Pondering the New Avengers

I went and saw the Age of Ultron on Monday and enjoyed the sybaritic delights of the Cinepolis theater with the reclining leather seats with foot rests and full bar, gourmet food, etc. etc., and I’ve been thinking about the film ever since, but also realizing that I actually remember very little about it.  Which is a sad commentary.

Then tonight I decided to re-watch Guardians of the Galaxy.  There’s a lot more heart in this film than in the latest Avengers installment, and ultimately if a story isn’t primarily about the people overcoming obstacles both personal and in the wider world, it’s not going to work for me.

But back to Ultron.  Spader clearly had a lot of fun voicing our killer robot and Whedon had some very nice little personal moments in Ultron, but they felt squeezed between all the action sequences.  One of the stand out moments for me was when Clint’s wife points out that the Avengers need him because he is an ordinary man.  He centers the others, grounds them, reminds them why they fight.  There is power in his quiet dignity as husband and father.

All the rest of them are fundamentally damaged — Stark who is trying to both win his dead father’s approval and outshine him.  The man who faces the world with arrogance and a quip.  The Captain a man who is grieving and is lost in time, a relic.  Banner who struggles to control this violent ID creature that can undo all of his humanity and his work as a healer in one horrible moment.  Black Widow who has been twisted both physically and mentally to make her a killer.  The moments when we saw those vulnerabilities, when they actually talked to each other instead of trading quips or insults were terrific.

And I did enjoy the banter, but how many CGI fight sequences does a film need to be successful?  I’d say this one had at least two and maybe three too many action sequences.  We had the fight in the forest, the fight in the Stark building, the fight in Africa in the derelict ship, followed by the Hulk hulking out and wrecking part of a city.  Then we go back to made-up-slavic-sounding-city and have a seemingly endless battle where Hawkeye gets the best line in the movie and which I can’t help but think represented Whedon’s overall thoughts and feelings on the franchise when he says —

“The city is flying! We’re fighting an army of robots! And I have a bow and arrow! None of this makes sense!”

Will I see the next installment?  Oh probably, I’m hooked on these comic book movies and shows, but I have to say that Winter Soldier and X-Men Days of Future Past and Guardians were for me more interesting and enjoyable films.

19 Responses to Pondering the New Avengers

  • Christopher Long says:

    Thank you, ma’am– you just put words to a large part of what bothered me about the movie, and that I hadn’t managed to put my finger on yet.

    There are other problems that… well, after reading a bit more about the film, I’ve decided to go ahead and give “Civil War” a chance, despite my contempt for the comics that inspired it, but I still have no intention of seeing the “Infinity War” movies– in part, at least, because, after “Age of Ultron,” I can’t just can’t see away around the killing of a character I have always liked if the Infinity War is to happen.

    Hmm. You are much, much more experienced in the world of Hollywood than I will ever be (or have any desire to be), so maybe you could offer an opinion on *why the heck* they refuse to actually give us a good, hearty, “Avengers assemble” in the movies? If you’ve any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I came to comics really late in my life, and haven’t had the energy to try and catch up on all the mythos. I rely on Len Wein to give me the Cliffnotes so I have no knowledge of what happens in the Infinity War. I do know the Infinity Stones are one of the more interesting things in the mythos for me. When Thor talked about how all of them are starting to turn up I had this real sense of dread.

      I’m not sure what you mean by Avengers assemble moment. Could you elaborate a bit more? Truthfully I’m getting really tired of origin stories.

      I would really like to see if Tony ever gets his shit together, marries Pepper and starts to act like a grown up with a grown up’s responsibilities.

      • Paul Weimer (@princejvstin) says:

        I suspect, Melinda, that Chris is referring to the last line of the movie, where Captain America doesn’t get to finish the line “Avengers…” before the movie ends. I was disappointed there, too.

        My Skiffy and Fanty friends and I just talked about this last night. I was one of the two harsher critics of the movie. It doesn’t hold a candle to the first Avengers movie on a lot of levels.

