Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Well, the gang’s back together and as if it wasn’t hard enough to give Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill enough screen time in a movie anyway, Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon only went and decided that not only would he try to give Hawkeye a personality (why would anyone want to do that?), he’d crowbar in Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and The Vision, as well as cameos by Falcon and War Machine and a few other old favourites, while dropping in copious references to the other movies of the Marvel Universe.

Still, Whedon is one of the few people who could give it a serious go and Age of Ultron is about the best you could expect of such a Herculean – some may say Argonautian – task. It sees the newly cooperative Avengers coming back together from their respective franchises to fight first Hydra and then Ultron, an artificial intelligence created by the Avengers themselves (or some of them at least) who decides the best way to ensure peace in our time is wipe out the human race to make it really peaceful.

Along the way, we learn a little more about each of the Avengers, get a lot of clever one-liners, hear a lot of bad accents and witness more Easter eggs than at a Hotel Chocolat in April (blink and you’ll have missed references to the future Black Panther and you’ll almost certainly have failed to have noticed the Winter Soldier at one point).

On first viewing in 2D, I found Age of Ultron mostly satisfying, with some standout moments, such as the Hulkbuster, Black Widow’s flashbacks and pretty much any line delivered by James Spader as Ultron or Paul Bettany as The Vision. However, it’s oddly shaped, with some surprisingly dull bits, despite the fact it echoes the structure and plot of the original movie, with an odd character section in the middle of the movie, epic amounts of talking when there should be smacking and various characters – well, mostly Thor – heading off by themselves for no well explored reasons.

A second viewing in 3D proved better, since as well as having the time to process everything that was going on, without constant hopes of something awesome turning up in the next scene and knowing the beats of the movie, it was possible simply to enjoy the characters and those standout moments, even if most characterisation revolved around chances to deliver some trademark WhedonJokes. Tony Stark felt more like Tony Stark than he did in (The) Avengers (Assemble), Hulk was well served (although does no one care about poor old Betty Ross now his solo movies have been cancelled?) and Black Widow got a lot more to do, although I’m not sure making it primarily romantic was necessarily the best choice. Poor old Captain America and Thor suffered the most, either being the butt of jokes or acting a little out of character at times, but I guess not every i could be dotted and t crossed. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver also proved good additions to the series.

And despite being a dyed-in-the-wool 3D hater, I have to admit that the technology has now got to the point where Age of Ultron was better in 3D than 2D, not looking like a Viewmaster slideshow in the middle of the Stygian depths.

And yet… everything felt like it was lacking a little energy. There was no real threat, Ultron being reduced down to little more than a fighty robot in command of an army of metal Chitauri who look like him. The care that Whedon took in the first movie over details, such as having people speaking their own languages, disappeared in between movies – everyone in Eastern Europe apparently speaks English as a lingua franca, not Russian, despite everything being written in Cyrillic. Golden Black Widow opportunity – missed.

Good fun, worth watching, with some real highs, just not (The) Avengers (Assemble) great. Roll on Captain America: Civil War.




  • feelinglistless

    My understanding is that Hulk's in the Avengers films for the same reason as Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch – he's a core part of the Avengers so can exist in those films because Disney has the rights to the Avengers. But everything else to do with him, like Betty Ross is in the Hulk rights so they're still with Universal. So if they wanted to make an MCU film with Hulk as the title it would have to be a co-production with Universal. ala the new Sony arrangement with Spiderman.

  • Is that right? How'd that happen? Only Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) is in the Ed Norton The Incredible Hulk, which was the second MCU movie, coming after Iron Man and featuring a cameo by Tony Stark talking about The Avengers initiative, which would suggest if that is the case, the rights must have shifted after that movie.

  • Andy Butcher

    My understanding, for what it's worth, is that if they do a stand-alone Hulk movie, they'd have to give Universal a percentage. I don't think it prevents them from using Betty, but it seems that in the MCU at least, that relationship is over.

  • I can understand how it would give them problems making a solo movie, but I'm not sure how it would affect a team-up movie. I'm not even asking for Betty to turn up, but not even a mention seems odd.

    IMDB says The Abomination was scheduled to be the original Avengers 2 baddie. Not sure how reliable that is, mind

  • JustStark

    We reckoned the Age of Ultron lasted… about a week? Depending on how long that bizarre farm interlude took.

  • Andy Butcher

    Whedon apparently decided on Ultron while still filming the first Avengers, but I guess the Abomination could easily have been in the frame at some point before that.

  • Andy Butcher

    Yeah, a week sounds about right to me.

    I liked the 'safe house' section, incidentally. 🙂

  • JustStark

    It was made very clear that Whedon thinks in television terms: there were lots of bits of characters just randomly sitting around doing stuff that you need to pad out a TV series but that have no place in a film.

    For example, the whole party should have been cut at the script stage. It added nothing and was incredibly tedious to sit through (and, when Stan Lee was on screen, actively painful). If you go straight from Ultron's creation to the 'sitting around the table drunk' aftermath, you not only save massive amounts on the extras budget and probably about a week of filming days at least, and you don't lose any establishment of points that will be important later on (the Black Widow / Hulk thing having been already set up, and will be set up again) but more importantly you don't have people like me sitting fidgeting going 'WHEN will this fanwank be OVER so the PLOT can start?'.

  • Andy Butcher

    I think it's going to be best to agree to disagree on this, given that I am both a recovering comic book geek and a massive fan of Mr Whedon's work in general. 🙂

  • Andy Butcher

    Actually, there is one thing… 🙂

    I don't think TV shows inherently need 'padding out', and I feel it's something of a disservice to modern TV to suggest that the form is inherently inferior to movies.

  • JustStark

    Oh, Whedon's work has its strengths and weaknesses, but I think its clear (from his opus in general, but this makes an especially good example) that his strengths are the strengths of television, not films.

    In an instalment of a soap opera like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, for example, where viewers can be assumed to tune in because they want to see the cast doing things in the matter that they do — 'oh that was such a Xander moment', 'what a great Willow line — then all the stuff like the party, the school trip to the farm, etc, would be an asset, not a liability.

