Thursday, May 7, 2015

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON REVIEW & THE "GIRL BOX"

Directed by JOSS WHEDON
Starring CHRIS EVANS, ROBERT DOWNEY, JR., CHRIS HEMSWORTH, 
MARK RUFFALO, JEREMY RENNER, ELIZABETH OLSEN, 
AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON, and SCARLETT JOHANSSON

Hi friends. I'm a little rusty. I haven't written on my blog for a few months, so hopefully this review will make sense! I'm officially back in the blogosphere. I finished my classwork and other "things." Now I can focus on fun stuff! If you can imagine I hadn't been to the theater in a while, so 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' was the first film I had seen in a few months. Unfortunately, it was not worth the wait. I'm more of a DC Comics fan, but I really wanted to see this film, primarily for Elizabeth Olsen. She's awesome. She just is.
Unfortunately, neither Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlett Witch) nor Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) get much screen time. We also don't see much of Scarlett Witch's twin brother, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). I'm willing to chock up the Twins' lack of screen time to this being their first on screen appearance. However, this is the Black Widow's fourth rodeo, so I don't know why her character continues to be misused and under utilized. I believe that Johansson was pregnant during a portion of the film, so perhaps that affected her screen time, but the big problem with the Black Widow was more than just screen time.

Evidently the persistent problems with Black Widow's character have made the internet angry (see the AtlanticEW, the Daily BeastBlastrNerdisti09, and the Mary Sue. Just to name a few). And now Joss Whedon has gone and quit twitter...again. Yes, I believe he's quite before. Which in turn made the internet even angrier. Now the people who trolled Whedon are themselves being trolled. This should be a lesson to all trolls. Trolls are monsters who will eventually be eaten by bigger trolls. It's a vicious cycle. Whedon has since come back online to deny that's the reason he left twitter, claiming instead that he just wants to "shut out the noise."

Moving on...then there's Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) who keeps calling Black Widow a slut (even though she hasn't slept with any of the Avengers and even if she had, I just don't think it's funny). But I digress, Renner isn't funny and Joss bombed the new Avengers film, but perhaps people are getting a little too worked up about this? Don't get me wrong--there are things I see on television and film that irritate me, but unless someone does something to an actual real life person, I don't have time to get upset about the treatment of fictional characters. Real people...yes. Fictional characters...no.
But I digress, I agree with the Atlantic's description of the Black Widow as the ultimate "Smurfette." She's the cool little blue girl amongst 99 other smurfs. We never learn too much about her or scratch beneath the surface because what's the point? Amy Dunne (played by Rosamund Pike) from 'Gone Girl' would describe the Black Widow as the mythical "cool girl." She's super hot, perfectly coiffed, but she's also "one of the guys" right? Essentially, she's the ultimate male fantasy. She doesn't really need to talk or have a backstory. She just needs to be tough and look good in a tight jumpsuit.

And now we come to my least favorite part--keeping score. Prior to the 'Avenger's 2.' Iron Man has had three stand alone films, Thor=2, the Hulk=2, Captain America=2, and Black Widow=0. She has 24 action figures to Captain America's 400. The Mary Sue thinks that Disney's marketing strategy is "hey, we're doing just fine with this 'Frozen' thing so if it ain't broke..." As for me, I don't want to see a Black Widow film just because she's female. I want to see a 'Black Widow' film because she's a great character, deserving of her own film. But alas Black Widow remains in the "Girl Box." I hope she makes it out one day. Putting Black Widow aside, she isn't the only character who suffers from a lack of development and screen time.

The 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' has problems besides Black Widow. Our film begins in a Hydra-infested snow forest and the Avengers are are out to kick butt and chew bubblegum and they're all out of bubble gum. It's never explained why the Avengers are there or how they learned of this place. I suppose it doesn't matter. They are there for Hydra and Loki's scepter. Score 1 Avengers. Everything is good and Hydra retreats to a historical church with an invisible shield protecting it. Hydra is losing this fight, but they're not concerned about the people getting tossed around like rag dolls by superheroes, they're worried that the Avengers will find their cool technology. They don't want them to find the twins and all of the weird crap they got going on in the basement.