  • Eric Senabre says:

    I must say I’m with you on that one (again). I was like a 12-years old child before the screening, and my enthusiasm gradually flattened. There is something which doesn’t quite work with this movie. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly, but basically, I would say it is far less interesting than the sum of its ingredients. Maybe because it has TOO MUCH ingredients, as you mentioned. The movie is long, maybe too long, and still, it feels like they forgot to include some scenes. *** SPOILER ***
    One example is when Banner sets Black Widows free at the end of the movie. “Where is Natasha ?” “Oh, she’s locked up in this castle.” “Ok, I’ll go get her !”. Next thing we see is Banner opening Black Widow’s cell. Damn’, that was easy ! It’s like this transition was too boring to shoot, and they simply used this ellipse. But as a result, it’s ludicrous.
    Same thing applies to the making of Vision. The character is cool, striking, ok, but… He comes to life, then he’s immediately aware of its powers and wears a damn’ cape… Why ? Because it’s this way in the comics ? It just does not work.
    I also think they’re screwing things up with Tony’s character. He once was arrogant but nice. Now, he’s just an a**hole, and I don’t see what kind of pleasure a viewer might find watching him. Maybe they set the ground for the Civil War movie (next Cap Am’). But I’m not convinced.

    I think the limit of this franchise is this : save for Black Widow and Hawkeye, the main characters all have the same “powers”. I mean, basically, they’re all super strong and in the end, that’s the only thing that matters. They have different levels of strength, different styles, but all they do is punch. And it might become a bit tiring in the end. That is what makes the X-Men movies a bit different. And this is also why the previous Captain America movie was so great (more of a spy movie). It’s not just a matter of “who will punch harder ?”.

    I hope the infinity will change all that.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Like you, Eric, I could not wait to see this movie and then felt my enthusiasm ebbing. It wasn’t bad like Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3, but just…. It felt like Whendon was checking off boxes rather then being passionate about the story. When I felt his passion and interest were in those infrequent character moments.

  • Christopher Long says:

    Sorry, I failed to explain properly. “Avengers assemble”– often roared at the top of Cap’s lungs– is their rallying cry, or battle cry– both, really, it’s situational. It’s something we long-time fans have been *dying* to hear, and no few of the new fans, too. (My grandnieces, 10 & 6, are budding little geeks, and I’ve read some of my old Avengers comics to/with them, and THEY were annoyed that it’s not been there, too.)

    The rallying cry… I can sort of forgive it not being there in the first movie. Sort of. But really, at the end of “Age of Ultron,” when Cap says “Avengers–” and they cut it off? That just seemed… petty, I think is the best word choice.

    Heck, even Alan Silvestri, composer of the score for the first Avengers movie knew it should have been there. Track thirteen of his soundtrack was titled “Assemble.”

    Again, if you’ve any thoughts on the matter, they’re much more likely to make sense than anything I can come up with.

  • Georgino ludwog says:

    te avengers assemble moment is an iconic scene from the early days of the comic. It repeats itself in several moments. Basically in the comics Cap yells out “Avengers Assemble” right before the all gather and charge into overwhelming odds. I still remember in one of the what if comics it ended at that moment.

    As someone who grew up collecting comics. Marvel and DC. I actually enjoy the fight sequences because I’m getting to see the stories I love come to life. Oh and you missed the fight in Korea in your recap.

    As for Tony Stark growing up…. All of this is him trying to grow up. He knows pepper is better at the business than him. Thus she runs it and he tries to stay out of her way. Which isn’t exactly healthy but he at least knows it.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      His giving the company to Pepper is for me another example of his immaturity. “Running this empire is too hard and I’d have to develop people skills. I just want to tinker in the garage building shit.” Well, that’s what grownups do. And why doesn’t he turn his genius into making something for the betterment of mankind — water purification systems, desalinization, work on fusion. His suits are the equivalent of a teenager’s hotrod (to use a fifties phrase). He could still be brash and funny, but have learned something.

      I’m guessing he has learned nothing given the upcoming Civil War. And I do rather hate to see him turned into a villain.

      • Scott H says:

        I thought that it was explicit in the movies that he was working toward the betterment of mankind, only screwing it up in this one. In the beginning of Avengers, he’s marking a milestone in commercializing the arc reactor clean energy technology, by setting up a reactor capable of powering Stark Tower indefinitely… so next would be either scaling up to power plant levels, or putting units suitable for powering office buildings off the grid into mass production. In this one, besides funding and outfitting the Avengers (in the absence post Winter Soldier of an officially recognized SHIELD to go after HYDRA), he’s working on the Ultron scheme, which of course blows up spectacularly in his face…. but you can’t really say he’s not trying to do something for the world. Heck, even in terms of his suits, in Iron Man 2 he’s supposedly personally made quite the dent in international terrorism and low-level conflict with the whole ‘privatizing world peace’ thing.