    But presumably this was not meant to be 'the latest instalment in the Marvel soap opera', but a decent film that could be watched by people (like me) who haven't watched all the other films, certainly haven't watched any of the more than once so won't pick up on reappearance of minor characters (of which I gather from reading the internet there were several), are a bit curious about where all this 'infinity stone' stuff is going but not so much they have to see the films rather than catch up what they missed on the internet, and are mainly there (a) because this maybe will be the biggest-grossing film of the year and it would be nice to see what the fuss is about, and (b) because Guardians of the Galaxy was a perfectly adequate sci-fi action comedy that managed to balance a group cast, a plot, some jokes and, crucially, kept moving at a fair clip without getting bogged down in soap opera.

  • JustStark

    I don't think TV shows inherently need 'padding out', and I feel it's
    something of a disservice to modern TV to suggest that the form is
    inherently inferior to movies.

    It's not inferior, it's just different. Like how a novel needs padding out compared to a poem.

    (Well, sometimes it is inferior, like when the Americans make twenty-plus episodes a year and you simply can't make that many without a good six or seven of them being rubbish, just because of pressure of time. But done properly, a TV serial can do stuff a film can't do, because it has six hours of screen time to fill.)

  • Andy Butcher

    I do fear that this may be the inherent flaw in what Marvel is doing with its 'shared universe'.

    Because in many ways, the Avengers movies *are* 'the latest instalment in the Marvel soap opera'. They are the connective tissue that ties all the individual hero movies together.

    At the same time, though, they are also supposed to be entertaining and enjoyable 'summer blockbuster' movies that stand up on their own merits.

    Doing either one would be very, very hard. Doing both is the next thing to impossible, and I don't honestly believe there's anyone who could have gotten them off to as good a start as Whedon has with the first two.

  • Andy Butcher

    I think we may mean different things by the term 'padding out'.

    To be clear, to me the concept of 'padding out' a story just to make it longer is inherently a bad thing. A story should be as long or as short as that specific story needs to be in order to be the best version of that story.

    I also get the impression that you're more interested in plot, while I am perhaps more interested in character. Obviously both are very important, but for my tastes the best stories tend to have character-driven plots, rather than the other way around.

  • JustStark

    Well, that was my point in last time I wrote about this, that this might be Marvel's JN-T moment: where they start to produce movies that the fans love, but that bewilder and bore anyone who isn't already a fan (hm, a bit like superhero comics, I begin to see the connections…)

    As this guy says, 'There's a lot of significant others being dragged to these movies who are going to rebel': http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ente

  • JustStark

    To be clear, to me the concept of 'padding out' a story just to make it
    longer is inherently a bad thing. A story should be as long or as short
    as that specific story needs to be in order to be the best version of
    that story.

    Well, yes, this is why some stories are films and some are TV serials, depending on how much padding they have.

    Some stories need to be done as TV serials because they need the padding to make sense, and would be really sparse / shallow / etc without the extra padding around the spine. The padding forms the important function of fleshing out around the plot, and some stories just don't work without the flesh. The West Wing, for example, was about the business of government, and the business of government is about the long slog of negotiations, setting things up, seeing them being torn down and trying to rebuild them, etc, so it needed all the padding in order to tell the story well: it wouldn't have worked as a movie (indeed when it was done as a movie, in 1995, it didn't work because it made it seem like all of government was just about getting one important vote passed).

    On the other hand, some stories need to be done as films, because while they have a strong spine there just isn't enough there to carry all the padding. Casablanca, for example: wonderful film, but who would want to watch a TV serial about all the wacky characters who drift through Rick's? No, it's about that one moment where Ilsa comes back into his life, and it is focussed on that one moment. So it has no padding at all and it is brilliant.

    Padding isn't bad. It just is. It's like pretty much any tool of telling stories, it needs to be used in the right way, the way that meshes with the story being told and the medium being used to tell it.

    The problem comes when you get someone like Whedon, who is much better at the padding than the focussed stuff, which makes him much better at TV, and then have him try to make a film: you end up with the worst of both worlds, a squished-up mass of TV episodes that neither has room to explore the padding in a way that would be good for a TV serial, nor is focussed in the way a good film should be.

  • Andy Butcher

    Yup, I suppose it's kinda inevitable with any form of storytelling that stretches across multiple movies. I think Marvel have done an outstanding job so far, but there is simply no way that 'Infinity War: Part II' is going to make a great deal of sense to anyone who hasn't seen Part I. 🙂

    In many ways I guess it's the same argument about episodic versus serial storytelling that television has been having for many decades, but that hasn't really applied to movies until now.

  • Andy Butcher

    Yeah, what you call 'padding' seems to incorporate both what I call 'padding' (bad) and a lot of things that I love, like characterisation (good).

    I would happily concede that Whedon is probably more interested in character than in plot. I would never agree that he's better at padding than the focussed stuff. 🙂

  • JustStark

    Yeah, what you call 'padding' seems to incorporate both what I call
    'padding' (bad) and a lot of things that I love, like characterisation
    (good).

    Dear me no, it's nothing to do with characterisation. Take Casablanca, for example, a film with almost no padding but was there ever another with such vivid characters as Rick, Ilsa and Louie?

    By 'padding' I just mean anything which is extraneous to the story's main spine — anything non-essential.

  • JustStark

    there is simply no way that 'Infinity War: Part II' is going to make a great deal of sense to anyone who hasn't seen Part I

    It's not about making sense, though. This film made perfect sense to me, and I haven't seen all the previous films. I could tell what was going on at all times (well, except during some of the battles, but I think everybody was left confused during those).

    It's just it was full of stuff I didn't care about, because I'm not a fan who lives and breathes to hear the next bit of Tony Stark arrogance or Thor cod-Shakespearian or Captain America stuffiness, or who was waiting with baited breath to see how they did the Vision, whereas there were clearly people in the cinema for whom those things were as unto life itself.

    The Vision is a perfect example, actually. I had never heard of this fourth-tier 'superhero' before the pre-publicity started; I looked him up on the internet out of curiosity, but all the pages were so long and dense and full of convoluted backstory that I got bored just skimming them, so I figured the movie would explain it all, in terms suitable for someone who had no idea. And indeed it did: I was not at all confused.

