Friday, June 05, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

I know, I'm very behind the times, but I only just got around to seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron last weekend. To be honest, absolutely none of the trailers or pre-release buzz really got me hyped, and then a bunch of stuff happened, so it took a while to get around to it.

The short version of my feelings on the film were how I summed it up right after I left the theater. It's a mixed bag, but trending positive. There were a lot of things to like, a lot of scenes I enjoyed, and quite a few characters that I just love seeing no matter what (Hi, Captain America and anybody from his film series). I was surprised that I actually really enjoyed pretty much anything with Hawkeye in this film. Up until now, Clint has been kind of a non-character in the movies, but this time he got some valuable development.
I know some people probably disagree with my opinion here, but there's a particular spoiler-y development with Hawkeye that quite a few people hated and felt came out of nowhere, but I actually thought it was great. Could there have been more set up? Sure, if Hawkeye had really had any character at all in any of his previous appearances. Yeah, throw rotten fruit at me all you want, but he spent most of The Avengers mind controlled and then being angry about being mind controlled. That was about all you got. Instead this time we got a lot more out of him and I liked what we got. His sense of humor was really well done, and I liked it.

I know I'm probably a little biased, but I also really enjoyed all the bits with Steve. Captain America is clearly my favorite of all of them, so that's no surprise. I like his sense of leadership and responsibility and how he still is funny despite being very heartfelt. I don't know, he's just very much what I like in characters. He's what I always want Superman to be, very powerful, understanding the responsibilities that come with that power, but not breaking under the weight of it either. He's serious without being grave. And I think a lot of that comes from Chris Evans, who plays every moment with a lot of nuance.

But that leads me to one of my greater problems with the movie, is that there is a LOT of stuff there and a lot of it doesn't need to be there, or need to be as long as it is, because then they leave very good stuff on the floor instead of exploring it. Every character in this movie is shown their greatest fear, a vision that is meant to destablize them and make them unable to fight. Iron Man is shown all of his friends dead, Black Widow flashes back to her traumatic childhood, Thor sees himself as a destructive menace.

And Captain America finally sees VE Day, which he didn't get to experience the first time around. He's told he can go home, that the war is over, they are all finally done fighting. And Evans clearly shows us that this is just as tragic, and not just because he missed it the first time. It's because he knows it's not true, it's never true, they're never done fighting, and for him and his best friend and the love of his life, there was nothing real about going home.

How interesting is all that? I wanted to see it, at least hear Steve acknowledge it, something. But instead we get my major problem with the entire film, and something a lot of people are talking about, which is some sort of flailing attempt at romance between Bruce and Natasha.

I'll avoid the spoilers, but basically absolutely no scene about this particular pairing works. The characters have no chemistry on screen. I think both the actors were trying so hard to hit the beat that these are two broken people who aren't sure if they're worthy of a relationship that they didn't get anything else. There's no longing, no attraction, nothing. Natasha's relationship with Steve is so much more interesting and compelling in The Winter Soldier, so it makes this feel just clunky and terrible. I can see why the writers thought it worked on paper and wanted to try it, but they should have dropped it as soon as the first scene they shot wasn't working.

I'm not getting into the line/dialogue everybody is talking about right now and discussing if it's sexist or not. Listen, we can have all the debates we want about intention or context or whatever, but at the end of the day what's on the screen is all there is, and what's on the screen is a brick of a stupid scene that never should have happened, was framed poorly, and yes, came across as a very sexist moment and that I personally found more than a bit offensive even as I understood what they really were trying to do with it.

There are two action sequences that go on too long, but the final fight scene could have taken longer and I wouldn't have cared because it was well done. And the fight scene in Seoul was fantastic. Maybe it just took halfway through the movie before they started being more willing to kill their babies in the edit suite to cut down the fight to the important bits. Or maybe those two fights weren't necessarily chocked full of things that were there to sell toys to older comic book fans (I'm sorry the Hulkbuster was there because why? Sure, you could have it, but that fight was WAY too long for no reason besides OOH, HULKBUSTER). There are too many characters, and too many plot lines that aren't developed. There are too many moments, most of them centered on Iron Man, that are there just because "we need X to happen" and not because of something that felt really fleshed out and set up.

But in the end, I'm still thought it was generally good, I had fun watching it. I'd watch it again, but I wouldn't buy a second movie ticket for it.