The Avengers storm the castle. There doesn't seem to have been a point, except to serve as the introduction of the twins, the Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). When the twins are inadvertently released, they make quick work of the Avengers. The Scarlett Witch walks backwards and hypnotizes Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downy Jr.), while Quicksilver runs around knocking people down. The film touches on some of the Scarlett Witch's other powers later on. The Scarlett Witch also has the power of deflection, explosion, and force fields, etc. Their powers are summed up nicely by Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), "he's fast and she's weird." The Scarlett Witch is injured when she tries to hex the wrong dude, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Hawkeye refuses to be hypnotized after the weird trip he had with Loki in 'Avengers.'


In the midst of all of this madness, we have a special scene between the Hulk and the Black Widow. In the original 'Avengers,' the very sight of the Black Widow made Hulk want to smash, but now the Black Widow has a motherly relationship for the Hulk. She is the only one who can "lullaby" the Hulk back into being mild mannered Bruce Banner. In fact, one could say that the Black Widow has become an incestuous mother figure to all of the Avengrs. In a later scene in the film, she picks up Captain America's shield while riding on a motorcycle and throws it to him just as he's about to get hit by Ultron, saying "I'm always picking up after you boys." Yep. There's a whole "motherhood" theme going on in this film. We'll get to that later.


The Avengers regroup and take back Loki's scepter and a form of Hydra artificial intelligence. It's here that that the film descends into mediocrity. Tony Stark, who is supposedly an intelligent person, decides that he's going to take the Hdyra AI and give it a body. Bruce Banner aka the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who is also a brilliant scientist, decides to help him. Needless to say the "fit hits the shan." Thus, Ultron is born with the voice of James Spader. It's like 'The Blacklist' with robots. And now we have a plot people.

Me thinks Joss did some recycling with Ultron. Ultron's character reminded me of a big baddie from one of Whedon's television series, 'Angel.' Does anyone remember Skip (David Denman) from 'Angel' Season 3? He was the fast talking, cynical, funny, and sarcastic demon that liked spicy buffalo wings. Skip's quirky personality was juxtaposed by his 'demony' appearance. When I think of a big bad villainous robot, I don't think James Spader. Sorry, but I just don't. I'm a fan of James Spader, but I didn't care for him in this role. 

Ultron quickly decides that in order to save the world he's going to kill everyone. Blah blah blah. He quickly convinces the twins to join him because they think he's going after Tony Stark. The twins are from a war torn eastern block country. They saw their parents killed and were trapped in a room with an unexploded ordinance with the words "STARK" written on it. This of course gave them a hatred for all things Stark and is the driving force behind their decision to hand themselves over to Hydra to be experimented on. At the wise old age of 10 years they made an informed decision. Bye bye important backstory. In canon, the twins were Magneto's children. Whatever...I guess. So their hatred of Stark leads down them the primrose path with Ultron.
The Avengers quickly figure out that Ultron is after some super hard metal called vibranium. He's going to create the ultimate body for himself--one that cannot be so easily destroyed (or perhaps ever destroyed). Ultron and the twins go to a secret vibranium mine run by Klaw (Andy Serkis). Klaw loses a hand to Ultron in the process.

The Avengers almost lose their minds after the Scarlett Witch hexes them. Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Black Widow all have flashbacks/dream states that could have been expanded upon. Now that I think about it Hemsworth really didn't have much of a role in this film either. I read that Whedon wanted to expand on some of Thor's dream state. When showed in 15 second snippet, Thor's dream state looked like some weird Asgardian dance party. Evidently audiences didn't respond well to Thor's subplot, so Thor got no plot. Clearly there is more on the cutting room floor that may explain what went wrong in this film.

Just when Black Widow's dream state started to get interesting it abruptly ended. Black Widow was a ballerina/assassin, which is actually consistent with canon. We only get a glimpse of Black Widow's former life. Agent Carter (Haley Atwell) makes a lovely cameo appearance in Captain America's dream state. Again, it doesn't last long enough to wet your appetite. Perhaps the worst thing about this film is that there are too many characters to do it justice. There is a point when the cast gets too big. Unfortunately, I think the film has reached that tipping point.


The most absurd portion of the film begins when the Avengers go into hiding after the Scarlett Witch whammies the Hulk into smashing an entire city into little bits. Hawkeye says he has a safe house, which happens to be with his pregnant wife, and two young children. If this tidbit makes you scratch your head, you're not alone. In the comics Hawkeye and Black Widow were an item. They were also two humans, among super powered people.