    No, the problem wasn't that the Vision didn't make sense to someone with no idea of the comics, it's that his introduction coming when it did, did horrible things to the pacing of the movie, slowing things down to an absolute crawl just as they had been ramping up to the finale.
    But those who had come already pre-invested in the idea of the Vision were lapping it up (there was an audible gasp at the bit where he stops himself smashing through the window).

    That's the problem: it's not that it doesn't make sense to those coming in from outside, it does, it's just that it doesn't provide a reason for those not already pre-invested to care.

  • Andy Butcher

    Hehehe. If that's the case, then we're back to your implication that TV is an inferior form to movies because it needs 'padding out' with 'non-essential' filler.

    I think we're just going around in circles on this… 😉

  • JustStark

    Hehehe. If that's the case, then we're back to your implication that TV
    is an inferior form to movies because it needs 'padding out' with
    'non-essential' filler

    Non-essential to the story, but sometimes essential to the whole effect of the work.

    Like Mad Men, which is full of padding which isn't essential to the story, but the overall effect of watching it would be entirely different (and inferior) if the padding wasn't there, or wasn't done properly (for an example, see Pan Am, which failed because it was exactly an attempt to do Mad Men without understanding how and why Mad Men's particular evocative padding makes it work).

  • Andy Butcher

    And now our two separate threads of conversation come together. Don't cross the streams! 😉

    The stuff you call padding seems to me to be the stuff that's there to help you care about the characters – to learn about who they are.

  • Andy Butcher

    Completely agree about Mad Men and Pan Am.

    Still have some terminology issues, but am realising that our views are not as opposed as I may have thought. 🙂

    (And I freely admit to being rather anal about words and what they mean, and having spent far more time in my life than is probably necessary thinking about things like the difference between plot and story, character-driven plot vs plot-driven characters, and other aspects of storytelling.)

  • JustStark

    The stuff you call padding seems to me to be the stuff that's there to
    help you care about the characters – to learn about who they are

    But those are two completely different things. It's entirely possible to know everything about a character and not care about them, or alternatively to know almost nothing about them and yet be fascinated by what they are going to do next (take, for example, Rick: the audience knows almost nothing about him but right form the start cares about what he's going to do when Ilsa walks through the door, and by the end is dying to know whether he's going to get on the 'plane).

    Why should I care about the Vision? The movie just seems to assume that the audience will care, will be curious to know who this purple guy who came out of the MacGuffin is. And if the movie had been structured differently, then maybe yes, that might have worked. But coming where it did, just as the pace was pickign up for the climax and destroying that pace, all he did was drop a big roadblock in the way of a movie that was already taking far too long to get where it was going.

    If you were waiting for his introduction, then I'm betting it felt like a great payoff when he finally arrived (hence the whooping in the cinema when I saw it). But if you couldnt' care less about his introduction but where just following the movie, then why was he even there? Why couldn't the have cut that entire plot strand and just had the Avengers as they already were go and rescue Scarlett and fight the battle on the island? It's not like the Vision does anything that any of the other characters couldn't have done, he just beats up some robots and rescue the girl, but any of them with superpowers could have done that.

    Basically there was no reason for him to be there, other than either to wank fans or to set up the new team now the contracts for the real stars have run out, but that's for future movies and his presense distorted the shape of this one something terrible — and the movie was full of bits like that, that didn't serve the film but were there just as either setup or fanwank.

  • FYI, The Vision is there

    a) So that Paul Bettany actually gets to be in the movies, rather than just do voiceovers
    b) To make Jarvis a character others can interact with
    c) To take part in the Infinity War, what with him having an Infinity Stone in his head (cf Thor's Dream)

    Basically, as with Samuel L Jackson at the end of Iron Man, this is merely The Vision being introduced to the Marvel Universe rather than doing anything necessarily unique, important or fan-faint inducing at this point.

    All the current Avengers and the new Avengers are supposed to be in the Infinity War movies (there'll be two of them), so if they are to replace the current set, it won't be until after 2019 or so, by which point most of the current cast will probably be too old to be superheroes anyway.

    Also FYI, the idea of the Avengers team changing is pretty constant throughout the comics and there was talk of there being a different roster altogether for Age of Ultron. But that didn't happen, obvs.

    I'll go back to lurking again.

  • JustStark

    Oh, right, I just couldn't see any reason to change the team unless the old ones were going (well, maybe for introducing witchy woman, because as I read Whedon said, all the original superpowered Avengers had pretty similar punchy-fighty powers, so somebody who does something different was a nice change). So I assumed that was what happened.

    Anyway, again, all those reasons are stuff that is outside the scope of the film that the audience was actually watching. So they actively made this film worse (by royally screwing up the pacing, etc) in order to set up future films. Who on Earth thought that was a good idea?

    Certainly not anybody thinking of the experience of the audience, or at least, anyone in the audience who isn't already an obsessive Marvel-fan (that JN-T thing again).

    Also FYI, the idea of the Avengers team changing is pretty constant
    throughout the comics and there was talk of there being a different
    roster altogether for Age of Ultron. But that didn't happen, obv

    Yes, but what happened in the comics is entirely independent (and quite possibly exactly the opposite to) what makes a good film.

  • “Oh, right, I just couldn't see any reason to change the team unless the old ones were going (well, maybe for introducing witchy woman, because as I read Whedon said, all the original superpowered Avengers had pretty similar punchy-fighty powers, so somebody who does something different was a nice change). So I assumed that was what happened.”

    It's also in part of a set up for Captain America: Civil War (various superheroes take sides, one led by Captain America that's all about the freedom, one led by Tony Stark that's not).

    “Anyway, again, all those reasons are stuff that is outside the scope of the film that the audience was actually watching. So they actively made this film worse (by royally screwing up the pacing, etc) in order to set up future films. Who on Earth thought that was a good idea?”

    All this has happened before and all this will happen again. It was one of the complaints about Iron Man 2 (“Who gives a stuff about this Black Widow and Nick Fury? What have they got to do with Tony Stark?”) but was necessary to set up The Avengers.

