If you aren’t a moron idiot, you probably enjoyed the first Avengers movie from 2012, because it was great. The sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, came out this past weekend, and it’s pretty good, but also, in parts, incredibly fucking stupid. Here are many of the ways that it sucks.
Tony Stark is an idiot ...
Okay, Ultron is a rogue A.I. built with code from space aliens that Tony Stark wants to use to power a fleet of fascist Iron Man drones who will police the world. This is essentially a dingus supervillain plan all on its own, and that’s the IDEAL OUTCOME that Ultron eventually shits up. But right off the bat, Stark is building a fucking alien Skynet with a fleet of pre-built Iron Man terminators.
(Also, how the hell is there “code” in the Mind Gem that Stark can use? This is CSI: Tuscaloosa-level tech fuckery. Marvel has a longstanding “all magic is just technology you don’t understand yet” schtick, but come on, this is Thomas Edison finding an iPod, then using it to reverse-engineer Facebook and nail Zuckerberg’s wife. “Code!” Christ.)
... and Ultron’s plan is garbage ...
Anyway, Ultron is born and “murders” Jarvis (Stark’s sassy, semi-sentient robot butler), then fights the Avengers, all because the alien code made him too smart. This is standard and fine. He then says some shit about humanity needing to evolve, or not being smart enough to evolve, or whatever, then he escapes using the Internet, and like 10 minutes later, Thor says one of Ultron’s shitty robots got away when no one was looking.
Ultron first tries to “get the nuclear codes,” which is pretty good villaining, but he—the alien-engineered, supposedly hyper-advanced-A.I. world-defense protocol whose entire show of force so far is a completely shit job of assembling some Iron Man suits into death robots that Captain America can punch apart, plus emailing himself to Romania—is shut out of the system, somehow. Whatever. He then sets into a motion a plan to a) destroy all life on Earth by levitating an Eastern European town into the upper atmosphere, then flinging it down at the planet, and b) create a body made out of human flesh and super-strong metal for him to hang out in, even though he’s a sentient, self-replicating A.I. whose chief advantage is being able to inhabit many bodies at once around the world, thus exacerbating his hard-to-kill decentralized nature. Let’s take these one at a time.
... mostly because of Quicksilver ...
First of all, Ultron’s base is in the exact same base where the Avengers were fighting at the start of the movie. The alien-computer-code gem was there, too. No one can figure out where Ultron is, though. Whatever. Ultron gets in contact with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, somehow—this is impossible using the Avengers’ files, since they lost them, too, but just go with it, because there are much bigger holes to fill here, and, I don’t know, computers! High-speed Internet! Bluetooth!—and convinces them to fuck with the Avengers.
At this point, Quicksilver—who is so fast he can run into a room, grab a dude’s gun, take the gun apart, and line up all of its bullets in a row on the table in the space of a smash-cut—could probably do most of the work, instead of sending murder robots around the world. Or, if he can’t, he could certainly carry all the important stuff and people out the door as soon as the Avengers show up, with time left over to pants Hawkeye and draw a bunch of dicks on Iron Man (because Iron Man is a dick) before James Spader drawls out his first line of RDJ-impersonator improv. He doesn’t, because we need an actual movie to watch, and also because it’s dumb as hell to have a guy with super-speed in a movie, because super-speed is ridiculously overpowered and clearly the best fighting power besides like, Being Superman.
... but also because the Vision is a Korean flesh robot for no good reason.
The other, more insane half of Ultron’s plan involves using a Korean 3D-printer to make himself a body he says will evolve humankind. What’s that? That doesn’t make any kind of sense, because Ultron isn’t actually human and has never been human, and in fact is planning on killing all humans with nuclear weapons or, if he cannot get nuclear weapons, his stupid meteor city? Well, fuck you, we need to get the Vision into this movie, even if it’s in the last 15 minutes of a 50-hour movie, and takes a fun character and turns him into a saccharine dickhead wearing a Christmas-tree unitard. Think of all the fan service! The fans needs to be serviced!
And another thing: Why the fuck is the Vision in this movie? No one knows who this asshole is! The Avengers movies work, on some level, because even though the X-Men and Spider-Man are more popular, everyone still knows who Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are, and they’re willing to go along with kick-ass fights involving (white) dudes they’ve seen on comic-book covers. But the Vision—as well as the thankfully incest-vibe-free (and when this is a functional compliment, maybe rethink your roster?) Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch—appears to be in this movie because they were second-wave Avengers, and they pulled some teamsters-seniority shit. The nerds writing these movies might love these characters, but there’s about as much sense to putting the Vision and Scarlet Witch onscreen as there would be in pulling motherfucking Wonder Man out of mothballs for Avengers 3.
