Sunday, May 31, 2015

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron

Things have not improved in the past three years—and by "things" I mean my attitude toward superhero movies—and by the past three years, I mean since the last Avengers movie.

The Boy and The Flower really liked it. And later, when asked, The Flower said "Then Dad spent the whole ride home sandbagging us."


I did, I confess. I said it was good (and it was) and then spent the ride home pointing out all the things wrong with it. I can't deny that Joss Whedon manages an ensemble better than most, maybe anyone.

So, quick review: This is pretty much what you'd expect if you saw the first one, though you don't really need to, if you can jump into the tropes quick enough. The battles are chaotic, and to my eye suffer from fidelity to their comic book origin. (But, I'm old, so factor that in.) In other words, a great comic book panel can (and sometimes must) cram too much action into the plausible time being represented, but I think it just looks like fwaaaaahhshsh on screen.

It's not as funny as the first one. I think there's less dialogue which suggests they're less worried about people following the plot. (A fair assumption this late in the superhero movie game.) It hangs together well, though, and there are some reasonably clever handlings of the predictable "twists".

You can't really ask for much more. And, as I said, the kids liked it. I did, too, but there were a few things that put me off a bit.

First, the CGI is just awful. I'm sure it's state-of-the-art, and I'm sure it wasn't cheap, but it was so obvious from scene one. I mean, it's CGI of outrageous things so, I guess it's always obvious, but the composition—the places where they overlay the live action on to the CGI and vice-versa just leapt out at me.

It got better later on. But it was kind of eye-roll inducing for me.

Second, with the exaggerated superheroics, it becomes increasingly ridiculous to have heroes like Hawkeye and Black Widow along for the ride. They would be smashed. At one point Whedon lampshades the issue: "The city is flying! We're fighting an army of robots! And I have a bow and arrow! None of this makes sense!"

It really doesn't. Even less sensible is a moment in the movie where one of the characters reveals a secret life with family which he brings the whole team to meet. You know, when the super-powerful-hero-hating villain wants them all dead. I guess this was necessary for dramatic reasons, and isn't any less logical than the sort of comic book science which treats AI as something that needs to be woken up, and which, once woken up, becomes virtually omnipotent and omniscient.

But again, irked me. These movies are built on the ability to find and attack individuals all over the world. Why would anyone take the risk shown?

The third act cavalry bit was also goofy, but again, provided a dramatic hook. A good one.

So, I don't know. I'm being churlish. It's good, it's just that the tropes are wearing thin on me.

Ultron struck me as a "could be anyone" role, in this case "anyone" is James Spader. Paul Bettany does a good job having a little more to work with as Vision.

Oh, the stuff about sexism is just stupid and wrong. Black Widow gets kidnapped, sure, but from there she alerts the rest of the gang to the Big Bad's evil plans and thus saves the day by being saved. Also, she's not paste in the first five minutes, which she (and Hawkeye) would be were any of it real.

There are five females in this movie: Black Widow (who saves the day), the superpowered Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen, who also saves the day), and the kickass SHIELD agent played by Cobie Smulders, who is as impossibly composed as Hawkeye and Black Widow under the most impossibly stressful situations, i.e., constantly being faced down by godlike beings.

The other two are Hayley Atwell in a flashback and Linda Cardellini as an impossibly dutiful wife.

So, yeah, dumb to even discuss it.

Good sort of film if you're interested.

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