    “Certainly not anybody thinking of the experience of the audience, or at least, anyone in the audience who isn't already an obsessive Marvel-fan (that JN-T thing again).”

    You appear confused as to who the audience is and as to what the movie is. Avengers: Age of Ultron is a sequel to the following movies: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor, Thor 2, Captain America, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Incredible Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers. That's 11 movies that make up the highest grossing movie franchise in the history, taking over from Harry Potter:

    http://comicbook.com/2015/05/0

    Claiming that only 'obsessive Marvel-fans' will understand what's going on is a bit like going into Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and claiming that only Harry Potter obsessives will know what's going on, when actually the people who will know what's going on are '95%-99% of the audience, who will have seen the previous three movies and can remember what happened in them'. I honestly don't think remembering the plot of previous movies qualifies you as 'an obsessive Marvel fan'. They're really not that demanding, although if you have problems remembering names, identifying languages spoken, etc, maybe they are.

    It's a bit hard for old school fanboys to grasp this but the MCU is a mainstream cinema-going experience, with the fanboys a minority. There are certainly obsessives in the audience, but the vast majority of the audience won't be obsessive and almost certainly will have seen the vast majority of the movies and know what's going on.

    More to the point, the MCU is something quite new: it's the comic book aesthetic imposed on movies. You have the individual movies with their own plots, which correspond to the individual characters' own comics (eg Captain America, Iron Man</em);>The Avengers, Secret Avengers) that feature both these individual characters and perhaps characters who don't have their own titles. Team-up titles and individual titles can reference each other's continuity (eg 'See Captain America #27 to find out who the Red Skull is and why he wants to kill Captain America!'). Characters from each of the individual titles can also appear in each others' titles, too (eg 'a guest appearance in this issue of Black Widow by Hawkeye! See what happens next in Hawkeye #36!').

    And it's up to the comic book reader how much they want to invest in that. If they only want to read the team-up titles, that's fine, but they won't get as much out of it as if they read the individual comics as well. Ditto, if they only want to read the individual titles but aren't fussed by the team-ups and crossovers. Ditto if they want only care about Captain America and read his title and all the team-ups he appears in.

    And that's what the movies are. They aren't just sequels, in the style of Godfather 3, they're an interlocking universe. Wanting them to be self-contained movies catering to those who haven't watched the other movies is wanting them to be The Godfather, The Client and Casino, when that's not what they are and not trying to be.

    Arguing what Avengers: Age of Ultron should and shouldn't be, and viewing it in isolation from the other movies is a bit like wading into chapter 7 of a story, having skipped chapter 6 and expecting to know exactly what's going on – and then arguing that chapter 7 is badly written because you don't.

    If you don't like the new paradigm, tough luck, that's what they are and that's what they're going to continue being – and increasingly, that's what other franchises are going to be like, too. It's up to you whether you watch or don't watch them all, but TBH, by the sounds of it, they're not for you, so maybe you shouldn't watch them?

  • JustStark

    Claiming that only 'obsessive Marvel-fans' will understand what's going
    on is a bit like going into Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and
    claiming that only Harry Potter obsessives will know what's going on

    Um, I did understand what was going on.

    The problem was that the movie, considered just as a movie, just wasn't good.

    For example, the bit where the whole thing stops to introduce the Vision: do you really think it's a good thing for a blockbuster movie, just as it's ramping up to its big finale, to introduce a whole new character and spend ten minutes doing… nothing?

    At that point in Guardians of the Galaxy, a film which while it has its flaws is at least paced well, the baddy had just got the stone of ultimate destruction and the goodies where just deciding that they had to stand up and be heroes, and then it's straight into the climactic battle.

    It's nothing to do with not understanding what was going on, it's to do with the film being badly paced because it had to introduce a character who was utterly extraneous to the plot, who could have been cut out without a problem (to this film) and whose removal would have improved the film I was actually watching as opposed to some other film I may or may not watch in the future.

    '95%-99% of the audience, who will have seen the previous three movies
    and can remember what happened in them'. I honestly don't think
    remembering the plot of previous movies qualifies you as 'an obsessive
    Marvel fan'.

    The last Avengers movie was three years ago.

    I don't think it's completely unreasonable to expect that people might not care about minor details of a film they saw once, three years ago.

    I honestly don't think remembering the plot of previous movies qualifies you as 'an obsessive Marvel fan'.

    Again, it's not about remembering the plot. I'm sure everybody seeing it remembers the plot of Avengers 1.

    What qualifies you as an 'obsessive Marvel fan' is caring that the Vision is in it, because the Vision is a character you've heard about and you want to see.

    You seem to think I'm saying that people who aren't obsessive Marvel fans won't be able to follow the plot; I have never said that. The plot was perfectly clear to anyone; even someone who had never seen another Marvel film could have followed that plot.

    What I am saying is that only obsessive Marvel fans will find twenty minutes of the characters chatting at a party (complete with one of the most awful, painful, badly-acted cameos in the history of cinema) anything other than utterly tedious.

  • “do you really think it's a good thing for a blockbuster movie, just as it's ramping up to its big finale, to introduce a whole new character and spend ten minutes doing… nothing?”

    Not especially. But it's a scene in part about the redemption of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, who've f*cked up royally with Ultron and who are now doing something similar in the hope of saving the day.

    And they do actually need the Vision and the Mind Stone because of the Vibranium making Ultron indestructible. Remember that bit?

    “I don't think it's completely unreasonable to expect that people might not care about minor details of a film they saw once, three years ago.”

    What minor details were they expected to know about that they weren't reminded of in Ultron?

    “What qualifies you as an 'obsessive Marvel fan' is caring that the Vision is in it, because the Vision is a character you've heard about and you want to see.”

    Indeed. But that would be a Marvel comics fan. No one else cared that he was going to be in it and for them – virtually the entire audience of the movie – it was probably their first introduction to the character.

    But I'm not actually sure what your point is here, because I don't think caring about the Vision was a prerequisite for either viewing or enjoying the movie and no one expected you to, either.

    I enjoyed Paul Bettany's performance, I enjoyed the character, I enjoyed his lines. I have never read a single comic that featured the Vision and I had to look him up when I heard he was going to be in it. I don't plan on reading any of his comics either, now I've seen it. I am not upset he was in the movie and on the whole, I'm glad he is in the movie.

