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There are spoilers in this review. But it was forever ago. I’m late. Duh.

I’ve been trying to come up with an excuse for why it took me so long to write about Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, and I think the answer is that only with distance could I really sum up what I feel about the movie. Right afterward, I just wanted to talk for two hours straight about every second of it. Now I think I have better clarity, and also clearer opinions on the backlash the film suffered and why. Or at least my opinion of it. This is going to be a very long review, sorry. The hype on this movie was intense, and after the success of the first movie, and the power of Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy right before this, it’s no surprise that when the movie hit, it met mixed reviews. Right off the bat, I’ll say that I think it was a better movie than Avengers 1, and I have my reasons why I’ll get to. Is it the best Marvel movie? No, I’m sticking with Cap 2 on that one. Do I think some of the criticism was a little over the top? Oh yes. But it was bound to happen. Previously in the MCU, we met Earth’s greatest heroes: Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Thor. They’re a band of misfits with a lot of baggage on their own, but can they work together? Well the first one they barely managed to save the day against Loki. In this film, it’s been several years since then and they’ve all been working together on top of their separate adventures.

I really enjoyed the team dynamics in this movie. In the first one they had to spend so much time with these characters barely getting along, but in the first few sequences, you get the sense these are people who do like each other and are working toward a common good. The Avengers in the comic books are a family; a very messed up and often warring family, but a family nevertheless. So since Captain America 2, SHIELD is partially dismantled, and the Avengers are spending their time hunting down the last of HYDRA. Thor is on Earth because he is looking for Loki’s scepter, which was taken by Baron von Strucker. He was using it to experiment on people, and also to try and use the alien technology for new weapons, like the Tesseract was used beforehand. With it he created Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, who are definitely not mutants or Magneto’s kids because that belongs toFox okay, also known as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. No, he’s not the fun Quicksilver from Days of Future Past. It’s unfortunate they need to be compared, because I liked them both for different reasons, but it’s difficult not to see the Days of Future Past one as much more engaging. Wanda’s abilities are slightly vague, but they are telekinetic and telepathic in nature. When the Avengers attack the compound, she gets into Tony Stark’s head, and he hallucinates seeing all of his friends dead because he didn’t save them. He flashes back to when he flew the nuke up into the portal and saw how giant and dangerous the rest of space was. He had PTSD about that in Iron Man 3, so it’s good to know he’s not just cured of that terror. The Maximoff twins hate Stark because one of his weapons was used to kill their parents and nearly them as well. This movie has a lot of “Stark’s sort of to blame” moments, which I don’t mind since that’s a lot of the comics too. They just have Hank Pym and Reed Richards to blame too most of the time.

This is a cool even if ridiculous shot. Can’t help it.

So they get the scepter back, and Thor allows Tony and Bruce to poke at it for a few days before he goes back to Asgard. As I saw someone comment, that’s basically letting Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Frankenstein loose on something very powerful, because Science doesn’t always lead to Good Things (capitals intended). Tony is certain that this is the key to making an AI named Ultron who will protect the world. A suit around the world is his idea, but it’s bizarre that Tony’s not genre savvy enough to know where this is going. Keep in mind, when this storyline was done in the comic books, it was a fairly cutting edge story. It came out around the same time as 2001: A Space Odyssey did, and we weren’t as heavily entrenched in AI-Goes-Evil. But now we are. Ultron quickly goes to the natural conclusion, that humans are awful, and that everyone needs to die. He also thinks the Avengers are specifically to blame for allowing the status quo to continue, but part of this is definitely due to his anger toward his “father” Tony. Because … daddy issues exist in machines too! To be fair, I like the work they put into making Ultron far more than a robot. I think an emotionless robot would have been boring. The fact he’s very human and engaging makes him a better character to watch, and it’s James Spader’s voice so he can make anything great. I’ve never been a fan of Loki, so I enjoyed Ultron’s newly born dysfunctional mindset. He joins up with the Maximoffs, promising them vengeance against Tony Stark. They don’t seem to need any other details about his plans. Just trust the creepy robot. Good job, twins.

So Ultron tries to make himself a perfect body using vibranium, the same material that was used to make Cap’s shield. This is important because it introduces Wakanda, the nation that Black Panther rules and will eventually come into play in the movies. While trying to stop him, the gang is set off by Wanda’s telepathy creepiness, each hallucinating fairly terrible things. It leads to Hulk rampaging and Tony’s forced to take him down with the Hulkbuster armor. The Avengers are disgraced and on the run and go hang out at Clint Barton’s family farm for awhile. Apparently he has a wife and family and has all this time, a big surprise to all fans, and deeply offensive to the shippers out there. I personally don’t mind since I thought it was nice to have a character so stable when the others were going off the rails, especially the character who was otherwise thought to be pointless in the group. Before in the movie they set up a romance with Natasha and Bruce Banner, although really it seems to be her being attracted and flirting with him. And him just awkwardly uncertain about it. She suggests they run away together and says he’s not the only monster. This was a controversial subject, since the way the scene was written/edited was unfortunate. She says she’s incapable of having children due to the Red Room sterilizing her to become an assassin, and then asks if he thinks he’s the only monster. Personally I took that to mean she’s talking about her dark past and the things she let them do to her, the brainwashing she went through. But some people read it as her saying she’s a monster because she can’t have kids. I can see where that interpretation comes from. It could have been written better.

