Avengers: Age of Ultron Movie Review

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Review:

Note: This review contains spoilers.

Avengers: Age of Ultron continues the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s string of really watchable and entertaining superhero films, but had more serious problems than its predecessor, The Avengers.

Age of Ultron picks up about a year after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with the Avengers attacking a HYDRA base where Baron Strucker has been hiding Loki’s magical scepter from the first Avengers film, as well as practicing human experimentation in an attempt to create more “Enhanced” humans with special powers. The Avengers successfully recapture the scepter, but Tony Stark gets whammied by Scarlet Witch, one of Strucker’s Enhanced, and decides to use it to create an artificial intelligence to protect the world from alien attacks like that on New York in the first Avengers movie. Precisely how he manages to convince Dr. Banner that this is a good idea remains somewhat unclear to me, but needless to say, it all goes to hell when the artificial intelligence – Ultron – gets online and promptly decides that the only way to really bring peace to Earth is to get rid of the Avengers and most of humanity.

Not a great plan, Tony.

Not surprisingly, given that we are talking about a Marvel film written by Joss Whedon, the highlights of the film were the impressive action sequences and the snappy dialogue. The opening attack against Strucker’s base in Sokovia had blatantly obvious CGI and green screen shots and was a little disappointing, but most of the others were outstanding. I particularly enjoyed the battle between Hulk and the Hulk Buster “Veronica,” which had a lot of funny remarks by Tony, and the final battle, which was full of spectacular visuals, especially the circular shot as the Avengers defended the core.

Whee!

Joss being Joss, there were also lots of laugh out loud lines throughout. He’s a master of snark and I love snark.

My biggest problem with the film was that, unlike the first Avengers film, it seemed like a placeholder rather than a natural progression. The Avengers tied together the various threads of the solo movies from Phase 1 and brought everyone together into the Avengers Initiative; Age of Ultron just seemed like it was filling in while we wait for Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It kind of rehashed Cap’s character development in The Winter Soldier (and not as well or as subtly), and Tony Stark’s in Iron Man 3 as well. Any development Tony went through in the course of Age of Ultron itself was more or less negated because he made his biggest mistake while whammied by Scarlet Witch and was then vindicated by Thor when he tried to repeat the same fucking thing that got them an Ultron problem in the first place. (How he got Banner to go along with the same terrible idea TWICE is even more of a mystery to me.)

In a minor preview of Civil War, Tony and Cap fight when Cap catches Tony trying to create the SECOND artificial intelligence, but as soon as Thor steps in in support of Tony, they’re all buddy-buddy again despite the fact that Tony went behind the team’s back not once but TWICE and in the process created something that literally tried to extinguish humanity. Like, what? It could have been a perfect set up for Civil War and instead we got Cap joking about whether an elevator could lift Mjolnir (which, yeah, funny, but still) and telling Tony he’ll miss him.

The only real progression identifiable at this point is the apparent resurrection of S.H.I.E.L.D (which, after the events of The Winter Soldier, Cap goes along with why, exactly?) and the creation of Cap and Black Widow’s New Avengers, but both of these take place at the very end, and aren’t really tied in with the rest of the movie much at all, unlike in The Avengers, where the creation of the original Avengers team was the entire point of the film.

Other notes:

  • Wow, I really, really hated the Bruce/Natasha. Egad. I went in determined to be open-minded about it, because despite being a Clint/Natasha shipper, I am also a multishipper and am rarely truly OTP about my OTPs (I love me some Steve/Bucky/Natasha, for one) but man. It was written horribly, from their actual dialogue together to the blatant lampshading by Cap and Laura, and it dragged down every scene it was in.
  • Bruce and Natasha’s characterization in general was a total mess. Bruce himself (as opposed to Hulk, who did have that great fight with Veronica) existed only as Tony’s doormat and Natasha’s love interest in this film. Natasha had more evidence of personality than that, at least, and despite Scarlet Johansson’s pregnancy during filming, she also had several great action scenes, most notably the one where she saved the whole world by stealing Vision’s body from Ultron. So at least we got that much. But far too much of her screentime was taken up by her pursuit of Bruce, which might have been okay if it had been better written, but instead landed her with several lines that made me actually groan out loud with how awful they were. So that sucked, because Bruce and Natasha are two of my favorite characters and I thought Joss wrote them both pretty well in The Avengers, so I really wasn’t expecting them to be so awful in Age of Ultron.
  • It was especially ironic given that Joss’s stated reasoning for not doing Clint/Natasha (as Marvel apparently originally planned) was because he wanted to show that men and women could have platonic friendships. But Natasha already has a well written and close platonic friendship with a man in the MCU. With Cap. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier it’s pretty obvious there’s some attraction between the two of them, at least on his part (the bikini line, his reaction to the kiss on the escalator, etc.) and she essentially offers herself to him in the car with her line about “Who do you want me to be?” But when he says “How about a friend?” they make a mutual decision to be friends, and personally, I thought it worked wonderfully for both characters. Far better than the blatant and totally unsubtle “Oh, and by the way this is Clint Barton, my BEST FRIEND” business in Age of Ultron.
  • I don’t even know what was going on with Thor. His storyline seemed like it got A LOT cut out of it and was kind of confusing and disjointed as a result. However, I did love his interactions with Cap in particular – adorable! And they had some really cool moves together with the shield and the hammer.
  • It was nice to see Clint get so much more to do, given that he spent most of The Avengers brainwashed. He had some great lines and I liked how he kind of took the twins under his wing.
  • Laura was a pretty bland and generic Supportive Wife, but she wasn’t actively offensive like the Bruce/Natasha, so I was okay with it, although all the stuff at Clint’s farm seemed a little unnecessary and more like (yet another) blatant statement that CLINT AND NATASHA ARE NOT TOGETHER, OKAY? rather than anything actually relevant or useful to either plot or characterization. I’m baffled why Joss Whedon fought to keep the farm scenes in the film, since they really didn’t add anything to the story that couldn’t have been accomplished in other ways, especially since it came at the cost of cutting out so much of Thor’s subplot that what was left made little sense.
  • Also, Pepper Potts on a farm? Really, Tony? Are you even listening to the words coming out of your mouth?
  • For that matter, I don’t 100% understand why Cap and Tony were so crazy about the farm at all, given that they’re from Brooklyn and Manhattan respectively. On the other hand, it did give us the spectacle of Cap chopping wood in a tight t-shirt (and ripping a log in half with his bare hands) so I ain’t complaining too much.

  • I was pretty meh about Vision on the whole, but the hammer reveal was well done and got gasps in my theater, including from me, despite being spoiled in advance.
  • I ended up liking the Maximoff twins quite a lot and hope we’ll see more of both of them.
  • I also liked Ultron quite a bit. He was much funnier than I expected.
  • I’m glad the hammer wobbled for Cap. I think he probably could pick it up if he really wanted to.
  • I heard about the running “language” gag before seeing the film and was deeply confused, because Cap was in the fucking Army, you can’t tell me he doesn’t swear. Joss has tended to write Cap in the past as if he has a really big stick up his ass – a stick nowhere in evidence in his solo films (I think he may actually be the character who’s sworn most onscreen in the entire MCU) – so I thought it might be more of the same but it worked better onscreen than I expected because Tony’s reaction (and Cap’s embarrassed response to his teasing) implied that he was surprised Cap said it because Cap actually swears all the fucking time. Which is much more in line with my headcanon! (There’s a funny ficlet offering one plausible explanation for why Cap said it in the first place.)
  • Also, did Whedon imply Cap is a Yankees fan? Are you kidding me? I don’t even follow baseball, but even I know a Brooklynite from the 30’s would cut out his own tongue and eat it for dinner before saying anything complimentary about the Yankees.
  • Overall, though, I thought Cap was better written than he was in The Avengers, although the lack of Bucky was glaring at a couple points. It was never really explained why Cap was taking down HYDRA with the Avengers while Falcon was off looking for Bucky, given that it was the exact opposite of Cap’s stated priorities at the end of The Winter Soldier. It also seemed odd to me that his vision from Scarlet Witch was focused on his PTSD and inability to leave the war behind, neither of which is really much of a revelation for anyone who watched The Avengers or The Winter Soldier. Or for him, either, I don’t think. (Though maybe that’s why he had so much less of a reaction to his vision than the others did to theirs?) Given that the visions seemed to focus on fears and regrets, I would have liked to see some reference to the fact that he just recently discovered his best friend in the world spent 70 years being tortured, brainwashed, and used as a killing machine, even if they couldn’t get Sebastian Stan for any new footage.
  • Also re: Cap’s vision, it was a little weird to me that the vision suggested that Peggy thought either one of them would ever be capable of leaving the war – she certainly didn’t leave it, as we saw in Agent Carter and with her founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, I’m not gonna lie, that beautiful, happy smile Cap gave her as they started to dance made my heart melt.
  • I was so happy to see the Jewish tech guy from The Winter Soldier who wouldn’t send up the helicarriers that I squeaked loudly enough to get a funny look from my neighbor.
  • The Winter Soldier was essentially a political thriller with superheroes and I didn’t really go into Age of Ultron expecting it to be as politically astute as that, but dammit, I expected more than we got! Tony’s desire for “a suit of armor around the world” has so many implications given the current debates (both in the real world and in the MCU) about freedom vs security, the military-industrial complex (I’m old enough that I immediately thought “Strategic Defense Initiative,” and Tony and Bruce are BOTH older than I am, so did that expensive clusterfuck just not happen in the Marvel universe?), and American hegemony, yet the implications were barely explored. Cap had one good line about the futility of pre-emptive war and that was about it.
  • I liked that the Avengers repeatedly made efforts to evacuate civilians to safety. It seemed like a deliberate thumbing of the nose at DC’s Man of Steel, and it definitely made them more sympathetic by comparison.
  • It’s pretty cool that the New Avengers are two black men, two women, an artificial intelligence, and Cap. Much more balanced than the original lineup. 🙂