    My wife and my mother-in-law, whom I watched the movie with both times, certainly don't know who the Vision is and have never read a Marvel comic in their lives. But they liked the Vision. Because it's Paul Bettany and he was funny and hot. That's the point of the Vision.

    “What I am saying is that only obsessive Marvel fans will find twenty minutes of the characters chatting at a party (complete with one of the most awful, painful, badly-acted cameos in the history of cinema) anything other than utterly tedious.”

    And what I'm saying is that probably the entire audience except you did enjoy the party sequence, whether they were 'obsessive Marvel fans' or not. Because they care about those characters. Marvel movies are largely character movies so if you don't like the characters, you won't enjoy them.

    As for Stan Lee, plenty of people recognised him when I saw the movie; they laughed. It's a thing that happens in every Marvel movie and whether you're an 'obsessive' fan or not, it's something you spot is happening in any Marvel movie you see, provided you can remember faces and voices, and have seen more than one Marvel movie. Yes, it's corny and embarrassing – that's the point. That's what you're supposed to be laughing at. Because Marvel doesn't take itself seriously. Well, except for Daredevil obviously.

  • JustStark

    But it's a scene in part about the redemption of Tony Stark and Bruce
    Banner, who've f*cked up royally with Ultron and who are now doing
    something similar in the hope of saving the day

    Right, it's the bit in every blockbuster where the heroe(s), at the lowest ebb, realise even though it's their fault / it's incredibly dangerous / everyone the love is dead / whatever, they have to man up and save the day, because nobody else will.

    And in Guardians of the Galaxy as soon as they make that decision, then bam! Into the final fight. Because there are no more story beats. Everything's resolved, all that's left is the punching. (And in the first movie with the Avengers, too: Captain Jack dies, they get the baseball cards, they realise they have to be a team, and it's straight on to New York and, yes, punching, lots of punching).

    But in this one? Just as they come to that realisation… Stop the movie! New character! Who is it? Do we trust him? What the hell is going on? This movie is already far too long, but by any logic of pacing it should be on the final stretch by now and instead some purple guy is floating about trying to out-portentous-voice Thor, and boy, did we think Thor had the portentous-voice thing sewn up. How long do I have to wait for the punching?

    And they do actually need the Vision and the Mind Stone because of the Vibranium making Ultron indestructible

    But doesn't Ultron eventually just get killed by Mary-Kate Jr? So they don't need the Vision at all. (The Vision then rescues her, but Thor could have done that, or Nick Fury could have swooped in and grabbed her with a jet, or anything).

    What minor details were they expected to know about that they weren't reminded of in Ultron

    Not know about, care about. For instance, it's played as a big 'Wow!' moment when Nick Fury arrives with Robin and Cloudbase. But, you know, Nick Fury never did anything that impressive in the first movie (except not shoot at the fleeing jet, that was slightly cool), and Robin never did anything but answer telephones (maybe she did more in Captain America 2 but I haven't seen that and I shouldn't be expected to have: the Avengers movies are supposed to get the biggest audiences which by definition means some of them won't have seen the others), it was three years ago, so why do we care again?

    But I'm not actually sure what your point is here, because I don't think caring about the Vision was a prerequisite for either viewing or
    enjoying the movie and no one expected you to, either

    Well if that wasn't expected them I'm at a complete loss as to why they stopped the movie just before the climax to introduce an entirely unnecessary character.

    My wife and my mother-in-law, whom I watched the movie with both times,

    I think voluntarily watching a film twice in two weeks certainly borders on the obsessive! I don't think there's any film I've seen twice in the cinema, and the number I've seen twice at all must be less than two dozen (why would you re-watch films when there are so many out there you haven't watched at all yet?).

    Marvel movies are largely character movies so if you don't like the characters, you won't enjoy them.

    It's not about liking the characters. I think Rick and Ilsa are fascinating characters but I wouldn't want to watch them make chit-chat at a party for twenty minutes.

  • “How long do I have to wait for the punching?”

    This appears to be your problem. This isn't Transformers. You should be watching Transformers.

    “But doesn't Ultron eventually just get killed by Mary-Kate Jr?”

    By removing his 'heart' through his shattered body. Which she couldn't have done (presumably) without his being twatted several times, latterly by the Hulk and a fall from a great height, but also by being half-melted by The Avengers.

    Plus that's also later on in the movie, after they've stopped him and his army from getting to the switch, which they wouldn't have been able to do without The Vision, because Thor/Iron Man's punching powers (to put it in your terms) don't work on Vibranium, which has now been explained in several movies, including this one.

    Keep up. I thought you said you understood this?

    “Not know about, care about. For instance, it's played as a big 'Wow!' moment when Nick Fury arrives with Robin and Cloudbase.”

    People care: I saw someone literally fist-bump the air when that happened. That person I presume genuinely was a fan, but you never know. But there were other people who were audibly excited and who used no arm motions to indicate it, too.

    People care – you didn't. Look at the box office around the world, look at you. You're the outlier here. But that's okay.

    Again, the problem in this case isn't the movie, it's the fact you should be in the room next door watching Transformers 4 because that's a movie you would like. That's all. I wouldn't like that one. I thought the first one was dreadful enough at every level. So I stopped watching them.

    And yes, Colbie Smulders did lots in Captain America 2 (and Avengers actually. But you probably weren't paying attention at that bit. Or can remember a film from three years ago).

    “but I haven't seen that and I shouldn't be expected to have”

    Yes, you should have, for all the reasons I've already mentioned. That's the intention of the producers and that's the intention of the writers. And most people can. Hence the box office.

    Even if you haven't seen it, the expectation is that you will then go and see it to see what you missed.

    Again, if you think otherwise, Screen 2: Transformers 5, stomping on our faces for the rest of time. Off you go.

    “it was three years ago, so why do we care again?”

    Because we do care. You don't, so off you go. Screen 2…

    “I think voluntarily watching a film twice in two weeks certainly borders on the obsessive!”

