Posts Tagged ‘Avengers’

Thus far, I have written about movies that were a few years old, and I actually have a confession to make: the writings themselves were also kind of old. I was collecting my thoughts on comic book/nerd movies in the hopes that I would one day release them as a book. Of course, I was doing this in a small cabin in Montana. I don’t see the book happening, but that’s no reason to stop writing. I mean, the movies are still being made, so why not?

With that in mind, I wanted to get my thoughts down on the second Avengers installment, Age of Ultron. The trailers had been pretty spectacular, the amazing cast was back, as was the director. To say that almost everyone who knew about this movie was looking forward to it would be very accurate. It had to blow our socks off, right?


To answer that question, I look back to what I wrote about the first Avengers movie a couple years ago (but only posted a couple months ago. Must be that Time gem.) I said that a movie is like a meal and you sometimes have to see how it settles. And I wrote, “I have often left a theater feeling good about how I just spent the last couple hours, only to completely change my mind upon further reflection.” This was perhaps a bad philosophy to bring up so soon before seeing Age of Ultron, because this, unfortunately, is exactly what happened.

The plot of the film revolves around the mad robot Ultron, brought to consciousness by Tony Stark, who is looking for a way to police the planet from super-powered or alien invaders. Apparently, Tony had been noodling with this for awhile, but it was only when he and his comrades retrieved Loki’s mind-staff from Hydra that he realized it could be done. And done faster than he thought, because Ultron awakens and goes from one end of the Internet to the other in seconds, immediately changing him from a robotic, philosophy-spouting menace to something more like Jim Carrey’s Riddler in Batman Forever.  I knew the Internet made people dumber, and apparently it does the same for robots.

Using Stark and Bruce Banner’s revolutionary skin-regenerating technique, Ultron begins constructing a synthetic android, which he uses to house his conscience. He also begins constructing a bomb that will extinguish a mankind that he has deemed unworthy. To aid him in his quest, Ultron recruits The Twins; two enhanced siblings with a bone to pick with Iron Man. One twin can run really fast, and the other one can alter reality somehow. The movie never really explains what her deal is, but they are both really boring, so I don’t think it really matters. The only compelling thing about them is their horribly bad Russian accents.

Some of the Avengers kind of chase Ultron and his team while he’s doing this, when they’re not hanging out on Hawkeye’s farm that is. To show that Avengers are people, too, Whedon wrote in a whole sub-plot involving Hawkeye’s wife and children, which is really just a big set-up to make the audience think that Hawk is definitely going to be killed by the end. It also was just a reason to have Captain America and Iron Man sit around for awhile and squabble, basically to set up  Captain America: Civil War.

This is becoming the problem for all of these Marvel movies. While the Phase I movies were all made to build-up to the first Avengers, they were at least introducing us to characters we had never seen on the big screen before. The second time around, with no origin stories and now that we know everyone, I feel like I just paid a bunch of money to watch a two-and-a-half hour commercial for the next movie. The way to solve this seemed to be to introduce new characters, namely the twins and the a fore-mentioned android (The Vision), but while one of the cool things about the first movie was Whedon’s ability to juggle all those characters and still make a good movie, this time around, it seems like it’s just too much for him. There was a lot of crap going on, and none of the sub-plots seemed to matter because there was no time to focus on any of them. Every scene just happened and then whizzed right on to the next one.

By the time they reached the climax, I was pretty much tapped out. Which was fine because, much like the first one, the climax was mostly brainless. Basically the Avengers, plus The Vision, The Falcon, War Machine, Nick Fury, Agent Hill, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and probably Buffy and Spike, standing together, fighting off Ultron’s legion of, well, Ultrons. And like the aliens in the first one, the Ultrons proved to be a pretty ineffectual lot. Because the movie had never really built them up as villains, just like I wrote about the first Avengers, I never once believed that the good guys wouldn’t win in the end.

The interesting thing is that most of this rather anal analysis didn’t really hit me until I was talking about the movie with friends a few days later. While I was sitting through it, I kind of liked Age of Ultron. Yeah, it got a little long near the end, as the heroes were trying to evacuate an entire floating city in a few minutes. And there was some unexplained things, probably because there was no time to explain them (like when Black Widow was captured by Ultron, how was Bruce Banner able to just walk in and bust her out? Was no one guarding the place?) But overall, I wasn’t disappointed. I liked The Vision as a character, and I was glad that Hawkeye was able to go back to his family, and that he had a family. And the huge battle between Hulk and Iron Man was the funnest fisticuffs of all the Marvel movies so far. Unfortunately, my opinions on movies must be based on how they are, not how they are perceived. I enjoyed it while it was going on, but upon further review, there were just too many problems. This may be one of the few movies I’ve ever seen that I feel should be longer. I definitely didn’t hate it because it had some cool moments. But I can’t say I loved it because it was just too hyper. In the end, it maybe was the worse stance you could take on a movie: apathy.


