Mar 14, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Avengers: Age of Ultron

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, the sequel to their most successful movie yet.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Comics Cube Roundtable

Avengers: Age of Ultron was released on May 1, 2015 and made $191 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $459 million in the United States and $1.4 billion total worldwide.

DUY: Officially speaking, Ant-Man is the final film of Phase 2, but it feels like the first film of Phase 3 to me, so we're gonna call this the end of Phase 2.

JEFF: It is used to plant seeds for the next Cap and Thor movies and foreshadow the Infinity War, and I find that really hurts the movie's flow a lot for me.

MATT: Yeah, this movie was more about setting pieces, but was ultimately fairly incoherent. Strucker just dies, making him just sneering and pointless. Quicksilver is meh. Clint getting a lot of time actually works fairly well. Mostly, though, I just want to curse like a motherfucker about the idea of dropping a city state to restart life.

JD: If you take this as the middle part of the unofficial trilogy of Avengers, Age of Ultron, and Civil War, I think it's fine. But on its own it doesn't stand up well.

TRAVIS: Ultron might be the only part that works for me. And, I might be the only person, Ultron works for.

MATT: I think James Spader as Ultron is the perfect RDJ foil given their 80s characterizations.

DUY: This is my single most hated MCU movie, and it along with Iron Man 2 may be the only ones I actively truly hate. I talk about how much I hate Dark Knight Rises, Batman v Superman, and Man of Steel, but Age of Ultron is just as bad. My sentiment of it is brought up only by the good will that came before and after.

JEFF: When it came out I remember walking away fairly disappointed in this movie. It's not horrible to me, but falls short from the movies that preceded it and doesn't fulfill its potential. Part of it is definitely the setting up plots for other movies, and another part is probably Isaac Perlmutter's behind-the-scenes involvement.

DUY: We can't talk about Age of Ultron without talking about the choice to put Black Widow and Banner in a romance, with Black Widow feeling like she's a monster because she would be unable to have a baby. Personally, I think the backlash is more of a side effect of the fact that she's the only woman in the group, and that it would be significantly lighter if there was more female representation. Thoughts?

TRAVIS: I like their romance. They're pretty cute, in a good awkward way. But, the sterilized thing has been done better elsewhere, even with Widow, that I feel there's little excuse for how poorly it's handled here. Even if nobody meant us to conflate that with the "monster" bit, they're put together on screen for us. That's on them.

MATT: I liked their pairing. It was set up in Avengers and I think it works well. I always thought when watching this movie, she felt that the Red Room turned her into a monster due to massive amounts of murder. But her dialogue in that scene is bad regardless.

DUY: First glimpse of Widow's backstory with the ballet assassins. Personally I'd rather this have been saved for her own eventual movie. Thoughts?

JEFF: I think it was time for some character building with her. This was the fourth movie Widow was in after all.

LAMAR: This movie had tons of character work...but almost all of it was unnecessary and forced. It's so distracting that the best action pieces, some of which are among the best in the MCU, didn't interest me because I was taken out of the movie.
"I think the backlash is more of a side effect of the fact that she's the only woman in the group, and that it would be significantly lighter if there was more female representation." -Duy
TRAVIS: Ultron's drunk baby schtick still warms my heart. "I think I killed a guy. He was a good guy." Half-apologetic at tearing a man's arm off in overreaction. His what-a-child-thinks-is-brilliant master plans.

DUY: He also basically looked at the internet for 15 minutes and decided humanity was terrible, which... is realistic.

TRAVIS: I suppose I do miss the comics version, in the sense of his Sophocles obsession. But, maybe he gets that from Hank, and Tony is more of an, "I just need ten minutes and the internet" guy.

MATTHEW: I really enjoyed the opening action sequence. There's a shot where everybody is lined up and it looks exactly like a big double page spread straight from a comic. The only thing it's missing is Cap yelling "Avengers Assemble!"

DUY: I agree, the opener is amazing. Which just sets up the rest of it for my disappointment.

JEFF:I loved the opening action as well and the hammer-lifting scene before Ultron shows up but too much feels forced in this movie. There was a natural flow in the first movie that feels absent here and is written like we're just suppose to accept things like them using the Hulk against a Hydra base now when Steve didn't feel the need to call The Avengers during Winter Soldier when there was a bigger threat.

MATT: Compared to the first Avengers and Winter Soldier, this movie is a bummer. It's just not coherent and they try to do too many things, thus ultimately giving Ultron (and Vision) short shrift. Although, upon further review, Vision has 3 daddies and is a it's totally a backdoor Three Men and a Baby reboot.

DUY: The Vision's creation had some of the fanboys in my theater marking out, but it's so rushed and extraneous to the entire story.

JEFF: I really think they should have left this out of the movie and putting an infinity stone on his forehead makes him way too powerful.

There was a natural flow in the first movie that feels absent here... -Jeff

MATT: Tony's army of Iron Men was creepy as hell, which I believe was the point.

DUY: It's also a good continuation from Iron Man 3, the kind of detail that I feel they don't carry over into other movies enough.

JEFF: The Hulk/Iron Man fight wasn't disappointing at least. That scene where Hulk spits out a tooth and Starks reaction was gold.