        • Melinda Snodgrass says:

          What I loved in the first Avenger film was Tony having to learn that sometimes you can’t game the system, and that sometimes self-sacrifice is necessary. The only thing I liked in the third Iron Man movie apart from the kid was Tony’s psychological torment over what he experience. To me the Ultron scheme is more Tony trying to make himself feel safe then any concern about the world at large. If it has that effect it’s all good, but it seems like it’s ultimately about him and Pepper. And that’s cool. I like a grey, conflicted character. I really wish they had done more with that in the third Iron Man film.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Thanks, guys, for the explanation of Avengers Assemble! Here’s why I think it wasn’t there — I have a feeling when you heard that in dailies instead of just reading it in a comic it would make folks giggle. It’s one of those lines that can look good on a page and be almost impossible for an actor to deliver without it sounding bombastic or silly.

    • Christopher Long says:

      I’ve heard that theory before, Ms. Snodgrass, and my problem with it is… well, my problem with it is that Joss Whedon wrote the movies.

      I should explain that better, probably.

      Back in the days of yore, Joss Whedon, when “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was his Big Thing, wrote (and later won awards for) the episode “Hush,” in which there was very little dialogue, as demons stole the voices of everyone in Sunnydale.

      A couple of years later, he wrote (and was nominated for awards for “Once More, With Feeling,” the Buffy *musical* episode.

      It seems to me that a man who can write two such wildly disparate episodes, and do so well enough to win and be nominated for various awards for television excellence? That man could make “Avengers assemble!” work on the screen, and do so easily.

      Not doing so just seems, as I said before, petty– especially in light of them teasing us with it at the end of “Age of Ultron.”

      I may be wrong… but that’s how it felt.

      • Melinda Snodgrass says:

        The problem is that you can write it, but the actor’s got to deliver it for you. I think Chris Evans is a terrific actor and he’s made me fall in love with the Cap, but I think it would be a tough line to deliver. I have done some acting so I’m sympathetic to the problem. For all we know Joss did several takes where Captain America says the full call to arms, and when he looked at it in dailies he went — “Ah… no.” Whedon is very talented both as a writer and a director and I expect there is a reason it’s not there.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    One of the things I did like in the movie is the fact that Captain America is clearly in charge and the leader of the group. He really is the only choice. He has the military training, and while he is sad he doesn’t have the raging psychological problems of the other members of the team. (Save Clint, as we have now discovered.) And of course he is the essential decent man.

    As I look back over the Marvel movies I’m liking the Captain America films the best, Guardians, and I really liked the Thor movies. Of course a lot of that for me is Loki, but I really like Asgard, the infinity stones and the screwed up, dysfunctional family dynamic. And boy is Thor setting himself up for loss and grief by loving a human woman.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Thanks to John Tighe for catching a typo in the post. A “then” that should have been “than”. If folks spot them please let me know so I can fix-it-in-post.

    I want to be like Jim Wright. He is very grateful to folks proof reading for him, and so am I. By the way, Jim has an Amazing blog at Stonekettle Station. You can find him at stonekettle.com.

  • Rebecca Hewett says:

    I enjoyed it. Please pass the popcorn, with butter. Thank you. Now, to turn off higher brain functions and enjoy.

    But the standout moment for me was at the beginning when Stark and Thor are by the bar having the my girlfriend is better than your girlfriend argument. It’s not about which is more beautiful, sexier, looks better on their arm etc., but it’s about which one is smarter and the most competent. Mine runs a multi-billion dollar company. Oh, yeah? Well, mine’s going to win a Nobel Prize. Well, *mine*…

    I think that has Joss Whedon written all over it. Thank you, Joss for never putting the women in a corner.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I didn’t dislike it. I just didn’t think it was as good as the first one, or as good as Winter Soldier, and it feels like the studio was forcing more action, more action in lieu of the character moments that Whedon does so well.

  • Michael Leza says:

    I agree totally. I enjoyed the movie for the character moments and the dialog, and endured the fight scenes for the small character bits thrown in. The highlight of the film, for me, was when Hulk gets pushed down through a skyscraper and crawls out of the rubble to see everyone screaming in terror and running away. The look on his face (way to go CGI team!) and his reaction to the situation made me really feel bad for a giant rampaging green rage monster. The fact that Whedon, as a director, can craft that moment and make me care about it inclines me to forgive some of the tedious robot smashing.

    I think the big reason the action doesn’t work is that it is hard to build a credible threat to the heroes. The typical solution is to end-run around that issue by threatening people the heroes care about, and that wasn’t well developed in this, so whenever the fighting started it was like the Hobbit movies, it just felt like I was watching someone else play video games.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Yes! You pinpointed it exactly. It did feel like I was watching someone else playing a game. Now, I enjoy that when that’s what I want to do, but I want to be immersed and lose myself in a film. The action in this one pushed me away rather than drawing me in.

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