And at some point, Ultron starts acting like the twins’ creepily affectionate robot parent?
This one might take you by surprise! Sure, it’s less “surprisingly emotional poignancy for a superhero movie” than “this makes no fucking sense, because Ultron has spent the whole movie being pretty really transparent about destroying all humans, and hasn’t really talked to the twins besides ordering them to steal valuable minerals from Africa (get in line, dickhead) and beat up the Avengers, but still becomes verrrrryyyyyyyy emotional when they turn on him after they figure it out.” Still: surprise!
And look, you can explain away insane despotic villains having weird relationships with their kids, but Ultron is a goddamned A.I. program. “I am going to fly a huge rock into space and then drop it on Earth” does NOT jibe with “I’m really starting to like these rascals,” and playing a death scene—WHICH ISN’T EVEN A DEATH SCENE BECAUSE, AGAIN, ULTRON IS DECENTRALIZED, AND THIS IS HIS MAIN POWER—like a dying father is fucking loony. Maybe this is foreshadowing for Scarlet Witch eventually shacking up with the fucking Korean meat-android, I don’t know, but Ultron’s emotional fixation on the twins instead of Tony (his father—in the comics it’s Hank Pym—which makes sense as a formal, Oedipal complex) is the dumbest, weirdest thing.
The first fight is AWESOME; the rest kind of stink
Age of Ultron opens with a fight that’s basically staged the same way as the first one’s climactic battle in New York, with cool tracking shots and action going on in the foreground and background, and characters’ choreography overlapping and alley-ooping into each others’ shots. It serves as the “Yo, they’re really good at this stuff now” scene. After that, it’s a bunch of shots of the Avengers working on their own, like Captain America fighting an Ultron on top of a truck driving down a Seoul highway, or over-CGIed stuff like Hulkbuster Iron Man vs. the Hulk, which is sort of fun, but not quiiiite over-the-top enough to carry the “two gigantic CGI dudes hitting each other” thing, and somehow without making it seem huge, even though they break a whole fucking building and basically Superman the African city but NBD apparently. Or take the last big fight push, where the Avengers are grouped up to fight a huge wave of Ultron robots, and the camera goes into roving slow motion so we can see every hero punching a robot in the face, because this is a fucking stupid way to stage a last fight, and that’s the only way to see all the cool stuff everyone is doing. This scene is displayed as an actual statue during the credits. A STATUE! Probably if your final big action sequence can be accurately portrayed by a static fucking statue, you should make a better final action sequence.
The organizing thing about these scenes is that they would probably look awesome in a comic book. A one-on-one fight on top of a truck that spills into an above-ground train and ends with the first truck getting picked up by flying robots and then dropping a robot into the ass-end of the Quinjet is a good action scene, but not really up to the scale of the first movie, which hit on a very particular vein of action-scene magic.
The twins’ onscreen powers are garbage.
One of the reasons that the original Avengers movie had such good action scenes is that all of its characters made sense, in the context of a fight against giant space-alien worms coming through a portal over New York City. Thor flies and has a thunder hammer; Iron Man is a flying laser robot; Captain America throws his shield; Hulk strong. Even the spy characters, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are fine, since they’re Jason Bourne with better haircuts. But how do you shoot a dude who is faster than the physical universe can support? You can do the everyone-else-slows down gag, or just have him punch through steel robots with his forearm at like Mach 80 without his bones exploding (check and check!), but it won’t mesh with people who are you know, human speed. Scarlet Witch just sort of waves her arms around trying to look gypsyish—is this sorta racist? Gypsies have bigger problems than fucking Age of Ultron, but Wanda’s hex-bolt jig looks like Taylor Swift dancing to Thievery Corporation at the Buddha Bar—and shoots lasers from her hands like it’s the fucking ‘90s. The Vision just flies and is strong and no one cares because he’s been here for like 10 fucking minutes and sucks.
There’s a 40-minute critique of that last stupid Superman movie in here.
If you’ve read anything about this movie since it came out, you’ve probably seen people comparing the Avengers saving every last motherfucker in that city to Superman basically throwing buildings at burning orphanages and then flying off to make out with Lois, who he’d met once at that point, and why the fuck was Zod even still—
Okay, right, so clearly it’s easy to get caught up in talking about how unbelievably shitty Man of Steel was. But what the fuck was this? The entire last fight is dedicated to pissing on Superman, when the first Avengers actually did this elegantly in like two minutes: Captain America shows up, helps out some cops, and then saves a building full of people that space aliens were trying to blow up for no reason, given that they could’ve been bombing the House of Representatives or some shit. So fine, that movie didn’t make complete sense either, but at least it had the Hulk and Thor smashing giant space worms instead of Hawkeye messing around with some kid whose mother left him even though he was in plain sight like 50 feet away. Just like when we bore you fuckers to death with 5,000 words about something some copyeditor added to a sports-analytics article, this is industry navel-gazing of the highest order.
