the warehouse guy’s accounts with money to steal all the cap-shield-metal. that’s when the avengers show up. just in time almost. it’s important to note that they basically go straight here in a jet. it’s also important to note that ultron has beaten them there with the twins in that same period of time.
they confront ultron, and this is where ultron delivers that killer line i talked about earlier. of course he isn’t going to tell you what he wants with the cap-shield-metal, you dummy. Fighting happens, ultron takes on iron man, and the scarlet witch makes everybody else go berserk through hallucinations. this trashes everybody. black widow basically just relives her childhood training, culminating in a graduation ceremony where it looks like she shoots a prisoner (we don’t actually see it). thor sees his asgardian friends telling him he’s a failure who’s killed them all. cap sees a 40s dance party because the war is over with his 40s lady, which all disappear and leave him alone. hawkeye catches scarlet witch before she can get into his mind, so go hawkeye i guess. the ultrons escape with the cap-shield-metal and scarlet witch tracks down bruce, who’s just kind of chilling in the jet waiting to hear if he should turn green or not. we’re not sure what exactly hulk sees but it sets him off bananas into the nearest town, where he is violently subdued by iron man in a fight that really just went on way too long. what’s the point of the hulk if iron man can just be a robot the hulk? good thing hulk leaves us at the end of this movie. we’ll just ignore how prepared tony was for this scenario.
flash forward a bit, to the team showing up licking its mental wounds at what hawkeye calls a safehouse. a few scenes ago, he was seen on the phone saying “you’re the boss,” to a person he called his “girlfriend,” despite telling koreadoc he didn’t have one. turns out, shit! he’s married with two and a half kids, and natasha knows them so well the half-kid was originally going to be called natasha, until he was a boy. “traitor,” she tells the pregnant stomach, which was really an underrated joke.
thor fucks off to find answers to something he thinks he’s “missed” in the hallucination. hulk is beside himself after terrorizing that city and ready to run off. black widow is despondent enough to run with him, finally realizing the romance they’ve been trying to kindle all movie. before we get to nick fury, we need to talk about this scene.
it’s the next morning i think and bruce wants to run off. he doesn’t want natasha to go with him because he’s convinced she wants a family home life–based on what i can’t imagine, maybe that she’s a woman?–and he can’t give her that because he’s infertile. so natasha reveals that at her graduation ceremony, she’s forcibly sterilized. it makes being an assassin easier, she says is the logic behind it. she says it makes her just as much a monster as the incredible fucking hulk. now, sure, people who are infertile often do struggle with things like this. the problem is the hulk, and therefore the movie because nobody else knows about this, let the idea go unchallenged. oh, okay, bruce decides, i guess we can run off together if we’re both monsters. so if you’re childless, whether by choice or by nature, age of ultron would like to call you a monster real quick. that’ll be ten bucks plus popcorn. to quote the poet: fuck you, movie.
so i don’t know why cap and tony are chopping wood outside. muscleporn i guess. hawkwife lures tony into the shed to look at a broken tractor where he discovers that magically nick fury is here!? thank god. nick fury can keep the group together with a single speech so we don’t have to deal with this bullshit within the team. nick fury is the real hero of this movie for keeping us from tedious scenes of forced infighting. this is the second and final time the pace of the movie slows down. it looks like the day after the african factory.
suddenly the team realize no one has heard from koreadoc in a while. so the avengers leave the safehouse and hawkeye consoles his wife that it’s his “last project.” he’s so fucking dead dudes. i said “rip” out loud in the theater when he told his pregnant wife it was his last mission.