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Eventually Nick Fury shows up to tell them to get it together, because he’s always the one who pushes them when they need it. They manage to snag the perfect Ultron body while he’s transporting it and putting his consciousness into it, but he kidnaps Natasha in the process. And does … absolutely nothing with her. It’s very weird that he kidnapped her at all, since it doesn’t add to the plot, but whatever. The twins realize he’s planning on murdering everyone, so they switch sides. Tony and Banner go “okay maybe this time it’ll be different” and decide to put JARVIS into the new body. This is an incredibly bad idea, and they are extremely lucky it actually works. Vision is born with the mind gem – the power within the scepter all along – in his head. Together the Avengers race to stop Ultron from killing everyone by picking up a city and dropping it on the earth, basically making an asteroid in the process. They save the day and also manage to save as many civilians as possible, thus giving the middle finger to Man of Steel. Ultron is destroyed one by one, Banner decides to fly away from the team and get space, and Cap and Natasha take over the new Avengers team. It consists of Natasha, Cap, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Rhodey, and the Falcon. This team is amazing. I want to watch this team. Of course it’ll all be destroyed in Civil War, but for now, this team is perfect. Except Quicksilver isn’t in it, since they killed him. Ehhhhhh. I would have loved to see the twins on a team together. We don’t have a lot of sibling or blood family relationships in the world, and I think it would have added a lot to the feel of the team. But SOMEONE has to die, right? (Ehhhhhhh.)

So that’s a very long summary. I could probably have done it in a paragraph, but there’s too much to comment on, sorry. First off, there are a lot of things I genuinely loved about this film. I loved the team dynamic. I loved seeing them as friends and partners, but also how their conflict stems from very real differences in their personality and world outlook. It felt natural and genuine. I felt like we knew all of the characters better now, so it could get deeper into their psyches and relationships. This is where I think it shines far above the first movie, because they were basically cookie cutter pieces in that one. Now they feel like real people and real coworkers/found family members. They don’t have to explain anything about them, the audience is already with them. And when they broke apart or struggled with each other, it’s for good reasons. I liked the inclusion of the new teammates. I like that the twins could be forgiven, because it’s not like all of the Avengers are perfect paragons of anything. I liked all the fight choreography. Ultron was really fun in my opinion, I enjoyed watching him. This movie is incredibly funny. All of the jokes had me cackling, and it’s typical Joss Whedon humor, which has always worked for me. I do think they tried to get humor, emotion, and pathos into a giant comic book movie, and on the whole, I felt like it was a success.

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The biggest complaint I have about the film is one a lot of people are making. It’s huge. There’s too many characters. There’s too much happening. It owes too much to the requirements of the Marvel world at large. Marvel has plans and it is forcing the Avengers to set up all those pieces, and while I understand that, it also means the film feels disjointed and sometimes disingenuous. Since there’s too many characters, I didn’t get as much time as I’d like to really get into them and their motivations. I knew that was how it would be, but for the characters who don’t have their own movies (coughBLACKWIDOWcough) it’s frustrating. The romance for Widow and Hulk didn’t bother me. It did feel like they were telling and not showing, but I could have gotten behind it if it didn’t turn out to be both of their biggest plotlines. It worries me going forward that all the movies are going to be this way. They’ve thrown in too much. Captain America: Civil War has all of these characters in it. Isn’t that just the next Avengers movie? Is it even Cap’s movie anymore? It might not be, but until I see otherwise, I’m worried about that. I’m not sure how they would even be able to simplify this story anymore, but I hope what is going to happen is that some of the characters will retire. Iron Man, for example. It’s time. He was important to start this off, but it’s okay to let him go. We’re getting so many good new characters, it’s okay for the original team to dwindle off and make room for the new. I do wish Ultron’s story wasn’t so cliche now. It wasn’t when it was written decades ago, but now it’s been seen and done to death.

I think expectations were just too high for this film. I understand all the criticisms leveled at it, and agree with a lot of them, but I think the one thing most people can agree on is it was a hot mess. Some lean more toward the hot than the mess part in their opinion, some can only see the mess, but it is certainly a hot mess altogether.I loved the themes of found family, parents and children, and monsters vs. heroes. The team wonder if they’re all monsters or science projects, if they’re really as good as they’re trying to be, and that appeals to me as character development.  I just know that I came out smiling and excited for more, and that’s how I feel about it at the end of the day.

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