Week of July 31, 2022:

Avengers: Age of Ultron released May 1, 2015 (where to watch)
Scott Hardie | September 20, 2022

This movie has such a poor reputation, even among Marvel fans -- this tweet is typical -- that I've always wondered if I was too easy on it. Upon a full rewatch, I'm glad to say that I was not! It has some issues which I'll get to in a moment, and I still think it's the weakest of the Avengers tetralogy, but it is witty and complex and creative and thoughtful and definitely entertaining. James Spader is the best thing about it; his Ultron is both a chillingly menacing sociopath and an easily humiliated dandy, with very funny line readings like "oh for God's sake" that have the exasperated bourgeois energy of Frasier Crane being embarrassed in front of his wine-tasting club again. The well-played reveal of Hawkeye's idyllic home life was also a treat for a few reasons, not least of which was the reminder that the marginal characters are supposed to have lives outside of superheroing too.

Here are the common criticisms that I can get behind:

Marketing hype was a turnoff. It sure was! The spring and summer of 2015 was full of non-stop promotional hype for this movie, causing resentment that I remember to this day. People were tired of being told that this is The Next Pop Culture Event That You Must Participate In.

The story is muddled and hard to follow. Look, without spoiling anything, I think it's safe to say that the next two Avengers films both told significantly more complicated stories than this, and yet you never lost track of where you were in them or what the characters were trying to accomplish. Here, I was following along closely with subtitles, and I still had to remind myself why the characters were suddenly in another country or what they were bickering about this time.

There's too much wasted energy setting up future movies. The movie had FOUR scenes following up on Thor's vision of Asgardians dying. It had confusing, unsatisfying resolutions for some characters, like Hulk flying away on a Quinjet (Stark never added a remote override? no way) and Stark apparently quitting the Avengers without ever actually saying so. Part of any Marvel movie is a little hint of the future, like the Thanos tease at the end, but this had way more than its share.

Black Widow is not a monster for being infertile. That line, especially in the context of so many vocal fans being denied a "Black Widow" toy or solo movie, created a storm of controversy. Although there are alternative interpretations of what she meant, its most obvious reading still felt like a slap in the face to many viewers and never should have been in the final draft of the screenplay.

Joss Whedon is a sexist pig. Besides the "monster" line, there are other embarrassing moments for Romanoff, when she was sexualized while drinking from a cup or being late, or when she was written like the Team Mom. The worst moment might have been the party scene, where Banner falls into her boobs face-first, a "joke" that got Whedon into a lot of trouble after he repeated it in Justice League. I'm glad that the world finally sees him for what he is.

Stark is exceptionally foolish to make Ultron, TWICE. Sure, Stark's arrogant willingness to rush into solutions without thinking them through has been a consistent aspect of his personality. But his eagerness to make Ultron for the first time here still feels like a stretch; there's no imminent danger demanding this kind of expediency. And then, after his murder-bot tries to exterminate the human race, Stark decides to do it AGAIN, lucking out when the thing turns into Vision instead of an even deadlier and more indestructible death machine. This is way too much of a plot contrivance.

I'm picking on the movie a lot after just arguing that it's good, but these criticisms feel like things that are keeping it from greatness. All of the elements were there to make a truly superb entertainment, but poor decisions and poorer taste held it back. It's somehow more frustrating than if the movie had been outright terrible. (original opinion 7/10, today's opinion 7/10)

My favorite new line that I never noticed before, after watching this with subtitles for the first time: Iron Man shoots up the Hydra control room, knocking every man onto his back. He says, "Good talk." Someone in the back of the room says quietly and bluntly: "No it wasn't."


Scott Hardie | September 20, 2022
This comment contains spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok. Reveal it.

Scott Hardie | September 20, 2022
This comment contains spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Reveal it.

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