    Like your definitions of padding and characterisation, your definition of obsessive alters to fit your argument. One moment it's anyone who's gone to see all the movies (so basically most of the movie-watching population of the world); then it's anyone who's read the comics; now it's someone who's seen the movie twice. Would you like to clearly establish what you mean by a 'Marvel obsessive' now, for future clarity? Oh wait…

    “I don't think there's any film I've seen twice in the cinema, and the number I've seen twice at all must be less than two dozen (why would you re-watch films when there are so many out there you haven't watched at all yet?).”

    Unless, happily enough, you're basically defining 'obsessive' as 'not me'. How convenient for you.

    Incidentally, why would you watch the 11th film in a sequence of films you've clearly not been enjoying, when there are so many others out there that you might? I might define that as obsessive, just masochistic obsession.

    But as you asked, cinema being a social thing, I tend to go to see movies that other people want to watch as well. Plus as noted above in the review, which I wrote on Friday, so presumably you've already forgotten about and consigned to ancient history along with the Ming Dynasty and the Carthaginians, I went to see it in 3D the second time.

    Plus I write a blog. And, you know, it helps me to remember what happens in movies. You might try it some time.

    “It's not about liking the characters. I think Rick and Ilsa are fascinating characters but I wouldn't want to watch them make chit-chat at a party for twenty minutes.”

    Rick and Ilsa are two characters and actually, they did spend a lot of time at a bar, chit-chatting in Casablanca. Indeed, Casablanca is roughly 90% chit-chatting. There is virtually no punching.

    But if we consider the number of characters at the party, we have Thor, Tony Stark, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, Maria Hill, War Machine, the bonus Korean doctor (anyone I've left out). So that's nine characters, so that's an average of two minutes per character and they all talk to each other. About each other. Parties being a sociable thing where you learn about other people. Or explain why some characters aren't in the movie.

    I know, though. Not enough punching.

    Look, you appear to be confusing your subjective dislike of the movie and the characters with an objective analysis of the movie. In that endeavour, you've even accused Joss Whedon of not really understanding movies, even though that's the same Joss Whedon who won an Oscar for co-writing Toy Story and who was a noted script doctor, hired entirely for his understanding of what makes movies work, during the 90s.

    Your basic critique of Ultron essentially boils down to not liking the characters. That's fine. I don't like all of them. I'm not sure there's anyone who likes all of them.

    True, you came out of the Avengers not realising that the character with the Russian name, who spoke Russian and said she was Russian was in fact Russian, so maybe you should have been paying a little more attention, and if you had during the rest of the movie, too, maybe you'd like the other characters more.

    But hey ho, that didn't happen, so what you gonna do? If it didn't grab you it didn't grab you. So don't go. Don't go and watch another one. Just don't. Forget the whole franchise exists. Please.

    I'm not going to see Transformers. I'm not going to see Fast and the Furious 7. But I don't think that anyone going to see all seven Fast and Furious movies is an obsessive. I don't think anyone who heard that Jason Statham was going to be in Fast and Furious 7 and was excited once they looked him up is a Jason Statham obsessive. I don't think someone who remembers what was in a relatively simple movie just a few years previously is an obsessive.

    I don't think Ultron is a perfect movie. In fact, gasp! Look up there! I wrote a review in which I said it wasn't perfect, it was too full of characters, strangely structured (in some of the ways you suggest), etc, etc. But a lot of your criticisms entirely miss the point of what the franchise is and why people watch all its various sub-components.

    Ultron is a perfectly good superhero movie and a perfectly good entry in the franchise. It's not the best, certainly, but characterisation is not one of its flaws, by a long chalk, and the levels at which it works seem to work for a large proportion of people. Just not you.

    But that's okay.

  • JustStark

    This appears to be your problem. This isn't Transformers. You should be watching Transformers.

    I've already seen Transformers, why would I watch it again?

    Plus that's also later on in the movie, after they've stopped him and his army from getting to the switch, which they wouldn't have been able to do without The Vision, because Thor/Iron Man's punching powers (to put it in your terms) don't work on Vibranium, which has now been explained in several movies, including this one.

    And how hard would it have been to come up with another MacGuffin that did work on Vibranium, to avoid having to introduce an entirely new character? Not hard at all. It's a superhero movie, it's full of them (maybe it could turn out that Loki's sceptre-casing could cut through Vibranium? Boom, problem solved.)

    Keep up. I thought you said you understood this?

    There was a lot of punching. I lost track.

    Again, the problem in this case isn't the movie, it's the fact you should be in the room next door watching Transformers 4 because that's a movie you would like. That's all. I wouldn't like that one. I thought the first one was dreadful enough at every level. So I stopped watching them.

    Transformers 4 was terrible. Transformers 3 was pretty bad — it had the Sentinel Prime plot, which wasn't bad, but it also had an entire half hour of the final battle, which was already forty-five minutes too long, where they go up a building, the building collapses, and they end up exactly back where they started. Why on earth wasn't that whole sequence cut? It was pointless. Ahem. Anyway, Transformers 4 was even worse than that, it made no sense at all.

    And yes, Colbie Smulders did lots in Captain America 2 (and Avengers actually. But you probably weren't paying attention at that bit. Or can remember a film from three years ago).

    Three years is a long time. I think I can be forgiven a few lapses of memory.

    Even if you haven't seen it, the expectation is that you will then go and see it to see what you missed.

    But the Avengers movies are meant to get the biggest audiences, aren't they? So surely by definition some of them mustn't have seen the others?

    Or do you mean Marvel's official policy is people should either watch all their films, or none?

    (And does that include Ant-Man?)

    Like your definitions of padding and characterisation, your definition of obsessive alters to fit your argument. One moment it's anyone who's gone to see all the movies (so basically most of the movie-watching population of the world); then it's anyone who's read the comics; now it's someone who's seen the movie twice. Would you like to clearly establish what you mean by a 'Marvel obsessive' now, for future clarity? Oh wait…

    Someone who watches all the films, multiple times, definitely qualifies.

    What about somebody who watches all the films but only once, or just one of the films but multiple times? I'd have to make an individual case-by-case judgement.

    Incidentally, why would you watch the 11th film in a sequence of films you've clearly not been enjoying, when there are so many others out there that you might?

