I interrupt my regular poetic programming to squee over the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It may include logic flow issues, typos, and swearing in a positive light. Reader discretion is advised.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” came out in the Philippines last week, and it was a thing of freaking beauty.
Sure, reactions were somewhat mixed—in my (thankfully spoiler-free) Facebook timeline, I saw people thanking Joss Whedon for the movie while others noted that the film would have been much better if a good 90 minutes had been removed from it. You guys know who you are. Before I got to watch it with the significant other that Saturday, this worried me.
Of course, it didn’t worry me enough to NOT want to see it on IMAX.
Because come on, people; it’s THE AVENGERS. We’ve been seeing them for more than half a decade, and they’re almost like family to us by now.
And I have to say: I’m happy to report that it was NOT as disappointing as I thought it would be, given the initial apparently underwhelming response. In fact, I’ll be counting myself among the folks who thank Whedon for this. It was beautiful. It was glorious. It made me happy to be alive and totally capable of dropping about 400 Pinoy bucks to watch a movie focused on a semi-ragtag team of superhumans (plus one regular-ish human) fighting a self-aware robot.
Maybe it’s because I’m not a hardcore Marvel comics fan. Maybe it’s because I regard the MCU as an entity of its own. Maybe it’s because I’m just a big fan of solid storycraft.
Or maybe it’s because I feel like this movie is about legacies, and I totally dig that.
What did I think of the story and characterization?
As I’ve mentioned before, this whole thing thematically focuses on legacies—how circumstances or people can shape us, and how we choose to leave our own marks on the world. There were so many visual cues that pull us back to that theme: most notable would be the “Avengers Monument” in the end credits and the shots of public statues/sculptures in almost every place the characters visited.
(As an aside—I find the use of those structures interesting because they evoke a very static sense of history. it makes me think of Ultron’s utopia, which is effectively a world of terrifying order.)
Apart from that, the film also explored legacies in relation to their characters. It’s amazing enough that this movie had a lot of characters that the writer-director managed to keep fairly well-rounded (while leaving us Easter Eggs for the next movies at the same time). But to make each character arc work within the theme? There’s a reason why I refer to him as Joss “The Boss” Whedon in my head.
In order to further explain this, I’d need to break this down by character. So in no particular order…
Tony, understandably, STILL hasn’t gotten over what happened in the first Avengers movie. And frankly, who would? It’s part of why it was so easy for Wanda/Scarlet Witch to manipulate him (the other part is his natural and apparently genetic arrogance), and why he was so determined to create Ultron with the help of his best science bro Bruce Banner.
The thing with Iron Man stories, as we should all very well know by now, is his tendency for hubris. No matter how many times he’s had to deal with the consequences of his overconfidence in his own abilities, he still struggles to fully let go of it. Granted, this time he was driven by guilt and fear fueled by an angry “enhanced” Eastern European girl; but Tony Stark will always act like he knows best (or knows what he’s doing).
This time around, he’s absolutely certain that what he needs to do, the legacy he needs to leave behind, is the best defense he can create; defense so good, the Avengers can kick back and be themselves again. He seems to completely miss the fact that funding the Avengers IS his legacy.
For a genius, he sure is dim.
All things considered, he seemed to have arrived at a logical conclusion based on Tony’s dream to put the planet in a suit of armor. It’s terrible, but it’s logical.
The fascinating part about this entire thing is that he clearly takes no pleasure in all of this. He doesn’t want to admit it, but he doesn’t want to be alone (thus the kidnapping of Black Widow after the twins ditched him—more on that later) and he has the very human desire to improve himself (thus the construction of a semi-biological body powered by an Infinity Stone—we’ll get to that). This, of course, sucks because his plan basically hinges on effectively eradicating most if not all of humanity.
In his own twisted way, he wanted to create a legacy. Except that nobody would be there to appreciate it.
I think that’s part of what REALLY pushed him over the edge (not that he wasn’t already unstable from having a psyche PATTERNED AFTER TONY STARK’S). He wants to save the world and receive adulation from it. But this case, saving the world means no one would really thank him for it. Poor insane, robotic, baby.
PS: Am I the only one who loved the Ultron-Tony banter enough to want an RDJ + James Spader movie?
The Vision is an interesting character in the context of this narrative, mainly because he is effectively the ACCIDENTAL legacy that Ultron left behind. First and foremost, the artificial intelligence that runs him is in some part J.A.R.V.I.S. (Iron Man’s literal virtual assistant, which this movie’s villain tried to destroy) and in another part Ultron (likely an effect of the destruction attempt). Second, this particular consciousness was put in the body that the big bad built for himself.
But the exquisitely perfect thing about this character is that he doesn’t let the legacy that created him bog him down. He goes straight to devoting himself to the service of humanity, those puzzling and complex mortals that create such beautiful messes. Without thinking about it, he offers this flawed world a future. I mean…WOW.
The twins got to have a great story that ties in with Tony’s mistakes. Their family died in an attack on their city, which involved the use of Stark weaponry. It’s no wonder, then, that they joined main baddie Ultron (who loathes Tony).
Of course, they learned later on that there are some lines that they are not willing to cross no matter how much they want to give Iron Man the metaphorical middle finger. Their heel-face-turn comes when they realize that they were acting like the angry legacy of a war-torn world, and that staying on that path means they can leave no legacy behind (because Ultron will make it so that there will be no people in the future to leave it to).
They realized that they had to give up their past (or something more), become something more than the furiously frightened children they had been.