Like a fine meal, I sometimes like to see how movies settle.  I have often left a theater feeling good about how I just spent the last couple hours, only to completely change my mind upon further reflection.  Some movies don’t stand the test of time, and a second viewing reveals all the flaws and plot holes.  In fact, about 90% of all films can be described this way. Conversely, some movies get better with age.

Marvel’s The Avengers had the biggest opening weekend of all-time (probably until the next one) and will probably rank among the highest grossing films ever, and the highest not made by James Cameron (Of course, at $14.00 a ticket, there’s no way it wasn’t going to).  After seeing it on opening day, I left the theater feeling good about myself.  When people asked what I thought, I said it was “fun,” which is true.  It was a fun, popcorn, mostly-brainless, fluff piece.  The 3D was pretty pointless, but if we have to have 3D in our lives, my attitude is “Do no harm,” which this instance did not.  There was just the right amount of humor, and ridiculous amounts of action, to make it worth the money.  Every character had a good amount of time and development, and considering all the stars that had to align to make the thing, Joss Whedon should be awarded an Oscar just for getting it done.  So, plusses all around, right?

Not so fast.  With a slight twist, or on the wrong day, a lot of those plusses can be flipped.  The “right amount of humor” could be changed to “borderline silly” with one more bad pun.  Each character getting their time to develop can also mean that it got a little long-winded (It did!) while they fleshed out seven heroes and a major baddie.  It could be argued that the 3D “doing no harm” was actually, in fact, pointless.  “Ridiculous amounts of action” can be spun as just plain “ridiculous.” Catch me on an off day, and those factors suddenly become major stumbling blocks to my enjoyment.

This is why movies are both great and cripplingly annoying at the same time.  The things that bother me seldom bother anybody else, and even when I point out a movie’s foibles, other people will agree with me and yet not change their opinion.  Which is good, because, I mean, what do I know? (I did once have a friend rail against me for telling her The Hunger Games sucked, shouting, “Just stop talking because I want to like it and you can’t stop me!”)  I tend to think that all movies should be judged with the same measuring stick, but most people tend to group movies in ways that often allow bad movies to get a pass.  Obviously, the expectations for the next Liam Neeson action movie are such that there will probably be no Oscars in Oscar Schindler’s future, but he makes millions of dollars and people seem to enjoy watching him use his “particular set of skills,” so why bother with story, eh?

The Avengers did manage to do both.  It is unique in being a sequel to five different films, with each one being a franchise on its own.  You would think that fact would set the bar incredibly high because they have been building up to this for many years.  However, when looking at the core audience for The Avengers, maybe it would have been hard for people to not like it.  Comic book fans have been drooling about this for eons, it would have to have been a disaster of Phantom Menace proportions for them not to enjoy it.  Entirely possible, of course, but unlikely, because it seems that if Hollywood has learned one thing over the last ten years or so, it is don’t piss off the fanboys.  Does this mean, though, that Avengers is a good movie, or did people will it good?

The film begins with Thor’s sniveling half-brother, Loki, exiled at the end of Thor, in league with an unseen force, conspiring to destroy Earth and capture an alien artifact called The Tessaract (which is apparently alien for “glowing cube of doom”), seen at the end of Thor and Captain America.  Basically, if you missed Thor and don’t read comics, you’re kind of out in Jotunheim so far.  Loki succeeds in obtaining the cube, and also using his mind trickery to control SHIELD agent Clint Barton and scientist Stellan Skarsgard (who both appeared in, you guessed it, Thor.  For a Marvel comic that not many people care about, this film sure owes a lot to that one.)

In an effort to stop Loki, SHIELD honcho Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, having way too good a time to collect a paycheck) calls in his team of Avengers; beings with extraordinary powers that he has been keeping an eye on throughout the previous five movies.  At this point, it’s just Captain America, Black Widow and Iron Man, but they are able to capture Loki and cart him back to their floating headquarters.  However, on the way, Thor swoops in and grabs his half-brother, wanting to keep it in the family.  This sets up one of the most interesting sequences in the movie, as Iron Man and Cap confront Thor and we get the first sense that these guys don’t really like each other. Thor tries to fry Iron Man with some godly lightning and Iron Man’s armor absorbs it and turns it into energy, which was pretty awesome. Still, their squabble is brief, and they eventually all agree to hang together and see how this SHIELD thing plays out. Fury has also brought Bruce Banner into the fold, but for his scientific expertise, even though he can turn into a giant, indestructible destructive monster. This doesn’t sit well with the other would-be Avengers. And who can blame them? Sure, he may be the only one who can study the Tessaract, but is a flying headquarters really the best place for a Hulk?