DUY: This is another movie where I thought Thor's jokes were severely out of place. "I am Thor, son of Odin, god of thunder, and I am running out of things to say" is a complete missed opportunity for a badass moment.

JEFF: This would have been much better with less screentime used to plant seeds. Sometimes all you need is one good line to plant a seed like when Banner mentions the name Wakanda, better without The Vision at all (Ultron survives to create Vision in another movie), and better with more time for just Ultron. Ultron is one of The Avengers' biggest in-book villains, but here it feels he's diminished with a lack of time for motivation and a master plan that feels cheesy.

DUY: You know I'm disengaged with a movie when the flaws are the stuff I focus on. Does someone have a no-prize explanation for why in the world Tony would have a change of clothes for Pietro and Wanda within the quinjet?

TRAVIS: Tony entertains a lot of people, who might lose their clothes? So, there's a little mix and match wardrobe? (I don't even remember the clothes-change issue, to be honest.)

DUY: Wanda and Pietro's clothes get wrecked, and Tony happens to have exact copies in the quinjet.

TRAVIS: That wacky guy!

JEFF: He has a machine to make clothes, usually for Banner. He has a machine for everything

DUY: I'll take it. This movie sees the introduction of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, referred to as "miracles" and not "mutants," while at the same time another version of Pietro showed up in Days of Future Past over in the X-Men franchise. How did you like the Maximoffs in this movie?

MAX: Personally I found Pietro underwhelming. He should be amusing in that sardonic elitist kinda way. Less aloof and more like a Lannister in Game of Thrones.

DUY: One of the points of contention is the long middle at Hawkeye's farm, where it's revealed that he's been married to Velma from Scooby Doo and has had a family this whole time. This gave some depth to Hawkeye's character but could be said to have really slowed down the momentum of the movie. Thoughts?

MATT: It is a beefcake excuse to show Steve ripping the logs.

JEFF: But didn't the first Avengers movie have similar pacing in it? It started with action, slowed down for introductions, Thor vs Iron Man, slowed a bit when they got back to the Helicarrier, then Thor vs Hulk, quick breather and big finish. It just seems like the slow pace scenes in the movie got more time, which is what Whedon wanted and fought to have in the film.

DUY: This movie gives us our first death in Quicksilver. Death had, at this point, long been a point of contention for MCU movies, with fans believing that the dead should have stayed dead (Coulson, Fury, etc.). This movie gives those critics what they wanted. Does it work?

TRAVIS: I don't really get the "there have to be deaths, and they have to be permanent," urge, but I accept it is there for many fans.

DUY: One of the reasons I was never really in favor of anyone dying prior to Infinity War is that this felt like an ongoing job, so anyone dying is basically someone losing a really fun job. I believe the Quicksilver actor made it explicit that he didn't want to come back. I'm looking at it now and realizing that any actual deaths are probably best served to come with Infinity War.

MATT: Quicksilver's death is also a pale, pale comparison to the inevitable: Coulson

I don't really get the "there have to be deaths, and they have to be permanent," urge, but I accept it is there for many fans. -Travis

DUY: Is the Vision worthy or is it because he's a machine?

TRAVIS: Probably both.

MATT: JARVIS is probably more worthy. Speaking of which, I do like the intense look Thor gives Steve when everyone is trying to lift the hammer. It wiggles!

TRAVIS: I honestly dislike Cap *wiggling* it. Especially if humility is a big part of MCU hammer worthiness.

DUY: All the talk near the end about how they should just blow up Sokovia and Cap even considering that particular course of action is probably my biggest disappointment with this movie. Cap wouldn't give up!

MATT: I think this speaks to the films uncertainty in deciding what it wants to be. Is it an action movie where our heroes solve a problem or is it a character piece where we learn more about the heroes? The individual movies were able to balance this because they could focus. The team-up movies can't. The characters need to be settled so they can act.

DUY: Matt, what makes something like this different to balance compared to Guardians, where they all only exist as a unit?

MATT: So Guardians had to use economy because the characters weren’t established, hence more archetypes. Avengers 2 has established characters, you can shade them a bit, but sending Thor off on a half-assed vision quest isn’t necessary.

TRAVIS: I only remember Scarlet Witch exists when I think of this movie. And, then I remember that Scarlet's Witch is probably a more effective movie than Age of Ultron, and I think of all the talent combined in Age and their huge budget and... sad.

Sending Thor off on a half-assed vision quest isn’t necessary. -Matt

DUY: Who wins the Kilmer Award for this movie?

MATT Spader’s Ultron is so out there, he at least deserves and honorable mention.

DUY: And, comic recommendations for the Age of Ultron? I'm going to go with the obvious and say Ultron Unlimited from the Busiek/Perez run.

JEFF: If only the movie was as good as that story.

TRAVIS: Ultron Imperative, because it's the best Ultron comic. And, Endless Wartime, because it's a fantastic Avengers comic about hubris and smashing.

JEFF: Avengers Epic Collection vol 4: Behold....The Vision, West Coast Avengers: Ultron Unbound and Avengers: The Bride of Ultron.

JD: Earth X. Creel absorbs Ultron and kills millions. Then saves everyone. It's great. And dumb. But great, too.

LAMAR: JLA/Avengers. People just need to read it, has nothing to do with this movie and I hope no comic I ever read makes me reminisce on this film.

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