Thanos is just the laziest dude in the universe.
Nearly every Marvel movie has had one of these fucking glowy cubes or gems or eggs or whatever, and they’ve all contained an Infinity Gem, which means quite a bit to longtime comic readers, but I have to guess next to nothing to anyone else beyond, “Jesus why are all these movies about cosmic jelly beans?” Anyway, lots of Infinity Gems, and we’re going to get a whole TWO PART space-Avengers movie, and it will probably be cool, but if you follow the logic of the after-credits scene with Thanos saying he’ll just go do it himself ... what the fuck has he been doing? This guy has just been sitting on a space rock for like four movies now sending other, clearly incompetent dipshits around to zero effect! The guy in Guardians of the Galaxy even told him to eat shit once he got an Infinity Gem, and Thanos didn’t do shit about it! Is Thanos even going to be that hard to fight? Like, how does he do cardio on that lil asteriod? Thor in 8.
HEY, BUY THIS SHIT!
Have you heard that Marvel is charging $60 a month for a subscription to an Avengers-themed clothing line that mostly looks like sized-up versions of the shit worn by those 12-inch action figures that are too big to play with and wear shitty generic clothes that don’t fit right and aren’t as cool as a regular action figure that’s not wearing formless cotton swatches? If you haven’t, that’s happening, and it’s stupid. And if you look even a little closely at this movie’s wardrobe after seeing Infinity Scarf Thor here, certain scenes begin to take the shape of live-action Sears catalog bits for adult-superhero onesies and flannel shirts. Oh, and why is the Hulk getting a glamor shot for Beats by Dre headphones? Fuck this movie.
Avengers chopping wood and fixing tractors.
And about those flannel shirts! Midway through the movie, after Scarlet Witch tricks them out of some Wakandan vibranium (the metal Captain America’s shield is made out of) by giving them daytime-soap flashbacks/future-sights while the Hulk beats up some city in Africa, everyone goes to hide out at Hawkeye’s house, where they meet his secret family for no reason. Some solid character grounding happens here, but there’s no good reason for them to just be chilling and wearing flannel shirts and chopping firewood. Why not go check the same fucking place you found the Mind Gem the first time and where Ultron has been hanging out this whole fucking time??? Or do, you know, anything, since you didn’t even get beat up that bad, and aren’t getting any medical treatment here, and it’s kind of a big deal that you find Ultron before he kills the planet??????
Oh about about Black Widow.
So io9’s Meredith Woerner yelled at me about how bullshit Black Widow is for like 20 minutes in the middle of the office a few feet from a bunch of nerds who were trying very hard not to hear the spoilers, but I’m convinced: Black Widow’s story is pretty bullshit, and mostly just very creepy when you think about it, even though Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo are super cute together and make an adorable Love Team. Meredith is writing about this tomorrow, but for now, go ahead and extend the Hulk-soothing “Lullaby” method into Natasha eye-fucking her surrogate Hulk-baby while the set dressing rubs her face in her barren, childless future, or some shit.
White people arguing/fighting with other white people and birthing a British robot to fight another robot, who is also very obviously white, somehow, is garbage.
Okay, fine: Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are white dudes. And Bruce Banner, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and ... you get the picture. But what the fuck, man—you HAD Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie in the damn movie as cameos! And then just kept them on the bench for basically the whole movie! And real question: Has anyone seen a black lady with an onscreen speaking part in a Marvel movie? I’m not going back and running down every frame, but I feel like it can’t be many, right? (Yeah, Zoe, but Zoe had to be green. Sci-fi LOVES to jerk off to green ladies.)
The comics sucked, too.
You might read the above and think eventually we’re going to get to something obnoxious like, “They should’ve stuck to the source material!” But no! The source material IS EVEN FUCKING CRAZIER!!!! The actual Age of Ultron is a ruined dystopia where Ultron hunted down and killed all the heroes, except a few who go back in time to try to stop it from happening, and Wolverine and Invisible Woman eventually have to re-do it a bunch of times because they keep fucking things up, and it’s not that unlike the realllllllly shitty Guy Pearce The Time Machine movie, which sucked. But I guess Marvel wanted to include a relatively recent comic event and went with Age of Ultron (they’ve already done Secret Invasion, essentially, with the Captain America: The Winter Soldier Hydra plot, and Civil War is coming). This sounded insane until I actually looked back at what they’ve been up to for the last few years. EVERYTHING is insane and bad, so whatever: Moron pervert dad space-A.I. is as good as anything else, I guess.
Image by Jim Cooke