Now in an effort to pair Black Widow with Bruce Banner, the powers that be have decided to give Hawkeye a wife, and make Black Widow his children's godmother...thereby explaining their closeness. So now Black Widow is dating the Hulk. They make a plan to runaway together if things continue to go south. I think this is why Renner keeps referring to Black Widow as a slut. Each time Black Widow is featured in a film, she's the psuedo love interest of some superhero. Now it's the Hulk's turn. They explained away Black Widow's relationship with Hawkeye by giving Hawkeye a farm family.

It's in this scene that the Black Widow reveals to Bruce her secret-- she's been sterilized by the organization that created her and cannot be a mother. It's a touching scene, but at the same time, this whole motherhood theme is getting weird. Full disclosure: I'm a mother. Being a mother is the most incredible experience I have had in my life and is the best thing that has happened to me. However my husband and I married young and we were married for 12 years before we had our first baby. Meaning, we lived a long time as two adults without children. We realized that you don't stop being who you are whether or not you have children. We have some friends who can't or do not want children and their lives are just as fulfilling. So making Black Widow's inability to have children a catalyst is a little strange to me.

Anywhoo, the twins eventually realize that they've been on the wrong side the whole time. Scarlett Witch sees into the mind of Ultron's new body and sees the destruction of humanity. She and Quicksilver change sides and seek out the Avengers. There is a cool fight scene with Captain America, Black Widow, and the twins against Ultron's legion. They try to help the Avengers prevent Ultron from uploading into his new body. I really didn't find Ultron to be very intimidating. It didn't feel exciting at all. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from the first 'Avengers' film,...now Loki was exciting, for many reasons. Overall, I think 'Age of Ultron's biggest mistake is its villain.

The Black Widow captures Ultron's body for the Avengers. There is some great motorcycle stunt work by the Black Widow stunt doubles during this scene. Black Widow saves the day, but she is captured by Ultron and brought back to the abandoned church where he attempts to make his last stand. But before the Avenger's go after Ultron again, they have a little fight amongst themselves. Tony and Bruce want to build another tin man, this time with "good AI." Captain America and the twins want to stop them. This is a fun fight scene. Thor comes back from his "soul walk" and intervenes, giving the robot the thunderbolt needed to wake up. Out sprouts Vision (Paul Bettany). Vision is so powerful that he can literally pick up Thor's hammer, which is something that even the Hulk cannot do.

With the aid of Vision and the twins, the Avengers take the fight to Ultron and return to the forest. Knowing that it's going to be an epic battle, Captain America insists that the surrounding city be evacuated beforehand. Bruce goes to rescue the Black Widow first before it gets real. Bruce wants the Black Widow to make good on what they discussed earlier. He wants her to run away with him, leaving the Avenger's to their fight. Knowing that she has to unleash the beast, Black Widow pushes Bruce off a ledge, "sorry Bruce, but I need the big guy." This was probably one of the best scenes in a film absent good scenes.
Then the real absurd happens. Ultron's master plan is to take a chunk of the earth (the city itself), levitate it above the clouds, and turn it into an asteroid and kill everyone. Yes, that's the plan. Yes, someone actually thought that, said it out loud, wrote that down, and then made a movie out of it. As Ultron's metal men battle the Avengers, we get another "girl moment." The Scarlett Witch starts to freak out because she was on Ultron's side for about 2 minutes. She feels a sense of overwhelming guilt and needs Hawkeye to give her the "buck up ra ra" speech. This is a woman who witnessed the deaths of her parents and survived buried under rubble for two days, but she needs Hawkeye to help her "deal." After Hawkeye's little pep talk, she comes out guns blazing ready to fight again. Yeah ok.

The Avenger's somehow think they're all going to die when the floating city hits the ground because it's not like any of them can fly or have super powers right? They somehow manage to eek out a victory against Ultron, while finishing the evacuation, thanks to Nick Fury and his hover ship. Everyone is rescued and brought to safety, except poor Quicksilver because the fastest man alive can't seem to outrun a plain old bullet. 
When Quicksilver dies the Scarlett Witch flips out and kills all of the remaining robots. The Avengers are safe, but Quicksilver is dead...or is he? The end. There was an bonus scene with the villain Thanos saying he's just going to have to take care of the Avengers himself...and their little dog too!
'Avengers: Age of Ultron' has some serious writing and creative issues, but the biggest issue is the size of the cast for the length of the film. Whedon could have given us a better film with a more intricate storyline, but the film would have had to be three hours long to do all of the characters justice. What I'm trying to say is that it's not just Black Widow who got the short end of the stick in this film. None of the characters really stood out. None of the characters were able to shine. Perhaps the future 'Avengers' films need to pick two or three characters to really focus on and make the rest a supporting cast, instead of turning all of the characters into a supporting cast. Overall, this is a semi-fun popcorn movie. It's not worth seeing more than once and it may not be worth seeing in the theater.