uh oh! ultron is in koreadoc’s lab in seoul, taking her mind with the scepter. so that’s what he kept her alive for. this is where the cap-shield-metal is going: into ultron’s final form. he takes the gemstone out of loki’s scepter and puts it into the body they build inside koreadoc’s “cradle,” a full-body 3d medical printer, which body we’re told is organic material bound with the cap-shield-metal because fuck science and logic. boy, ultron must have gone from the warehouse directly to seoul. then the maximovs show up. scarlet witch couldn’t read ultron’s mind earlier, but there’s enough organic in the cradle that she can read its mind and she sees planetary annihilation, switches allegiance with a damn quickness, uses her mind powers to free koreadoc, who stops the upload of ultron into the cradle (what???), and now the avengers are here to take the cradle. double what?????? all of this has to happen in something like 24 hours.
it’s not clear how they EVER know about the cradle being used to make ultron a special new body and they don’t know what the gem is yet, so this is all questionable as fuck. how the hell do they know what they’re after or why it would be important? tony right now is in norway at some hub of the internet (what???) because ultron is always going after nuclear launch codes, but some other hacker they can’t catch is stopping him all the time, and tony wants to catch that hacker to—team up? i guess? the rest are in korea having a pretty badass little chase sequence. cap fights with the strongest ultron robot while hawkeye and widow steal the cradle and take it to Tony to “deal with.” remember they had no idea what they were going after or why. they shoot the cradle out of the truck into the jet which was neat and also got black widow stolen by ultron. during the fight the maximovs show up and help cap and join up with the avengers in general btw. he doesn’t exactly trust them but takes them on begrudginly after they explain themselves, which is fair.
what isn’t fair is this scene’s entire existence. why would you go in looking for a fight and an extraction? how did you possibly know about this?
so stark and banner are messing with the cradle, figure out what it is, and tony reveals the hacker was actually, fanfare: jarvis ex machina, to such an extent that jarvis didn’t even know. he uploaded himself into the internet too, when the ultron intelligence attacked. we thought jarvis had been slain. so they decide to upload jarvis into the ultron cradle, against the screaming of logic and also all the team who conveniently show up right then. a fight breaks out, then thor shows up out of no where. while the last fight was going on he was at some magic pool revisiting his dream where he noticed a vision of the infinity stones, of which so far I remember the tesseract and the purple one from Guardians. He said it’s the 4th to show up so idk where 4 is. this one is the “mind stone.” i don’t know what that is. he uses mjollnir to zap the SHIT out of the cradle, and that brings to life a floating guy. i made the most incredulous face of my life at the movie at this point.
who is this guy? how does he float? nobody knows. it just happens. accept it, man. in the final scene thor calls him “the vision,” which would have been nice to find out a little bit earlier so we non-comic-book-nerds would know what to call “floating reddish guy.” this can’t be more than a day after natasha is taken by ultron by the way.
the floating guy it turns out can wield mjollnir. don’t question it. that makes the avengers trust him to help them with a really familiar final battle. they go straight to the place from the first scene. turns out they always knew where ultron was. hulk breaks in to break out black widow, who convinces him to help with the fight by um, talking some, and then pushing him into a really big hole. Everyone else is fighting off the swarm of ultrons as he LIFTS THE ENTIRE FUCKING CITY using magnets and cap-shield-metal. fucking magnets. he constructed this entire rig in no more than four or five days too.
so it’s death from above and a swarm of enemies and civilians everywhere, of which we do not miss a single rescue. seriously this went on forever accomplishing very little except scarlet witch being scared and timid until hawkeye told her to stop being scared and timid and that fixed it. good chat, herb brooks. now that he’s trained a new person he’s totally dead. just the deadest. all the avengers assemble (haw) on top of the key, which ultron will “turn” to make the city plummet back to the earth with the force of an extinction-event-level meteor. that makes sense if you accept that the city is floating upwards in the first place. they fight off swarm after swarm. iron man comes up with a totally bullshit plan to vaporize the city if they can only get all the people off. it’s not important the technobabble he uses, just imagine he said “we’ll vaporize it with magic bullshit” and that’s the whole of the plan. it’s floating into the sky remember–everyone on it will die. at some point we see the clouds around them, and the number “18,000 feet” is thrown around. there cannot be enough oxygen up there to maintain the hulk and quicksilver’s metabolisms. it’s just not possible. fuck science.