    I said that:

    (a) it looked like it might be the biggest-grossing film of the year. I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

    (b) the first one was too long, and had too much punching (I don't actually like the punching, I just wanted them to get to it because once the punching starts it means the movie is on its way to being over), so anythign that delays the punching is delaying me getting out of the cinema) but it wasn't all that bad — it was perfectly watchable, once, unlike this one

    (c) I was misled a bit by having seen Guardians of the Galaxy which was a aci-fi action comedy of perfectly adequate quality and I thought this might be something like that.

    Rick and Ilsa are two characters and actually, they did spend a lot of time at a bar, chit-chatting in Casablanca. Indeed, Casablanca is roughly 90% chit-chatting. There is virtually no punching.

    Rick and Ilsa spent absolutely no time just chit-chatting. Every line is there to push their relationship on, to change their status, to show them figuring each other out, and figuring out what they themselves think and want. There's not a single wasted line in Casabalanca.

    I know, though. Not enough punching.

    No, not enough moving-the-characters-on.

    Look, you appear to be confusing your subjective dislike of the movie and the characters with an objective analysis of the movie.

    I think 'introducing a new character just before the climax is really bad form a pacing point of view' is a fairly good objective analysis (if it's not, why do so few movies, especially successful movies, do it?).

    Your basic critique of Ultron essentially boils down to not liking the characters. That's fine. I don't like all of them. I'm not sure there's anyone who likes all of them.

    It's not not liking them, it's not wanting to watch them just chit-chat. Rick and Ilsa don't chit-chat, they verbally spar in scenes full of depth and subtext, and at the end of every line they characters are in a slightly different position than they were before it.

    The party scene, on the other hand, every character is in exactly the same state at the end of it as they were at the beginning, so what was the point of watching it?

    True, you came out of the Avengers not realising that the character with the Russian name, who spoke Russian and said she was Russian was in fact Russian, so maybe you should have been paying a little more attention, and if you had during the rest of the movie, too, maybe you'd like the other characters more.

    Well, I missed that she said she was Russian, true, but there are plenty of Americans whose families emigrated to America who have Russian names and might well (especially if they were becoming spies) learn to speak Russian (which is what I assumed), so it's not as cut-and-dried as all that.

    But hey ho, that didn't happen, so what you gonna do? If it didn't grab you it didn't grab you. So don't go. Don't go and watch another one. Just don't. Forget the whole franchise exists. Please.

    Replacing the entire team with the also-rans does provide a good stepping-off point.

  • “Three years is a long time. I think I can be forgiven a few lapses of memory.”

    You can be, if you ask nicely. One shouldn't expect to be forgiven.

    At the very least, though, if you keep asking “Why did this happen? Who's this? Why are these people important?” because you can't remember, you'll sound like an OAP out for a cinema trip with her carer for the first time in five years.

    If you don't understand or can't remember something, watch the movie again. Or look it up.

    “But the Avengers movies are meant to get the biggest audiences, aren't they? So surely by definition some of them mustn't have seen the others?”

    No. As I explained earlier.

    And you can check the box offices here to be sure of this fact:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L

    I do hope everyone doesn't have to see Ant-man. All the same, if I don't go and see it and then a future movie references it, I won't complain that I missed the reference/didn't understand the reference and the movie should have spelt it out for me. It's my fault for not having gone to see it.

    “(a) it looked like it might be the biggest-grossing film of the year. I wanted to see what the fuss was about.”

    Whoops. Bad reason to see a movie (cf Transformers, Fast and Furious). Good reason? Hoping/expecting to actually like the movie.

    “(c) I was misled a bit by having seen Guardians of the Galaxy which was a aci-fi action comedy of perfectly adequate quality and I thought this might be something like that.”

    Whoops.

    “'introducing a new character just before the climax is really bad form a pacing point of view'”

    It's more “introducing a new body for an existing character who's already been in four of the preceding movies, as well as this one, so they get more to do this time”, though, isn't it?

    Plus you want your ultimate weapon to be unveiled just before the final battle but not so early that there's no build up to its use, don't you?

    “It's not not liking them, it's not wanting to watch them just chit-chat.”

    Then you miss the joy of people. Just watching people be people.

    Yes, this is an acceptable thing to happen in movies. Characterisation does not have to be character development, dialogue does not just have to push the plot forward. You can just enjoy characters being the people you know them to be.

    Particularly in a franchise like this. Again, that's why people watch it. The people.

  • Mark Carroll

    As a data point, I should mention that I often have some difficulty remembering, at the start of a new season of a show, where the season finale cliffhanger left us several months back and what was going on; after a few years I really don't stand a great chance of remembering much at all. I've seen a high fraction of this round of Marvel films, though not including the first Thor film, and honestly I don't remember having heard of Vibranium before! Though, perhaps we remember what interests us, and I just wasn't enough grabbed at the time.

    I also can't bring to mind any film I've seen more than once in a cinema, and that's with having married someone who for a while was a cinema manager so we effectively had free admission at any cinema in that chain (e.g., one year we saw pretty much all the best picture Oscar nominees; when my wife went to see Titanic a second time, I went to Dark City that was also showing).

    I am, however, known to be atypical in various respects.

  • It's what Captain America's shield is made from. In Ultron, Cap reminds the audience that “Stark's father said it had all been used up” when vibranium is first mentioned (Howard Stark makes the shield for Cap in Cap America 1) and Ultron himself reminds us that humans “made a frisbee” from the most versatile material on Earth.

    I've got a poor memory for a lot of things, particularly audio, but they do try to make easy for people like me…

  • Mark Carroll

    Aha! I did manage to remember that his shield's made of some special material, at least, I guess I just forgot the name, though I'd also clean forgotten Howard Stark's appearance until you reminded me.

  • Andy Butcher

    Couple of things I wanted to touch on:

    People watching movies more than once. There are a lot of reasons for this, from the simple fact that you just loved the movie so much that you want to watch it again through to detailed analysis of the writing, cinematography, editing, or any other aspect of the film that holds some kind of interest for you.

    Basically, asking why someone would watch a movie more than once is like asking why anyone would ever look at a painting more than once, or listen to a song more than once.