Overall, a highly entertaining film, but it lacked some of the depth and heart of previous outings in the Marvel universe.

And now the wait for Captain America: Civil War begins!

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Additional Reading:

My rating:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

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Adventures in Marvel Movie-going

I have never been a comics fan. First and foremost, I find the the physical act of reading them really difficult. I suspect they’re too visually busy for me, causing me to get distracted easily and have problems following the narrative thread, but I’m not really sure, as I don’t have the same problem with newspaper-style comics, even the more visually experimental ones like the later Calvin & Hobbes strips. On top of that, I haven’t been overly impressed with the writing of most comics I’ve attempted (which is, to be fair, not many, thanks to the aforementioned problem reading them). To me, they read like something halfway between a novel and a film, but with neither the depth of a novel or the immersiveness of a film. (Sorry, fans, I’ll turn in my geek card now.) On top of that, I don’t like the typical plots of traditional comics – superheroes gifted their powers by some bizarre accident involving radiation (or whatever) are inherently less interesting to me than someone who’s developed their natural abilities to the highest level via hard work and dedication. And supervillains with grandiose plans to destroy the world are even worse. So yeah, nothing against those of you who do like them, but comics so far have just not been for me.

Comic book movies haven’t been that much better, in general. Spider-man and Spider-man 2: yawn. Batman Begins: yawn. The Dark Knight: better, but only when Heath Ledger was onscreen. The Dark Knight Rises: on my list to watch someday on account of Tom Hardy, but not very high on my list. Supermannever watched in any form, unless you count this Smallville humor vid. X-men: on my list to try, but again, not exactly high on the list.

Marvel’s recent oeuvre, on the other hand, has started to pique my interest a bit more. It’s managed to produce not one, but two entire movies based on comic books that I really liked. I’m not sure how long this will continue, considering that the contracts on its biggest stars are running out, but for now, I’m enjoying it.

My adventures in Marvel movie-going, so far:

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 7 Review

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Review:

Hmm, confession time. I’ve never seen a full episode of season 7 Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve seen a few bits and pieces, but that’s it. I discovered the show while season 7 was airing and was so busy catching up on past seasons I never really got around to watching the new episodes, and then when I finished watching season six I just… never got around to it. To be honest, the First Evil and the Potentials and all that just didn’t sound that interesting to me, so I watched other stuff instead and just never got back to Buffy. Every time I think I should really get around to it, I end up watching favorite episodes from previous seasons instead. So. No review for season 7.

