Friday, May 1, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review - Flawed Yet Still Awesome

Having great expectations is usually the first step towards being more disappointed than your typical Chicago Cubs fan. We know crushing disappointment hurts. We get reminded of how much it hurts on a regular basis every time we play fantasy football. But we’re still gluttons for this soul-crushing brand of punishment because the reward is worth the risk. Like having a shot at copping a feel from that cute cheerleader, it’s worth the black eye and the restraining order.

Avengers: Age of Ultron couldn’t possibly have greater expectations. The first Avengers movie set the bar so high that Willie Nelson, Wiz Kalifa, and Snoop Dog combined couldn’t smoke enough pot to reach it. This movie can’t just be awesome. It has to somehow become a religious experience. It has to inspire Scientology level awe to the point where Joss Whedon starts harassing the IRS for tax exempt status. It was bound to be weighed down the moment fans came out of the first Avengers movie craving Shwarma. So how can Avengers: Age of Ultron possibly measure up?

Well I saw the movie. I had a chance to give it my full sober attention, something I usually don’t give without a judge’s order. And after having time to digest the movie and pick my brains up off the floor, I can offer an assessment. The short answer is yes, it does measure up in most respects, but not in some. The long answer requires more than a few beers to make sense of.

Tis a worthy answer indeed
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a fun, wildly entertaining movie. That’s something most everybody can agree on. It hits the ground sprinting and it keeps moving at a blistering pace from start to finish. There’s action, drama, intrigue, heart, and humor. It has everything the first Avengers movie had. It just isn’t as polished and not just because of the impossible expectations.

First the good. Avengers: Age of Ultron hits all the right notes in terms of theme and scope. It puts the Avengers in a high-stakes conflict that’s every bit as dire as Loki’s invasion of New York. That conflict takes them to multiple corners of the world. It’s not just restricted to New Mexico or New York. It truly feels like a global conflict that only the Avengers can handle. No amount of diplomacy, drone strikes, or bribery can stop this threat. It’s a tense, engaging conflict that keeps fans on the edge of their seat and tests your bladder in ways few things can.

The key ingredient here is Ultron. As a villain, he’s right up there with Loki in terms of charisma and presence. He shows up on screen and he carries himself like he’s got a 13-inch cock and a 10-figure net worth. He’s not just some mindless robot. He’s not a wannabe deception and he’s not an overly subtle version of Agent Smith from the Matrix. Ultron feels like a truly refined character, one that sees the world through a strange lens that leads him to conclude that he’s right in destroying it. He’s also able to manipulate and coerce, but without having to rely solely on mind control. Sure, he does take advantage of it the same way any competent villain would take advantage of a weapon that was readily available. But he doesn’t rely on it completely and never fails to seize the moment. He is, by far, the best part of this movie.

He'll make you terrified and horny at the same time.
Other characters shine as well. Some characters who didn’t get much face time in the first movie really got to let their nuts hang. Hawkeye was by far the best example. For one, he was among the few Avengers who didn’t get mind-fucked at one point. After the first movie, that’s a hell of an upgrade. We also got some extra insight into his life and he actually comes off as the most likable character in the Avengers. Sure, his only powers involves a fancy bow and being friends with Black Widow. But he’s the kind of guy you root for and you root for all the right reasons.

Captain America and Iron Man shine as well, but only to the extent that we’ve always seen them shine. They’re pretty much the same characters we know and love from previous movies and that’s a good thing. Those movies fucking worked. There was no need to change it in this movie and it didn’t. What helped them shine was how they constantly argued. It’s an argument that lays the foundation for Captain America: Civil War and it’s one that’s actually compelling.

There really is a lot to like about this movie. I could do several blog posts of all the things Avengers: Age of Ultron did right. But being a drunk, I do have to highlight the flaws here and this movie definitely has some.

The most egregious flaw has to do with the shallow romantic sub-plot between Black Widow and Hulk. I know this was already teased in the trailer. I wasn’t against it. I’m of the opinion that any relationship can be made to work if done right. I mean fuck, the comics had Iceman hook up with Mystique at one point. But this was one romantic sub-plot that failed at one too many turns.

It’s not that they didn’t have chemistry. They had some. It just never felt wholly believable. It felt like it was just a way to add some romantic element, as if there needed to be some in a movie about a killer robot. The end result was very damaging to both characters. Bruce Banner came off as the kind of vulnerable dork we’ve seen in every episode of the Big Bang Theory. Black Widow came off as a character whose only purpose is to flirt with a guy when she’s not fighting. For someone like Joss Whedon, who claims to be an ardent feminists who hangs out with uber-feminist ball-busters like Anita Sarkisian, it’s dangerously close to hypocrisy.

Hell, he actually turned Black Widow into a damsel at one point. Seriously, the Hulk had to rescue her in a cage like she was fucking Princess Peach. I’m okay with that in a Mario game, but this is a fucking Avengers movie and this is fucking Black Widow. She could cut a man’s balls off with her eyebrows. And that’s what she got reduced to in this movie. If it came from Michael Bay, I wouldn’t be surprised. But Joss Whedon? Dude, you’re supposed to be the kind of evolved man that feminists don’t bitch about.

A male feminist shouldn't have such a creepy gaze.
Speaking of bitching, that’s a good summation of the second most glaring flaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron. That has to do with the Maximoff twins. Now ignoring for a moment how Marvel had to probably blow several lawyers to get away with using these characters, they basically tried to work around these limitations in the sloppiest way possible. They gave them new backstories that didn’t use the M-word, they tweaked their powers, and they gave them shitty accents. But that’s not what made them insufferable.

Spoiler: Quicksilver does NOTHING this awesome in this movie.
From the moment they were first introduced, the Maximoff twins were basically motivated by a desire to bitch and moan. Everything they did was to bitch and moan about Tony Stark and all the weapons he made. Never mind that he wasn’t the asshole that fired them. Blaming them would make too much sense. I don’t blame Miller Lite for my shitty liver, but that’s what these two basically did the entire movie.

That’s not to say they didn’t have their moments. They did. In fact, Quicksilver played a part in the movie’s most emotional moments. He and Wanda still came off as heroes, but they were fucking annoying little brats who essentially gave Ultron exactly what he needed to fuck everything up. A big chunk of this movie basically involved the Avengers helping the twins clean up their fuck-up.

Bryan Singer is still probably laughing his ass off.
There are other smaller flaws. It’s a bit jarring how the Avengers essentially come together in the beginning, as though the events of Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier were essentially shelved. But after the action gets going, it’s hard to really give a shit about these details.

And that’s the biggest takeaway from Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s strengths are much greater than its weaknesses. They more than make up for them. Even if you’re going to be a petty douche-bag, you can’t deny that the movie is fun and delivers the same brand of awesome that its predecessor offered. I know it’s easy to find flaws in every movie, but you have to make a real effort to find flaws in the first Avengers movie. You don’t even need to be sober to find flaws in this one. It’s just that Avengers: Age of Ultron works well enough to the point where you can overlook these flaws, with or without the aid of alcohol. And if you can use both, all the better.

How can anyone stay mad at that face?

It’s hard to really rate this movie without rating it in the context of its predecessor. But I suppose if the first Avengers movie was a perfect 10 out of 10, then Avengers: Age of Ultron would be an 8 out of 10. It fucks up in some ways, but not to the point where it derails the whole movie. And the things it does well will give fans wonderful feelings in their hearts and in their pants. There’s little doubt that Marvel has found a winning formula and they’re sticking to it, for the most part. Now if only DC had the balls to copy it. Nuff said!

No comments:

Post a Comment