    Vision, as you seem to feel so strongly that his existence needs to be justified. Rob has already mentioned many of the reasons he's in the movie, but one that hasn't come up is that the Marvel movies are not entirely original works, but adaptations of existing stories and characters. In the comics, Ultron is responsible for the creation of Vision, who then becomes one of the longest running members of the Avengers. As such, an Avengers movie about Ultron is kinda the perfect time to introduce the Vision. Indeed, I think I recall Whedon saying that it was one of the reasons he wanted to do Ultron, to bring the Vision into the MCU version of the Avengers.

    I appreciate that this is of no interest to someone who has no interest in the source material. But there are people for whom the source material is important, not least of them the people who make these movies. 😉

  • I should probably also mention that, erm, the sound in the first showing was a bit low and so another reason we wanted to go again (apart from enjoying it) was to hear more of the dialogue.

    It made us feel a bit old that.

  • aylwardreed

    WELL! That took a while to read this whole discussion 😉
    Firstly, Whedon can be great at Film, TV and comics. He isn't always(Dollhouse) but when he isn't it's often from being meddled with(Dollhouse again and as seems to be coming out in recent days: the dud bits of Ultron like Thor's stupid electric bath). Also, to say people just tune in to Buffy for a funny Xander is completely mis-judging that audience. Why people stuck with a show like that is great characters with evolving plots alongside clever stand alone episodes.

    Secondly, bringing Vision in at that stage was basic screen writing 101. The 'twist' that turns the plot in a different direction before it heads towards the final act. If you didn't enjoy Vision that's totally fine but lots did and he WAS important to the plot as the only one to really slow Ultron down AS WELL as being a bit of redemption to Stark/Banner like Rob said.

    Thirdly: Rob – Where was the Winter Solder reference? I missed it. Twice.

    Lastly, really liked this film but it did suffer from trying to nod to too many forth-coming films, not really knowing what to do with Thor for much of it(and then when he buggered off for his own plot it turned out to be stupid).
    Lots of great bits though and some WhedonWitt®.

    But what the HELL were they doing with Black Widow?! Ultron grabs her for what? to watch from a cell? Then leaves her for no reason! She was such a 'hero' for most of the film but that bit kicked so much of the hard work they've done over her last two films(especially Winter Soldier) in the face. It made me very sad.

  • Andy Butcher

    “Where was the Winter Solder reference? I missed it. Twice.”

    There's a brief exchange between Cap and Falcon (in the run-up to the party, I think) where they mention Falcon's ongoing search for their 'mysterious friend' or words to that effect.

  • That's one. However, as I said, blink and you really will have missed the fact that he's the one training with Natasha in the Red Room in the second flashback scene, as per the comics… 😉

  • “Where was the Winter Solder reference? I missed it. Twice.”

    The Red Room training scene – Bucky's training the young Natasha.

    “But what the HELL were they doing with Black Widow?! Ultron grabs her for what? to watch from a cell? Then leaves her for no reason!”

    He needed someone to talk to, he says. Even AIs have feelings, it turns out. But she does then get to rig up a radio and send off Morse code messages so that Clint can find where Ultron is.

    But, despite some awesome bits for BW, there were a few bits that made me wonder what Jossy baby was thinking.

  • Andy Butcher

    Man, that one I completely missed. And I thought I had been paying attention… 🙂

  • Andy Butcher

    Incidentally, this week's Agents of SHIELD confirmed in dialogue that the Age of Ultron lasted a week. 🙂

  • To be fair – and to misquote Coupling – he has too many arms 😉

    But it was Sebastian Stan's stunt double with the Winter Soldier hair-do, too, and Joss Whedon was saying in interviews before the film came out that we should all keep an eye out for who Black Widow is training with cos it'll be awesome, so I think that was the intent, even if it's the wrong arm…

  • aylwardreed

    Oh thanks Rob! Now I'm going to have to go and watch it again! Or maybe I'll wait for the BluRay now. Totally missed that. Good eye sir though now you mention it I remember the scene just didn't clock it was Bucky.
    Caught the line 'missing persons case' that Falcon says which was probably the most subtle nod to continuity in the film!

    Yeah, they REALLY flimsily justified her capturing with those two points but they could have thought of a better way to find him and AIs don't really NEED company, lets be honest!
    Like you say, plenty of good bits(particularly her occasional comments about 'the boys' and not needing to prove her self in the testosterone filled group, plus, who doesn't love the sight of her on the bike with THAT shield on the front?) but still didn't make up for the faults(I'm really upset about it if you can't tell).

  • “AIs don't really NEED company,”

    I'm not sure about that. Arguably AIs shouldn't have any emotions, not having hormones, etc, but that makes for a dull antagonist. So Ultron is supposed to be a sort of dark, robotic version of Tony Stark – and Tony Stark needs an audience. He doesn't really need the Maximovs, but takes them on board because he needs an audience and when that audience goes, he gets a new audience.

    So I can buy it from that regard.

    All the same, it's a shame that it has to be Black Widow being abducted, rather than, say, her sneaking on board Ultron's getaway vehicle. It all was a bit disappointing from the BW POV, even more disappointing because there was some obviously cool BW bits in the trailers that didn't make it to the final cut as far as I saw and there were some more character opportunities even with the chosen structure for her to do more.

    I'm slightly curious about the flashbacks, though. As well as Bucky (with or without Winter Soldier arm), there was a sort of retro vibe to the Red Room, particularly around the surgical side of things. Presumably that would have had to have been in the late 90s, if we follow her CA:WS birthdate, but it all felt a bit more 1950s, you know. Russian economy being what it was, maybe they couldn't afford to update the Red Room tech then, but it does make me wonder if perhaps they are intending for her to be a lot older than she looks (and thinks she is).

  • This appears to be the current situation on the Hulk: http://www.latino-review.com/n

  • Andy Butcher

    Ah, that makes more sense than what I'd heard at the time.

    To be honest, I think Hulk is much harder to handle well in a solo movie than in a team movie, so I'm not that upset that there don't seem to be any solo movie plans. Unless they do Planet Hulk (and even that puts him in a team context fairly early on).