TWO -1/2 OUT OF FIVE STARS

10 comments:

  1. Sorry you didn't enjoy it. The film had a lot to live up to after the first one, but I thought it did so splendidly. The banter between the characters was priceless.

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    1. Hi Alex! I enjoyed certain aspects of the film. I just didn't enjoy the totality of the film. You're right the first one made it difficult to live up to.

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  2. SPOILERS: I enjoyed it, it was messy and there were a lot of rushed moments... in the start all of the Avengers were just there... like you said fighting. Last we had seen Captain America left/quit in his own film, I thought that Loki's spear returned with them in the first film? At some point I turned to my wife and asked "eh what the hell is going on here". I didn't get my explanation I needed to why they were doing what they did from each character, it was messy. We did get Thor with his shirt off, Stark tech was there [not well explained], Sca-Jo's I felt got more time... and the big thing... half of them quit in the end... i will watch it again, when it gets released before "Ant-man"... most likely the extended edition that will hopefully give me my answers. Visionary Cool, Check! I liked Ultron's Baby make bad dialogue, check! Capt's sort of dance with Carter, check! Fight scenes, cool!

    Jeremy

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    1. Hi Jeremy! I think the Agent Carter part was one of my favorite scenes. If only it had been longer. I think that was the primary problem with this film. There were too many characters and too little time. It was a mess...

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  3. **SPOILERS**
    I'm so angry at Whedon right now, I'm glad he left Twitter. Turning Widow into a love interest/damsel in distress THEN killing Quicksilver just bothered me so much. The twins are the best when they're together and Whedon wasted that opportunity on a cheap shock value death. If he really wanted to kill someone and have it matter more, Hawkeye should've went. Having Quicksilver get shot when he was already dodging bullets (and he could've just moved them out of the way) was stupid.

    I hate that they won't get behind a Widow stand alone movie either. There was that leaked email where they were nervous because of how Aeon Flux and Catwoman tanked. Well, look at the Hunger Games. Look at Divergent. Women can sell, just give it a chance. I think more people would want to see Widow than Ant Man.

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    1. Hi Brittany! Thanks for comments. I couldn't agree more. They butchered the black widow character in this film. I totally agree about Quicksilver too. If they wanted to kill someone Hawkeye would have been a much better choice. I don't really see the point of his character anyway.

      I think I read that memo from Kevin Feige about the Aeon Flux and Catwoman films. It's like those were terrible movies that's why they tanked. I'm amazed they don't hold other male-led movies to the same standard. It's not like "Green Lantern" was a success story!

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  4. WOW! This is probably the most detailed and intricate review I've read on The Avengers...and so well written! I haven't seen this yet, but I feel like every day I read a rave review and then a review that tears it apart. So polarizing! I will eventually see it...but I'm skeptical.

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    1. Ha, thanks!! I hope I didn't rip it apart. It wasn't a bad movie, it just wasn't good. It was a popcorn flick. I guess I'm disappointed because Avengers 1 and Winter Soldier were so good.

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  5. Nice review! The first Avengers didn't impress me, so it's hard for me to want to see this one. Mostly, the mismanagement of how big casts and interesting characters are handled makes me less and less of a fan of huge superhero movies. Movies centering around one superhero / one villain are repetitive but seem to be handled as best as possible. Captain America's franchise started swaying me to give this series a chance, but the treatment of Black Widow just doesn't sit right. I, too, want to see her make it out of the girl box - but it has to be because there is a good film standing behind her. Sony using the failed female-lead franchises against her (Catwoman / Electra) makes me feel like if she got her own installment, and it failed, other female characters would be denied their chance to shine too. The lack of support towards Scarlett, her character, and other women is really appalling. This all may be a conjecture around fictional characters but it does have an effect on how boys/girls interpret a women's role in a "male-dominated" area of pop culture. Sometimes it makes me question what century are we living in.

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    1. Hi Katy! You make so many good points. I completely agree with you. The movie has to be good before we get a Black Widow film. I do think Hollywood uses the failure of Catwoman and Electra as an excuse not to produce any female-led superhero films. The latest Avengers film was not good in so many ways. It does make me wonder what century we're in sometimes. Good points.

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