What are your favorite season 7 episodes?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 6 Review

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Review:

In season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Scoobies struggled with the realities of adulthood and (mostly) failed. After being dragged out of heaven by her unwitting friends, Buffy tried to deaden her feelings by entering into an unhealthy and mutually destructive sexual relationship with Spike. Dawn’s kleptomania got out of hand. Xander freaked out and left Anya at the altar. Willow got addicted to magic, and increasingly used it to arrange not just things but people to her liking. Including Tara. Giles left. Twice.

In short, fun times were had by all (not) and a lot of fans found the unrelenting darkness too depressing. It’s probably the most “love it or hate it” season of Buffy. Personally, I lean more towards love, but some parts were hard to watch.

My favorite episodes include:

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 5 Review

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Review:

Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had two big flaws: Glory (the Big Bad) and Dawn (Buffy’s surprise younger sister). Glory was too boring (I’ll be upfront here: none of the later Big Bads ever equaled season 2‘s Angelus or season 3‘s Mayor in my eyes), and Dawn was too annoying, and unfortunately, we got a lot of both of them this season.

Nevertheless, season 5 was pretty good. Not only did it have some great individual episodes, it was also much more consistent than season 4, or even season 2 (though I prefer season 2 overall.)

My favorite episodes include:

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4 Review

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Review:

In season four, Buffy went to college, and the show floundered a bit trying to regain its footing after the change in setting and the loss of Angel and Cordelia. It is widely considered the weakest season of the show after season one. The pod people, refreshed from their extended vacation in season three, turned up quite a bit. (To be honest, several episodes had such bad reputations that I never even watched them.) Season four was also hurt by a boring Big Bad.

Another reason many people dislike season four is due to Buffy’s relationship with Riley. I actually kind of like Riley myself (possibly I’m biased due to the Iowa connection), but I nevertheless agree with the fandom at large that he’s a distant third on my list of favorite Buffy boyfriends.

Despite its flaws, the fourth season does contain several outstanding episodes. My favorites include:

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 3 Review

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Complete Third Season (Slim Set) (DVD)
Actors: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Head, James Marsters
Director: David Greenwalt, David Semel, David Solomon, James A. Contner, Joss Whedon
Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC
Language: English (Dolby Surround)
Subtitles: English
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Running Time: 990 minutes

List Price: $39.98
Price: $37.99
13 offers available from $13.66
4.7 out of 5 stars (678)

Review:

I have a hard time deciding whether season two or season three of Buffy is my favorite. I think I would have to say that I like individual episodes (Innocence, Passion, Becoming 1 and 2, etc.) in season two better than any single episode in season three, but season three was much stronger and more consistent overall. The pod people, for one, seem to have spent the season on vacation, so there are no clunkers on par with “Bad Eggs” or “Go Fish,” thank the muses. The Mayor is also one of my favorite Big Bads.

mayor-become-invincible

Unfortunately, despite the fact that it’s one of my favorite seasons, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen any episodes other than my favorites (Lover’s Walk and Graduation Day 1 & 2), so I’ll have to do a rewatch before doing comments on individual episodes. Oh the pain. 😀

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2 Review

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Review:

Season two might be my favorite season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m always a little torn, because the bad episodes in season two were really, amazingly bad and I think some of the later seasons were more consistent overall.

But the good episodes were great, and the Angelus storyline starting in the final moments of Surprise is one of my favorites of the whole show. (I’ve never been much of a Buffy/Angel shipper, mainly because I always thought David Boreanaz was clearly having much more fun as Angelus.)

Another season two vampire bonus: Spike, when he was still un-chipped, un-souled, and cheerfully ripping out throats. \o/

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1 Review

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Review:

To be honest, I’ve only seen some of the episodes from season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and wasn’t impressed. The show was a mid-season replacement and it was initially given a tiny budget. With just 12 episodes, it didn’t really have enough time to find its footing and it flailed around with mostly silly plots and absolutely terrible special effects for most of the season. If you want to watch Buffy but don’t want to sit through the whole season, start with these four episodes:

  • 1×01 Welcome to the Hellmouth
  • 1×02 The Harvest
  • 1×07 Angel
  • 1×12 Prophecy Girl

There are occasional callbacks to other season one episodes (especially 1×03 Witch) in the later seasons, but these four are the most important to the show’s overall arc.

My rating:2 Stars (2 / 5)