Bruce still has anger issues, and he’s still terrified of what “The Other Guy” can do. It’s the legacy he’s been living with a for a long time. But now it gets a bit more complicated with the growing emotional attachment towards the lovely (and deadly) Natasha Romanoff.
Up until this point, you get the impression that Dr. Banner was living day-to-day without really thinking of a future that might involve his own happiness. Of course the possibility of a romance with a cool-as-ice woman, who is making the conscious decision to be emotionally vulnerable around him, will freak him out! He has no plans for leaving any sort of legacy to the world, even if it’s an emotional one (and thus an arguably minor legacy). Sadly, you can’t really control attraction so he finds himself in an awkward jam.
Even sadder is when he finally allowed himself to hope for a happy-ish future, and it had to be dashed by the “mission” at hand. Ultimately, he decides that the best legacy he could leave for the world is his (hopefully temporary) disappearance.
Natasha is all sorts of vulnerable in this film (though it didn’t make her any less deadly), what with her budding romance with Bruce and her PTSD over that fucked up Russian girl assassin training. We learn here that our Black Widow still thinks of herself as the monster that the Red Room created, the child of a horrible legacy. But we also know, from her previous efforts at clearing her “ledger”, that she is choosing to give something better to the world.
It’s why, despite her desire to just elope with Dr. Banner and live a normal-ish life, she chose to wake up The Hulk instead so they can stop Ultron. In the end, she helps keep the Avengers going.
Side note: that this broke my heart despite the fact that I did not ship them before this movie makes me want to applaud the actors’ performances.
Steve Rogers, much like Bruce Banner, wanted to live a normal life (it’s why he continues to fight—in the hopes of putting a stop to wars). Much like Natasha Romanoff, he is the result of someone else’s legacy. Over the last couple of movies in which he appeared, we watched him looking for a place in this very unfamiliar time. In fact, at the beginning of Ultron, he was talking to Falcon about moving into a home of his own in New York City, roughly in the neighborhood where he grew up.
But then Ultron happened, and it becomes clear that the fight will never end for Captain America. It also becomes clear to Steve that he needs to stop looking back if he wants to give his new home in history a future. At this point, he accepts that his legacy will likely never include a wife and children; but it doesn’t necessarily have to be unfulfilling.
The Avengers, in essence, is as close to a family as he could have. And he makes peace with that.
Most of the Thor plotlines, from what I can see, dealt with his continuing education in humility and responsibility. In the first Thor film, the Allfather had to turn him mortal and drop him in the middle of the desert so he’d stop thinking with his proverbial fists. In the first Avengers movie, he had to concede that working with a (mostly) mortal team will make things work faster. In the Dark World, he had to swallow his pride and work with his brother to uphold his promise to keep the realms safe.
By “Ultron”, Thor had already chosen to turn down the throne to Asgard in favor of having a life with his beloved Jane; as far as he’s concerned, his last and only mission at this point is to retrieve Loki’s scepter. You’d think that he couldn’t have a more humble life than that.
But of course, it’s not so simple. We KNOW that Loki is currently ruling Asgard, tricking people into thinking that he is dead and disguising himself as Odin. To further complicate things, Scarlet Witch’s freaky mind powers gave him visions of a dark Asgardian future and the realization that his quest to bring peace across the realms was far over. If he wants to attain this legacy of peace, he would have to admit that it’s not as easy as he thought it would be and that perhaps he should reconsider his claim to the throne.
Ah, our resident badass normal character Hawkeye (I’m sorry, I can’t count Natasha as badass normal because anyone who went though the Red Room can’t possibly be normal). He’s not as sad as this video makes him out to be:
This poor man didn’t have much screen time in the last movie, so the director made it up to him in a big way: by giving him one of the most well-adjusted home lives in the history of superheroes.
He’s a family man, y’all. With adorable kids who refer to Black Widow as “Auntie Nat”, and another baby on the way.
Of course, this kind of emotional support makes him better-equipped to deal with pressure than his more “godlike” coworkers. As the mortal father who strives to do his best, he was PERFECT for talking a very freaked out young woman who happens to have psychic powers off a metaphorical ledge.
He’s basically the heart of his team in this one, and I absolutely loved it.
His legacy to the world (apart from his lovable family) is clearly getting the job done with integrity and compassion.
Apart from the legacy stuff, there are some details that made this movie extra special for me:
- The fact that The Avengers, despite being pissed at each other at some points in the film, still work well together and treat each other like family
- case in point, the bit where they don’t let go of Steve’s disapproval of “bad words”
- That thing with Thor’s hammer
- When Natasha called Clint’s baby a traitor for being a boy (thus it can’t be named “Natasha”)
- When you learn that Clint gave his baby the second name “Pietro”
- RDJ and James Spader banter. I can’t stress this enough.
- FURY AND HILL
- That selfie in Oslo
Would I read the book version?
It would be hard for me not to.
Let’s make something clear: this is a very solid movie, and I absolutely love that it covered so many things without becoming convoluted. But it also has a few minor gaps that could be covered in another medium.
Some of said gaps might be covered in Agents of SHIELD. That’s not a guarantee, though, and the extra information might not be what we expect. It may not even be as extensive as it needs to be in order to smooth out the edges left in the otherwise perfect tiling of this movie.
So if they’re going to release a companion book or comic? I will definitely read it.
I’ll probably watch the movie again, too. 😀
Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is still showing in various cinemas all over the Philippines.