Now within said flying headquarters, there is then a great deal of standing around and moving of holographic computer screens as they build tension and establish that Banner has a hard time keeping his anger in check, Captain America doesn’t trust SHIELD and Tony Stark is a snarky, little jerk.  Thor, in fact, sums up the squabbling quite well by telling his comrades that they are all “so petty… and tiny.”

As Black Widow interrogates Loki, we learn that she has a salty past, and owes Barton her life, so she is intent on getting him back on the right side.  We are also given a fairly useless red herring, as Loki leads her to believe that the he was captured on purpose, and that the Hulk is somehow going to be Loki’s maguffin to harness the power of the Tessaract.  It’s really all an elaborate set-up to get Banner to turn into the Hulk just as Loki’s forces attack the heli-carrier to rescue their leader, and chaos ensues.  I may have missed some of the details, but the whole Hulk/Power source storyline seemingly went nowhere, as it turns out Loki was really just pulling strings to get the Hulk running loose in SHIELD headquarters because he wanted to see the fight between his brother and ol’ Green-skin. Guess he doesn’t have much faith in his own troops, but it did make for an awesome sequence.


Anywho, Loki escapes (even though there was no real reason for him to be there, anyway), Agent Coulson is killed, and the Avengers are scattered in the wind.

Fury then rather callously uses Agent Coulson’s death at Loki’s hands as inspiration to help the Avengers to look past their petty differences and stop Loki. With the help of now-good-again Agent “Hawkeye” Barton, they go to New York, because Loki is going to use Tony Stark’s new repulsor-powered skyscraper as a conduit to get The Tessaract to open a doorway for an alien invasion of Earth. I don’t know what purpose the building serves, either, but it looks cool.

So, it is six Avengers against an entire alien army in the final battle, and the good guys finally learn to work together to save their planet. Captain America uses his leadership skills to help bring them together, and gives the coolest line of the movie when, while barking orders to everyone, looks at the Hulk and simply tells him to, “Smash.” Oddly enough, minutes before, we also got the movie’s most-unintentionally funny line, when Bruce Banner shows up seemingly out of nowhere on a moped and mentions that this alien invasion thing is “pretty horrible.” A deleted scene reveals that he landed in Jersey, saw the aliens attacking New York, and was given the moped by Harry Dean Stanton so he could make it there and help fight the bad guys. I get that the movie may have flowed better without it, but it did seem weird that Hulk just kind of showed up out of nowhere. Oh well. He did beat up a lot of bad guys.

Here’s the funny part about this movie. Despite being horribly out-numbered, I never doubted for a minute that the Avengers would come out on top in this one. And of course the good guys were always going to win, but even within the reality of the movie, I don’t think the outcome was ever in doubt. Because Loki was the only real villain, and the rest of them were faceless drones, it would have seemed odd if Captain America was murdered by one of them. As I’ve said a million times, it is the writer’s job to convince the audience that there are real stakes here, and yes, an alien invasion should make for high stakes, but come on, “They have a Hulk.” The aliens never really had much of a chance.


Still, how do you wipe out thousands of aliens when you only have six heroes? Why, the Phantom Menace ending, of course. You blow up their ship and they’ll all die for no reason. The good news is that there was a nuclear missile at play for just that task. The testy members of the World Security Council that order Nick Fury around decided that New York was a lost cause and the only way to nip this alien invasion thing in the bud was nuke the whole city. Fortunately, Iron Man was able to grab the nuke, fly it into the Tessaract-created portal, shoot it at the alien ship, and fall through the portal seconds before Black Widow used Loki’s own mind-controlling staff to close the portal up for good. Whew. That was a lot of stuff at the end there. Maybe there were high stakes.

The point of it all is teamwork. To further illustrate what a great team they are, most of them go their separate ways at the end. Thor takes Loki back to Asgard to face judgment. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner take off for the ultimate Bromance vacation. Black Widow, Hawkeye and Captain America are stuck working for Shield, even though Cap complained about their duplicity for most of the movie. However, according to Nick Fury, the team will be there if the Earth needs it, which will be at least three more movies.

I know there’s a lot of snark here, but to be perfectly honest, The Avengers is a very watchable movie. It has foibles, but what movie doesn’t? As I said in the first paragraph, it is sometimes good to see how a movie settles, and this one settles very well. There are obviously no perfect movies out there, but this one does its job. It entertained a lot of people, myself included, enough to be excited for the second one, and that’s really all that anyone can ask.