they run ultron off from the key basically, scarlet witch stays with the key to guard it, and then POW! it’s the fucking Eagles! who let tolkien in here? jk it’s nick fury ex machina in one of those airship carrier things. it’s an ark for the city now. everyone is getting on, except, uh oh, there’s a little kid left underneath some rubble. hawkeye notices. how dead is this fucking guy. he goes to help, gets him out, and UH OH! ultron has somehow gotten himself into a stark jet? what? maybe he built one during these no-more-than-four-days? he’s coming at hawkeye with minigun fire! hawkeye turns his back to shield the kid! the theater starts getting incredibly dusty!
the movie says FUCK MOVIES! quicksilver to the rescue, he puts a bus in the way, but that also gets him all shot up. he says his catch phrase “bet ya didn’t see that coming” and dies. my head erupted into applause because of how much that death was foreshadowed only to pull the rug out with magic bullshit and a wink. thank you, movie, for mocking movies with me.
because quicksilver is twins with scarlet witch she can feel this instantly through voodoo and bullshit, and the bereft rage somehow drives her directly to the main ultron, who hulk was able to rip out of his jet through the use of carefully timed leaping. she literally rips his mechanical heart out (and the writing overdoes it, sadly). but while she’s off doing that, one poor lonely ultronbot turns the key and the city starts to fall with tony under it. so he, um, blasts the whole thing with energy or something, and then thor goes to the key and gathers the escaping energy in mjollnir i guess? he slams down when tony says to and the city is vaporized. it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. they both magically survive. thor is a god, so that’s fine. tony is dead. just the deadest. rip tony. he’s untouched by the explosion and his suit can dodge all the debris because he’s a character you might care about and therefore immortal. like hawkeye, whose non-death i kind of like less now that i realize they sacrificed someone no one cares about to save him.
that’s pretty much the movie. the vision has a nice philosophical chat with the last ultronbot and then zaps it. “i may be naive,” he says, “but then, i was born yesterday.” haha. hulk flies away in the jet (which is a really nice visual joke), natasha tells him to disengage the shield so they can track him (aka so we know he’s not going to be tracked), thor goes back to asgard, iron man talks about retiring to a farm (what?), and cap sticks around with natasha to lead the new avengers, including the vision and scarlet witch. i actually don’t remember how she got off the city, but okay. right before the credits thanos announces that he’s going to “do it himself.”
thanos is an amazingly patient being. that’s all i have to say.
that is a tremendous amount of plot, a tremendous amount of building of Things, and all of it takes place in about a week, tops. that’s nuts. to round out my criticisms, we also have an absurd amount of annoying last-minute saviors, that scene with thor in the pool that’s difficult to make sense of but kind of necessary for us to know how he figures out what the mind stone is, the vision being literally just incomprehensible bullshit, how the avengers find him being exactly the same level of bullshit, the recurring film trope of beauty taming the beast, and people who don’t have children are monsters.
but at the end of the day, the movie is mostly enjoyable, despite my plot description. it almost reminds me of the best doctor who plots, in which a force that fights for the beauty of a deeply flawed humanity defeats one that wants to crush it due to those same flaws. it’s wonderfully cast. james spader is great as the voice of ultron and paul bettany couldn’t be a better the vision. only casting issue is scarlet witch’s accent came and went.
it’s astonishing how much of this movie i either glossed over or skipped entirely. War Machine has a role in this thing and i didn’t mention him at all. i would surely recommend seeing it while it’s in theaters though friends. as for where it slots in to my marvel film power rankings, it’s probably around 4th or 5th. it isn’t better than Winter Soldier, Guardians, or Iron Man. not sure whether it’s better than the first avengers. i’m almost positive it was good though, probably.